Inclusive Education in Saudi Arabia

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The research explores how the Saudi Arabia policy documents reflect international inclusive education policy using the Bacchi (2009) ‘What is the problem represented to be?” policy analysis method. The method was useful in analyzing various policies in Saudi Arabia education sectors. One of the education policies assessed is the general education policy in Saudi Arabia in 1995 and Special Education policy in Saudi Arabia in 2001. The outcome of the research shows that Saudi Arabia inclusive education system reflects the international education policy. The policy fulfills various requirements of the international standards; however, it fails the Saudi Arabian Citizens. First, the policy is not well implemented within schools which mean that it is not productive. For instance, many teachers are not aware of the policy. The government also fails to offer enough support to the learning institutions in the implementation process.




1.1 Overview

Saudi Arabian government tries to develop the education system as the other countries. The government spends a lot of money to improve the education system and supports educators, teachers, and researchers. One of these areas which the government looks at when developing the education system is educational policy. The educational policy is one of many important factors which effect on the education system. Also, the educational policy is important to organize schools, institutes, and universities. In additional, it could be as a contract between the government, students, parents, teachers and the administrators who work in the education. In fact, the government tries to investigate  the successful models around the world and how other countries achieve the challenges which face their education system. This study explores that how the Saudi Arabia policy documents reflect international inclusive education policy.

1.2 Context for the Study

Saudi Arabia places a lot of emphasis and significance on education. Alnahdi (2014) argues that education is a changing process and the reforms are part of it. The Saudi Arabia education system has dramatically changed in recent years. Initially, education was reserved for children from wealthy families, but nowadays education is available for all people in the society. The Ministry of Education offers free education for every student including those with disabilities. Initially, people with a disability did not have access to specialized education in Saudi Arabia. The burden of their education was left to parents (Alquraini, 2010).

Disability is a significant social and economic problem in that nation. Although there is a growing awareness of disability-related issues in Saudi Arabia, little emphasis has been given to researching this population. Aljadid (2013) maintains that the Labor Law of Saudi Arabia defines a person with a disability as any individual who has minimal ability to gain and continue doing regular work due to physical or mental frailty.  Various states are faced with moral and political challenges about the best way of including and supporting individuals with a disability. Persons with disabilities lack equal access in society as well education in developed states.

Saudi Arabia has established a standard national curriculum whereby all children are offered an opportunity to access education. Teacher education programs have also been developed to aid in the process of the implementation government policy concerning inclusion. This program is aimed at educating children together, including those with disabilities, within the system of gender separation. Inclusion aims to educate all children within the regular school, offering additional specialist services where required. Saudi Arabia has a history of offering special education in regular schools for visually impaired children as well as those with hearing difficulties and those with less severe disabilities.

However, the country is currently expanding its system of Special Education Institutes that are more consistent with inclusive policies and practices of other nations. The state also offers children with different special educational needs the educational help they require (Alanazi, 2012). It has increased specialization programs for children who require educational, social, emotional and behavioral assistance. In this way, the national aims to address the gap left by the standardized national curriculum.

The first Al-Noor Institute for the Blind was opened in 1960 (Alenizi, 2012). Since its establishment, the country has continued to participate in the training of special education teachers. Saudi Arabia has also expanded the development of educational aids and equipment to assist students. The country has also implemented the inclusive policy based on a International model. The change towards the inclusive education shows the shifting perceptions and attitudes to disability. People with disability are increasingly viewed as individuals who need equal rights and development, rather than considered from a caring perspective.

Saudi Arabia’s education policy targets two groups of pupils for inclusion. The first consists of students with learning disabilities, physical disabilities, poor vision and those with behaviour problems who attend regular schools. The other group, specifically targeted by newer education policy, includes those students currently educated in the Special Education Institutions. The Saudi Ministry of Education policy emphasizes that it is mandatory for all children, including those with disabilities, to receive free education. Although the international literature and policy highlight the importance of inclusion, a significant gap exists within the Saudi context where few studies have been undertaken (Alsalem, 2015).

1.3 Research Purpose

This study aims to explore how Saudi Arabian policy documents reflect international inclusive education policy.  The main purpose is to examine key documents to analyse how Saudi policy addresses inclusion. In doing so, the focus remains on Saudi education policy documents, rather than implementation practices. The study will also examine how the Saudi policy connects with international inclusive education policy. 

This investigation will analyse three key Saudi documents include the Saudi Disability Law (2000), the General Education Policy (1995) and Special Education Policy (2016). The purpose of this examination is to learn about inclusive education in Saudi Arabia. It is expected that this study will make a significant contribution to the field of inclusive education in Saudi Arabia where little scholarship exists in this field. This small-scale minor thesis will provide a strong basis for my subsequent Ph.D. project.




Policy is a system of principles that guide decision-making and practice. There are various definitions of policy among them policy as text and policy as discourse (Henry, Lingard, Rizvi & Taylor, 2013). Inclusive policy seeks to ensure that every person with disabilities the right to full integration in life, including within education. Inclusive policy is geared towards ensuring that discrimination does not exist and diversity is celebrated. This chapter reviews studies about international and Saudi inclusive education policy, touching upon history and legislative frameworks.

2.1 Policy

Ball (2005) maintains that people take the meaning of policy for granted and that policy reflects values with policy providing an authoritative allocation of these values. Policies are therefore the prepared statements of values. Ball (2005) use two concepts of policy to highlight its meaning, policy as text and policy as discourse.

2.2 Policy as text

In policy as a text, policies are viewed as representations that are encoded in complex ways and decoded in complex manners (Richardson, Krzyzanowski, Machin, &Wodak, 2016). A plan is flexible in such that it be changed and contested. In this case, it is important to understand that policy as texts are not necessarily clear closed or complete. Ball (2005) maintains that policy interpretation is complex because all stages of the policy process have diverse interpretations. Policies are not complete documents in themselves. Therefore, policy documents are always linked with other policy texts and a history of responses.

2.3 Policy as discourse

“Discourses are defined as practices that analytically form the objects of which they speak” (Ball, 2005: 48). A policy is mainly discursive because it changes and leaves out the opportunities for thinking otherwise. Therefore, they limit individual responses to change.

In recent years interest in leadership has risen, and the studies of education have increased. There have been various studies in the world that have contributed to a clear understanding of ways educational institutions are governed and managed (Henry et al., 2013). A policy is meant to guide individuals about how implementation should occur. Education policy is supposed to guide schools on how they need to conduct their businesses. It is important to understand that policy is systematic instead of random (Richardson et al., 2016).  It is goal-oriented and complex. It also contains different expected courses of action. Inclusive education policy is meant to guide individuals in education systems about ways to most effectively include and educate children with disability (Ball, 2012). Inclusive education policy, therefore, exists to ensure that children with a disability enjoy the same educational rights as other children.

2.4 International Inclusive Education

Inclusive education has been promoted at the international level for many years. International inclusive education is viewed as a systematic approach that addresses learner difference and diversity in every educational setting as a quality matter. Countries have different histories concerning inclusive education. Some of the countries have a well developed inclusive education guidelines while others are work in progress (Forlin&Loreman, 2014).

International inclusive education principles involves collaborative work. Most nations recognize the rights of individuals with disabilities to education. Further, most have policy designed to work towards ensuring that each student achieves their educational goals without discrimination and based on equal opportunity. International agreements require nations to ensure that inclusive education operates systematically at every level.

2.5 Inclusive education

Inclusive education has become a centre of debate, especially concerning the development of education policy and practice around the globe. Policy in many countries is focused on the education of children and young individuals that need special education and those with disabilities. Generally speaking, inclusive education is understood to be the integration of children with disability into traditional classrooms and equipping them with the resources they require to enable them to learn (Winter &O’Raw, 2010). Schools are obliged to include appropriate approaches to ensure that children with different educational needs are able to participate in the same lessons and recreation as other children.

In an inclusive school, children with disabilities do not learn in separate classrooms. Initially, inclusive education was mainly meant for people with disabilities and learning difficulties (Henry et al., 2013). However, examination of key policy documents, it has become clear that the program of inclusion is expanding as it includes individuals that are at the risk of marginalization or exclusion in any way. Inclusion education can be viewed as an approach that is meant to address learning barriers and participation and offer resources that support learning and engagement.

Explaining inclusive education is not an easy task as different nations and education systems continue to debate its meaning and how implementation should occur. Since it was conceived, individuals have called for radical changes across the world.

Inclusion also requires a focus on the educational rights of learners who may be vulnerable to exclusion. Examination of what is meant by inclusive education has revealed that it is a vague concept that makes it hard to identify any definition. Initially, people used the term integration which met the placement of students with disabilities in the mainstream education centres. Children were routinely placed in the mainstream classrooms. However, little change was made to the curriculum (Winter &O’Raw, 2010). However, the term integration was later replaced with the term inclusion. Although there have been different subsequent developments, many still do not recognize what is required for inclusive education. Nor do they understand how the concept of inclusion developed over time. Alanazi (2012) maintains that over the years terminology linked to inclusion has changed and the meaning of inclusive education has broadened.

The British Psychological Society, for example, describes inclusion as the rejection of segregation or exclusion of learners based on different reasons, for instance, their physical ability, color, religion among other factors. This interpretation is also based on increasing the participation of every learner in local community schools in the UK. That organization defends the right of parents and children to choose the learning institution of their choice. That organisation society also states that inclusive education would help in making learning more meaningful and important for every person.

The meaning of inclusion shifts responsibility from the child to the school (Will, 1986). It is different from integration as it offers details on what is required to be done to ensure that the students with disabilities receive proper education as other students. Some current interpretations of inclusive education emphasize the full participation of students. Increased focus on the learning institutions themselves has occurred to overcome the emphasise the difference between inclusion and older understandings of ‘special education’ where the individual’s difference is emphasised.

2.6 Inclusion as a process

Alanazi (2012) maintains that inclusion is a process that can be utilized by schools to respond to the needs of every student. Inclusion processes allow reviews of the organization as a whole as well as the curriculum. Other authors conceptualise inclusion as the process whereby, all children regardless of their capabilities and needs can participate in the same school. Removing the hindrances that exclude specific groups and people is important and inclusion is also viewed as a process of breaking down barriers to learning and participation. Inclusion education is also viewed as a process whereby students with disabilities become part of the mainstream education classroom (Wesley, 2010). Importantly, students receive meaningful education with their peers together with any additional support that they need.

Teachers are also required to use the necessary strategies to ensure that the students get an appropriate education (Slee, 2011). Consideration of inclusion education as a process shows that inclusion can be seen as a way of gaining equality through participation and the removal of institutional barriers. Inclusion involves taking the effective steps to ensure that all people are offered an equal opportunity to develop socially and are offered equal opportunity to enjoy community life.    

2.7 Inclusion as a state

Inclusion has also been defined as a state, in this case, it is viewed as a state of mind or a state of being. For instance, inclusion is viewed as the level at which a school or community accepts pupils as full members of the group and values them for their contribution. This interpretation requires students to belong to and be welcomed by individuals in mainstream schools (Salminen, Lyytikaeinen&Tiitinen, 2000). This also  indicates that students should actively participate in the school curriculum.  Inclusive education is also expected to assist in the development of understanding, respect, and friendships. Inclusive education is a state of belonging that is attained through integration (Rugh, 2002). Although some scholars support that particular interpretation, others tend to disregard it due to the use of the term ‘integration’ which is problematic. Inclusion involves the quality of education that a child receives with just being placed in the mainstream classroom being not enough on its own. Therefore, when the term integration is utilized, it is important to consider the strategies and attitudes that are employed in the classroom in order that students with a disability receive quality education (Idol, 2006).

For the state of ‘belonging’ to be achieved acceptance of the students with disability, by the teachers and the fellow students, is required. This particularly involves the attitudes and behaviours of the other students from the class and school. For inclusion to be complete, other students should participate in the process (Ozga& Jones, 1987; 2006). In some situations, students may look down on students with disability thus interfering with their process of learning leading to individuals feeling unwanted and unwelcome in the classroom community. Inclusive education requires the development of many processes to overcome these challenges.

Insert subheading [Inclusion and Rights]

Inclusion is also viewed as a right, as it seeks to ensure that children with disability and special needs acquire an equal education (Issa, 2013). This focus on ‘rights’ was influenced by the American civil rights movement, of the 1960s (Biemer&Lyberg, 2003). That movement was aimed at gaining the same opportunities and equal rights for every person, particularly people of colour in America. Increasing awareness of people with a disability followed.  Initially, people with disability were not given much thought and students were enrolled in special schools. However, the civil rights movements emphasised equal opportunities and this led to consideration about the inclusion of all people (Rabaah, Doaa&Asma, 2016). This human rights explanation represents a strong ethical foundation for inclusion.

Inclusion is also viewed as an effective practice but the lack of agreement about the meaning of inclusion has led to significant differences in policy (Jenkinson, 1997). It has also caused problems in the process of assessing if individual children experience inclusion. 

Subheading: Saudi Arabian and Inclusion

As an international expectation, different governments implement inclusion in order that  targets are achieved and the nations can report favourably on their progress within an international context. Government targets may be quantification of those with disability in schools as well as the nature of the disabilities of those attending school. This occurs in Saudi Arabia where the national assessment study on the experience of inclusion is quantified and nmeasured throughout the country. In the process, the government aims to measure the number of students with a disability in the mainstream classroom (Ghafour, Allan &Foulds, 1983).

This helps to understand if the mainstream program is working as expected, and further, if it is working as ‘inclusion’ is conceptualized above. There is general agreement that mainstream classes are seen as beneficial compared to the special needs institutions (Lingard &Sellar, 2013). How well Saudi Arabia is going in terms of inclusive education is my interest, and mainstreaming assists with the implementation of inclusion (Owen, 2014). It is also evident that mainstreaming is a flexible structure for making sure that the needs of students with disabilities were met (Friend &Bursuck, 2015). However, as established earlier in this chapter, the effectiveness of inclusion is recognized through the attitudes and behaviours of the community surrounding the school and the entire society.

Throughout the world the nature of inclusion is also understood through the experiences of individuals involved in the process. Governments have tended to understand how effectively inclusion occurs within their own systems by interviewing people who have participated in the process. The concept of inclusion grew out of (and away from) the field of special education, in combination with the civil rights movement of the United States.

In the 19th century, pioneers of special education worked towards ensuring that young individuals and children who were excluded from the education received attention (Lundqvist, Allodi&Siljehag, 2015). Later, governments assumed the responsibility of making sure that all children had access to education. To overcome this responsibility in Saudi Arabia, the field of special education and special schools were developed and introduced for students with disabilities (Al-Jadid, 2013). The Saudi government opted to provide children with disability education that is segregated according to the individual challenges and difficulties related to impairments and conditions. Policy about students with disabilities was premised on the idea that they were incapable of benefiting from the ordinary methods of education. The older medical model of disability supported this approach. The model claimed that the learning barriers were within the child, which is the opposite to inclusion.  The explanation and justification of this model was advances in psychometrics (Ministry of Education, 2001). The separation of children with disabilities in the provision of education remains in Saudi Arabia. This method of segregation was never challenged and saw many children being enrolled in special needs institutions (Minou, 2011). In countries like Saudi Arabia children were routinely enrolled in schools such as the Al-Noor Institute for the blind.

The school aimed to offer the blind children an opportunity to learn (Al-Omari, 2009) but it was a long way from inclusion. The field of special education continued to expand in Saudi Arabia and it was perceived as a chance of reaching the needs of children with disabilities while at the same time safeguarding the practical education of the other children.

The segregation of children with disabilities has recently begun to be questioned in Saudi Arabia. Some argued that children with disability were being marginalized and that more needed to be offered within general education (Alanazi, 2012). Debate about inclusion is emerging in all sectors of education. Disability and parental advocacy groups began to form and they pressured the Saudi government to include children with disability in the mainstream education. They are focused on the adverse effects of segregating students into special schools (Aldabas, 2015). Internationally, at the end of 20th-century inclusion became widely recognized as an appropriate philosophy and an important structure for reforming the education sector. Saudi Arabia has come to this position more recently (Aldabas, 2015). While many countries have embraced inclusive education, Saudi Arabia is just beginning these discussions. And as the aim of inclusion is to change the mainstream in a manner that will increase its capacity for responding to every learner, the ‘integration’ discussed earlier is not sufficient to achieve inclusion.

Human Rights

Inclusive education is founded on fundamental human rights. The human rights movement was established to ensure that everyone was treated equally and depending on the need (Biddle, 2006) and this has a legal framework. The Universal Declaration of Human rights maintains that education is an essential human right. Children with or without disabilities are required to be treated equally and offered the same training opportunities (Ministry of Education of Saudi Arabia, 2012). Therefore, the segregated education is seen as a way of violating the students’ rights to appropriate inclusive education (Alnahdi, 2014). This kind of training would also limit the capacity to benefit from educational opportunities in the future (Brown  & Parekh, 2010). There is different international human rights legislation and agreements. They include the Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action, the UNI Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities.

The Saudi Experience

However, not all the countries were aware of the inclusive education. For instance, Saudi Arabia introduced the first special education institution in the 1960s. Initially, children with disability were not recognized and it was the responsibility of the parents to give them the care they needed (Alothman, 2014). The first special education institution catered for men who visually impaired. They aimed to offer the general curriculum of the education system. However, specialized tools (like Braille) to assist the students were required (Alquraini, 2011). The system continued to grow, and in 1962, the Ministry of Education established the Saudi Arabian Special Education Unit (Alquraini, 2011). Its purpose was to provide rehabilitation and educational services for people with visual impairments. 

The original program in Saudi Arabia did not recognize people with disability such as those who were deaf or had intellectual disabilities. However, in 1964, the government established two institutions and Al-Amal institutes to cater for boys and girls with hearing impairments.

Different countries have developed a range of policy and guidelines regarding inclusive education. The differences are all, however, based on the foundations of equality and diversity. Islamic cultures operate from a specific basis of justice (Alrubiyea, 2010). The belief that everyone should have equal rights is fundamental within Islam because of respect for human life. According to Islamic texts, differences in race, colour and disability, for example represent Allah’s greatness and omnipotence. Equity is therefore a vital principle in Islam. Every person is required to respect and help each other. They have an obligation to avoid oppression and injustice.

Providing Access is not Inclusion

As discussed earlier in this chapter, segregation can have negative implications (Alsalem, 2015). People can have equal opportunities but not everyone can equally make something of them (Corbett, 2001). Therefore, it does not mean that that equality of opportunity leads to equal results (Ball, 1997; 2007). It is significant to create capability in people to make sure that they can able to benefit from the opportunities. Therefore, the society should be included in the process for it to be effective (Alyami, Soer, Swanepoel, &Pottas, 2016).

Children with disabilities may require additional support to ensure that they gain from the mainstream educational program (Arabia, 2012). As discussed already in this chapter, recognition and acceptance of diversity and educational ‘integration’ do not guarantee inclusion or success in mainstream education. And accepting diversity does not necessarily mean that inclusion is valued. Educational provision for children with disability presents many challenges and change continually occurs as countries try to adopt inclusion education. 

2.8 Legislative Frameworks

In this section the international legislative frameworks are introduced. Focused on both disability and discrimination key international legislation identifies the conditions for inclusion and advocates for its adoption as policy for individual countries. International legislation is made up of treaties and international agreements among the different nation states (Beckman & Butte, n.d.). It acts as a structure for the practice of stable and organized global relations.

2.9 The United Nations: Rights of Child

The rights of children are well stipulated in the United Nations Convention. Article one of the Convention defines a child as anyone under the age of eighteen years (United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, n.d.). The convention is against the discrimination of children based on their ethnicity, religion as well as abilities. The agreement requires the governments to ensure that they fulfill the children’s rights. The Convention on the Rights of the Child upholds the human rights of every child including children with disabilities and those with special needs. Human rights encourage the movement towards inclusion for children with disabilities (United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, n.d.).

As discussed earlier, inclusion entails the recognition of every child as a full member of the society. It also requires every person to respect the rights of every child. It involves removing every barrier that may prevent a person from enjoying the rights. It also requires the generation of suitable supportive and protective environments. According to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the inclusion of children with disability entails changing the attitudes and practices of the people so that they can equally participate in the community activities as well as culture. An inclusive society does not condone discrimination of any kind.

UNESCO has estimated that up to 600,000,000  (six hundred and fifty million) individuals in the world live with some sort of impairment. However, the prevalence of disability in the population is different in every country.  In some countries, there is a high degree of stigma linked to disability. In such cases parents may be reluctant to report their child’s disability to authorities. In most cases, the children do not event have their birth registered which means that health institution does not recognize them. Consequently, these students are not recognized by learning institutions.

The United Nations has committed to ensuring that the children with disabilities enjoy basic human rights. The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) (1989) is the fundamental element in international law that focuses on the human rights of children. The convention also concentrates on inclusion. The enactment of CRC is supervised and promoted at the international level.

The CRC ensures that every child is protected from discrimination and their best interests are met. The children’s views are also respected under the United Nation Convention (United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989). The CRC offers a framework containing the implications for law, policy and practice based on the children disabilities. The law provides guidance on how the children with disabilities should be given consideration within the society. In 2000, the United Nations adopted a resolution to implement an ad hoc committee to look at the proposals of the rights of individuals with disabilities. The projects were meant to ensure that people with disabilities were recognized in every aspect of life. The implementation of the recommendations included the help of the children supported by the advocates (Human Rights and Persons with Disabilities, 2002). The advocates were required to be there so that to offer the children the guidance they needed. Article twenty-four of the convention focuses on the inclusive education. The report highlights the need for children with disabilities. According to the article, children with special needs should be offered the support they need to succeed in life. Some of the support included in the article include sign language, Braille, and low vision.

The main principles and overarching government obligations can be implemented to create a clear conceptual structure to pursue the EFA goals in the comprehensive approach. The governments should ensure that children with disabilities can enjoy their rights to education. The law focuses on the quality of education which means that the learning institutions should make sure that they have all the resources required by the students (The Right of Children with Disabilities to Education: A Rights – Based Approach to Inclusive Education in the CEECIS Region, 2011). There various types of disabilities and each requires unique resources. Initially, the governments focused on including the children in the mainstream education without put emphasis on the resources that were being utilized.

However, the international legislation ensures that the children are recognized, and they can easily participate in the education system (Promoting the r ights of Children with disabilities, 2007). The laws also warn against discrimination of any kind by the other children and students. The students are encouraged to accept the students and ensure that they are comfortable within the classroom setting.

The teachers are required to make sure that education is offered in an environment which is respectful of the children’s rights. It is important for the teachers to understand that education is meant for all children. The government also needs to be committed to the inclusion process (United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, n.d.). According to United Nations, it is not enough to offer the children access to equal opportunities in education. It is sufficient to ensure that the education is of high quality to enable children to reach the highest potential. The children should be offered positive learning opportunities. In Saudi Arabia, the inclusion program ensures that all teachers are given the appropriate training needed in the implementation process (Alanazi, 2012). Another stipulation of the law on disability is the protection of rights based learning and evaluation.

The education institutions are required to provide a child-friendly and healthy environment for the students. Children cannot reach their full potential in an atmosphere that does not support their growth. They, therefore require a healthy environment that will enable them to achieve their goals (Promoting the rights of Children with disabilities, 2007). UNICEF developed the concept of child-friendly schools; the move was meant to make sure that all the children attended school. The program is also aimed at ensuring that the schools protect the children’s rights (United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, n.d.). The concept is effective as it ensures that there is a thorough inclusion of the children with disabilities. It includes a multidimensional aspect of quality and aims at addressing the entire need of the child as a learner. The child is required to participate in the classroom activities without any discrimination actively.Lack of coordinated actions in various government ministries has affected the implementation of the inclusion of children with disability.




3.1 Introduction

In this chapter the methodology for this study is outlined. An explanation is provided about the methods investigated for this analysis of key Saudi Arabian policy documents. The research question that guides this study will be discussed in relation to the context for study, established in the review of international inclusive education literature. Three key methods are discussed this chapter. Firstly Document Analysis (DA) and its importance in research will be examined. Secondly, the Critical Discourse Analysis (DCA) will be considered and its importance in research will be identified. Thirdly, Bacchi’s (2009) Policy Analysis Questions (WPR) will be discussed and my justification for adapting this approach will be provided.  In addition to the methods for this study, the limitations of the study, data collection processes and ethical issues will be addressed.

3.2 Research questions

This study is guided by a central research question:

How do Saudi Arabian policy documents reflect international inclusive education policy? 

This research question serves to focus and limit the study to:

(a) a critical examination of publicly available Saudi policy documents

(b) how these documents are cognizant of international inclusive education policy

To further support the clarity of the study, two sub-questions have proved helpful to address the central question. The first sub-question is

            (a) What Saudi Arabia policy documents address inclusive education?

For this to be thoroughly investigated, is important to look at the Disability Law of Saudi Arabia (2000).This particular document outlines how the nation regulates the enactment of disability laws. Another document that will be analyzed in the research process is the General Education Policy of Saudi Arabia (1995). Another important document to be examined to address this sub-questions (and the overall research question) is the Special Education Policy in Saudi Arabia (2016). 

Another important sub-question for this study is:

(b) What are the key international policy documents about inclusive


Addressing this sub-question specifically by identifying the important and recent international policy documents will assist with the overall consideration of the research question.

3.3 Methods

A range of methods can be employed in the analysis of policy and documents. One approach is Document Analysis (DA). It is an older process of qualitative research whereby a researcher analyzes documents (Bowen, 2009; Altheide& Schneider, 2013) to interpret the intentions and implications of the document. Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) is the second method considered for this study. The approach employs critical theory to analyze language as social practice, particularly how language discloses, conceals or maintains representations of the self and others (Locke, 2004).

While Document Analysis (DA) and Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) are considered here to be highly appropriate approaches for extensive and in-depth policy analysis, this study nevertheless focuses on Bacchi’s (2009) Policy Analysis Questions (WPR). This particular approach provides a structured method and this study has been informed by the six interconnected questions because it allows for critical engagement and allows for the limited scope of this study. I expect to employ all three approaches (DA, CDA, WPR) in the planned PhD project to follow this minor thesis. In the next section of this chapter, the three methods investigated are further outlined.

3.3.1 Document Analysis

Document Analysis (DA) is defined as a systematic method for assessing all types of materials. The method can be utilized in evaluating both printed and electronic materials. The method allows a person to examine and interpret data so as to extract meaning. It also allows a person in understanding developing empirical knowledge. The Document Analysis method is mainly utilized with other qualitative research methods (Altheide& Schneider, 2013).  The method is particularly useful if a large volume of written materials need to be analysed within an historical and political context.

In addition to being a useful method for analyzing reports and other publications, document analysis is frequently being used to analyse large-scale digital information such as webpages and RSS Feeds (Australian National University, 2016). 

Documents have various purposes within research, beyond the review of scholarly literature. In this particular study, government policy documents are important, but Document Analysis of grey literature may also prove to be useful in a larger study. Grey literature has been described as material published by government, business, industry and others that is ‘not controlled by commercial publishers’ (Greylit, 2016).  Grey literature includes:

…reports (pre-prints, preliminary progress and advanced reports, technical reports, statistical reports, memoranda, state-of-the art reports, market research reports, etc.), theses, conference proceedings, technical specifications and standards, non-commercial translations, bibliographies, technical and commercial documentation, and official documents not published commercially (primarily government reports and documents) (Alberani, Pietrangelli&Mazza, 1990).

In addition to scholarly publications, grey literature offers a background of information and historical insight. This sort of documentation may have relevance and significance.

Document Analysis (DA) is therefore a highly useful method to assess the development of policy if the scope of the study is sufficiently large. 

3.3.2 Critical Discourse Analysis

Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) is employed in the study of discourse in social institutions. An important aspect of Critical Discourse Analysis is that it allows focus on the signifiers that develop the text in addition to understand the factual determinations of the particular choices (Fairclough, 2013). Critical Discourse Analysis identifies the complex relationship between texts (Wodak, & Meyer, 2009). Using this method to analyze policy requires analysis from a range of perspectives. In relation to this minor thesis, the perspectives related to the development of international inclusive education policy are many and include the Saudi Arabian political and educational context. While it is anticipated that Critical Discourse Analysis will be highly appropriate for the larger PhD study, the limited scope of this study makes its employment less useful.

Having identified both Document Analysis and Critical Discourse Analysis to be relevant but beyond the scope of this present study, I now turn to discuss Bacchi’s (2009) ‘WPR’ Policy Analysis Questions. Further, I explain and justify why and how I have adapted these questions for this particular small-scale study.

3.3.3 Bacchi’s ‘WPR’ Policy Analysis Questions

Bacchi (2009; 2012) proposed six very useful questions that assist in the analysis of policy called the ‘What’s the Problem Represented to be? approach (WPR). These questions support policy assessment by pushing the investigation behind the stated policy to focus instead on what lies behind their development .  The WPR questions provide guidance for investigating policy documents. As Bacchi (2012) notes, “The ‘WPR’ approach is a resource, or tool, intended to facilitate critical interrogation of public policies.” Below, each of her questions are listed together with together with some discussion.

  1. What’s the ‘problem’ (for example, of ‘problem gamblers’, ‘drug use/abuse’, ‘gender inequality’, ‘domestic violence’, ‘global warming’, ‘sexual harassment’, etc.) represented to be in a specific policy or policy proposal?
  2. What presuppositions or assumptions underpin this representation of the ‘problem’?
  3. How has this representation of the ‘problem’ come about?
  4. What is left unproblematic in this problem representation? Where are the silences? Can the ‘problem’ be thought about differently?
  5. What effects are produced by this representation of the ‘problem’?
  6. How/where has this representation of the ‘problem’ been produced, disseminated and defended? How has it been (or could it be) questioned, disrupted and replaced?  (Bacchi, 2012, p. 21).

The WPR ‘What is the problem represented to be?’ method is a very useful tool for policy analysis and investigation of policy documents in any context. Together with Document Analysis (DA) and Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) the WPR method will be used in the larger PhD thesis that will undertake a substantial investigation into inclusive education with the Saudi Arabian context from a range of perspectives, including policy. However, for the purposes of this small-scale study, I have adapted Bacchi’s (2009) WPR approach. My research question is purposefully narrow to foucus the investigation onto (a) three key Saudi policy documents that address disability and inclusive education, and (b) how these documents are cognizant of international education policy in the area of inclusive education. My argument for choosing Bacchi’s WPR approach is that investigation of what underlies policy documents has significance for its development. The WPR approach offers assistance in the examination of how the international context for inclusive education policy has been represented in Saudi Arabian documents.  The WPR approach will also help to determinine how the issues are described in different categories and subject positions to diverse groups in the policy documents (Bacchi, 2009). The method will also allow the assessment of how disability and inclusive education is structured in the three Saudi policy documents.

 Extensive and detailed employment of the WPR method would also assist in understanding how the particular policy environment has impacted on the idea of disability in that nation.  The research will utilize three questions of the “What’s the problem represented to be?” approach. However, it is significant to introduce all the six questions and how they will help in the research.

However, close investigation of the WPR approach has revealed how extensive its thorough employment would be. For this reason I have chosen to adapt this method for this minor thesis and have instead focused this investigation on an adapted version that allows for the three policy documents to be problematized. The research question  How do Saudi Arabia policy documents reflect international inclusive education policy?” requires international contextualization of these policies and begins analysis that will be continued into the PhD study. By contextualizing the Saudi Arabian policy withing the international literature and laws, the problematization of the three policies is undertaken by an adapted version of the WPR approach that questions the motives and premises behind the development of the policies. 

3.4 Justification

In this study, three key methods have been investigated to identify the most appropriate way to undertake the study and address the guiding research question. Firstly, consideration was given to Document Analysis (DA) was considered. This approach allows the examination, analysis and interpretation of large quantities of data.  As this study is small scale, DA is unsuitable as the focus is upon three documents, not large volume of material.  The second method to be examined for this study was Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA), which is a highly effective method for investigating discourses within social institutions. However, through this investigation, I have identified CDA to be very useful for my PhD project but too complex for the more limited scope of this minor thesis.

Bacchi’s (2009) WPR (What is the problem represented to be?) method has also been revealed as a very useful tool for the investigation of premise and motive underlying the development of government policy. However, because my research question asks How do Saudi Arabia policy documents reflect international inclusive education policy? Bacchi’s WPR is more suitable for close examination of government policy development within a nation’s specific context than my question that asks how the policy reflects the international context. Nevertheless, the WPR approach has been adapted in this study to assist me in addressing the research questions and drawing conclusions related to premise and political motivation.

3.5 Summary

Therefore this methodological investigation has focused on three distinct approaches that each appeared attractive for this study, but under investigation it was revealed that they were highly suitable for employment in the planned PhD investigation. Further, it was revealed that each of the three methods examined here, DA, CDA and WPR have informed this study, but have not been employed with fidelity in this study. Instead, the three methods have informed the approach undertaken in this study which focuses clearly upon three Saudi Arabian policy documents in relation to the international context.

3.6 Limitations

As outlined above this study is deliberately limited to examination of three publicly available policy documents in relation to the international policy context regarding inclusive education. The documents chosen for this study are both publicly available and in Arabic.  A major constraint for the design of this study was the limited availability of material with most documentation unavailable. Another limitation of this study is that some of the documentation examined is now quite old and questions remain about their current relevance and when they will be replaced or updated.

3.7 Data collection

The data for this study comprises three policy documents that are freely available in the public domain. They are:

The Disability Law of Saudi Arabia (2000)

The General Education Policy of Saudi Arabia (1995)

The Special Education Policy of Saudi Arabia (2016).

3.8 Ethical issues

As this small-scale study does not involve consultation with individuals or departments, approval from the Victoria University Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) was not sought. During the research process, it is important to consider and act judiciously on various ethical issues. First, it is significant to ensure that one cites the work of other researchers. It is also important to use authentic sources during the entire research process. Another important ethical consideration that a person should make is making sure that one does not make unreasonable assumptions. Therefore, one should rely on the evidence identified throughout the research process.

3.9 What I will do in the research

In this study, I will be informed by Bacchi (2009) WPR approach to policy analysis to analyze inclusive education within the Saudi Arabian context. I will closely examine three publicly available policy documents in relation to the international, inclusive education policy context. The research question will guide the study which has been conceptualized as an important first step towards the larger PhD investigation.

3.10 Conclusion

This study has examined three key research methods to determine their how useful they would be for this study. This chapter has examined, discussed and justified the suitability of the three methods of DA, CDA and WPR. I have concluded that while all three methods will be important for the PhD project, for this study the problematization of policy indicated by the WPR method is sufficient to address the research question that guides this thesis: ‘How do Saudi Arabian policy documents reflect international inclusive education policy? So despite my conclusion that each of these methods are highly useful, and that I expect to investigate them further for the PhD study, in this minor thesis, I will not use them in this particular study beyond being informed by them in my analysis of policy documents. My key focus in this study is to focus on the relationship between the Saudi policy documents and the international inclusive education policy context.




4.1 Introduction

In this part of the thesis the findings of this investigation will be outlined. It should be said here that Saudi Arabia does endeavor to offer people with special needs appropriate education (Haimour, 2013). It is also more focused on the people’s needs and ensuring that they are treated equally. Individuals with disability are protected under the Law of Disability (2000) in Saudi Arabia in 2000 and Special Education Policy in Saudi Arabia in 2001. The General Education Policy in Saudi Arabia (1995) also ensures that all students in Saudi Arabia receive an education.

4.1 Analysis

This chapter will discuss how the Saudi policy documents reflect international inclusive education policy, in order to address the research questions established at the beginning of this thesis.  I have employed modified version of Bacchi’s (2012) ‘What’s the problem represented to be?’ (WPR) approach.

Firstly I begin with a discussion of the Saudi General Education Policy (1995). I will also offer a brief introduction to the Law of Disability in Saudi Arabia (2000) and Special Education Policy in Saudi Arabia (2001).

4.2 General Education Policy of Saudi Arabia (1995)

The General Educational Policies of Saudi Arabia were established in 1970 and includes 236 articles that have overall goals and purpose of education in Saudi Arabia, based on Islam religion. The document addresses students of all education levels in Saudi Arabia. The purpose of the particular document is organized in such that schools, institutes, and University in the education system in Saudi Arabia to be under the responsibility of the Ministry of Education (General Education Policy in Saudi Arabia (1995). Additionally, the articles of the document serve both boys and girls who study at different levels in Saudi Arabia.  As it was established in 1970, requiring it to be updated is not unreasonable. The purpose of analyzing this document is because it is an important document when I am looking for educational policy, and also there are four articles (188, 189, 190 and 191) which relate specifically to students with disabilities.

4.3 The Law of Disability in Saudi Arabia (2000)

The law of disability in Saudi Arabia in 2000 is targeted to safeguard people with disability living in Saudi Arabia. The government of Saudi Arabia established enacted the law in 2000 through cabinet resolution. It is part of Saudi Arabian law that focuses on the rights of individuals with disabilities (The Law of Disability in Saudi Arabia (2000)). The document contains sixteen articles that offer guidelines on the rights of people with disability. The report serves people with disability in various domains such as education, social and occupations. It contains the services that the government offers the people with disability so as to enjoy the healthy life. I have examined this document because this study examines how inclusive education works in Saudi Arabia and what is specified in government policy is the logical starting point for this investigation. The interest here is the rights of individuals with disabilities and how they are addressed in Saudi policy.

4.4 Special Education Policy of Saudi Arabia (2016)

Special education policy of Saudi Arabia is a guide that offers guidelines for the special education school and institutes of students with disabilities. It includes all disability terms together with the definition. The document is important as it includes guidelines for teachers, specialists, and employees who work in administration, early Institutes of students with disabilities. It contains all the terms of disability and their definitions (Special education policy of Saudi Arabia. 2016). Another important aspect of the document is that it includes tasks for the teachers, specialists and the workers in the administration, early intervention services as well as the educational plans and goals. The document serves students, teachers, professionals and administrators who work in the special education system.

4.5 Bacchi (2012) Analysis

Naming the problem: Special Education for People with Disability

The law of disability in Saudi Arabia (2000) defines a disabled person as:

An individual with complete or partial failure in a stable manner in the physical abilities, sensory, mental or communicative, educational or psychological, in such that it minimizes capacity to live a normal life. 

As mentioned in the literature review chapter, in earlier times Saudi children with disabilities were dependent on their parents for education support and care, as the government did not provide specialized education. Blind adults became the first individuals to be recognized by the government, and in 1958, special education was established as a training program to educate blind adults how to read Braille (Haimour, 2013). No other programs were included to cater for other persons with disabilities apart from visual impairments and blindness. In this case, it is clear that the term disabled individuals only applied to the visually impaired people. Today, the term has expanded to include Physical and motor disability, speech and language disorders, hearing disability, learning difficulties, behavioral and emotional disorders, mental handicap, autism among others (World Data on Education: Saudi Arabia, 2011). The significant point is not the term itself. Rather it is the ways the particular problem representation is produced. Hence, the first objective in the particular section is to analyze the ways in which the term “disability” functions as part of the problem representation in the structure of the question “What is the “problem” of disability represented to be in a particular policy?

The law of disability in Saudi Arabia of 2000 has adopted the term disability to include Physical and motor impairment, speech and language disorders, hearing disability, learning difficulties, behavioral and emotional disturbances, mental handicap, autism among others. The recognition of people with disability is adopted from the United Nations Documents of Rights of People with Disability (The Law of Disability in Saudi Arabia (2000)).  I find notable that the Law of Disability in Saudi Arabia (2000) defines disability as individuals suffering from complete or partial failure in a stable way in the physical capabilities, sensory, mental or communicative, education or psychological to the point that it minimizes the person’s capability of meeting the standard requirements. Understanding the problem as disability is important as it helps to identify the manner in which the government handles the issue.

It is apparent that the government of Saudi Arabia recognizes disabled people. The government guarantees the rights of disabled individuals in such that it ensures that they are taken care of and provided with rehabilitation services. Institutions and individuals are encouraged to participate in charitable works in the field of disability (Aldabas, 2015). They are also required to offer services to persons with disability through the use of competent authorities in the particular areas. In this case, the government ensures that people with disability are offered the right services. The government of Saudi Arabia also provides that people with disability are offered counseling and preventive testing. The state also makes sure that individuals with disabilities are offered the proper education under the Law of Disability in Saudi Arabia (2000).

The law stipulates that people with disability should be provided proper education at all levels including pre-school, public education, technical education and higher education. It states also requires the learning institutions to ensure that they provide proper facilities that would cater for the children and individuals with disabilities (Alothman, 2014). The law also requires regular assessment of the curriculum and services offered to persons with disabilities (Aldabas, 2015).

The government also promises individuals with disability training and rehabilitation services according to the type and degree of disability. The training has to match with the requirements of the labor market. The law also requires the learning institutions to offer the students vocational and social rehabilitation centers making sure that they use the appropriate training approaches.

After close examination of the documents, it is apparent that the problem is well stipulated in the law of disability in Saudi Arabia. Naming the problem as disability is important, the emphasis within the Saudi Arabia policy-making has been the ideal for proper education for individuals and students with disabilities. However, there remains a significant difference between acknowledging disability and inclusive education.

In 2009, Saudi Arabia endorsed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of individuals with Disabilities (2006)  and follows the United Nations Optional Protocol as Saudi Arabia was a signatory (Friend & Bursuck, 2015). Saudi Arabia also made provision in education for individuals that are intellectually gifted (Alothman, 2014).


4.6 Assumptions Underlying the Problem Of Inclusive Education In The Saudi Arabia Special Education Policy

The updated version of the special education policy in Saudi Arabia has well-stipulated guidelines on how to cater for students and individuals with disabilities. The 2016 version clearly outlines what mainstream teachers need to do as well as requirements for specialist teachers. After examining that policy, it is apparent that it closely follows the guidelines associated with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Individuals with Disabilities (Brown & Parekh, 2010). The policy focuses on ensuring that students with disabilities gain a quality education. My examination of the Saudi Arabia special education policy, has found agreement with Alothman’s (2014) observations regarding the assumptions and presuppositions about this policy, including the background of representation of the issue.

Informed by both Ball’s (2015; 2012) policy text/policy discourse discussion and Bacchi’s WPR approach, looking behind the policy to assess its assumptions and presuppositions provides some insight into the Saudi policy.

My aim here is to use Question 2 What presuppositions or assumptions underlie this representation of the ‘problem’? (Bacchi,2009) to assist in the identification and the uncovering of the cultural behaviors that are linked to the problem of special education for children with disability. The first step was to investigate the idea behind education and how the government of Saudi Arabia uses the current curriculum (Corbett, 2001). I will then highlight about the assumptions on the education of individuals with disabilities as stated in the Special Education policy of Saudi Arabia. I will then examine how the government of Saudi Arabia tackles the issue of inclusive education, within the policy sphere. Then I will highlight the aims and the findings of the discussion.

The Saudi Arabia government has put a lot of emphasis on education. The state ensures that individuals receive free education despite their physical abilities. The aim to educate all the people of Saudi Arabia has been established through the link of religious beliefs and international rights (Corbett, 2001). The government of Saudi Arabia works together with the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)with the aim of ensuring that all individuals receive free and fair education. The General Education Policy in Saudi Arabia (1995), stipulates that students in Saudi Arabia should receive proper education.

The Saudi Arabian government enacted the General Education Policy (1970). The plan offers guidelines that are required to protected students with disabilities at all educational levels. The changes in the general education sector are evident, and one can clearly differentiate the old curriculum and the new one. When Saudi Arabia was founded the educational system was partial and, not all individuals were able to attend school. There was the lack of enough schools as well as teachers. The most common form of education was the teachings of the Islamic Law and basic literacy.

Most of the children were required to add to their family finances, and they had to do jobs such as herding animals as well as taking up domestic labor. Nevertheless, the education system changed with the development of oil fields in the country (Corbett, 2001). The government established more public schools as well as special schools to cater for every individual throughout the country.

However, the current education policy is also encouraged by the international education policy. It shows that the government is concerned with making the international community happy. However, there is an issue due to the fact that the education system is centralized. The government manages all education processes in Saudi Arabia. The administration of teaching is managed by the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Higher Education (Alquraini, 2010). The Ministry of Education was initiated in 1954 to safeguard the young boys and girls in the education sector. This shows that the government was focused on ensuring that there was gender balance in the education system. The Ministry is meant to ensure that all individuals receive proper training including those with disabilities. However, the Ministry of Higher Education was established in 1975 to manage all aspects of higher education in Saudi Arabia. Initially, the Ministry of Education was responsible for overseeing the activities of the higher learning institutions.

4.7 Education of individuals with disabilities

It is evident that the aim to educate all persons in Saudi has been influenced by religious beliefs as well as the International rights. The government of Saudi Arabia has continued to develop and change the education sector. For instance, the state recognizes the children with disabilities and also ensures that there are plans to offer them proper education (Alquraini, 2010). The first recognition of children with disabilities was introduced in 1956 through individual initiatives. The efforts were focused on ensuring that people with certain disabilities were able to receive the education so as to live a normal life and access the job opportunities (Oyaid, 2009). First, they were offered a basic education which ensured that they could read. Although the government did not introduce the first specialized learning institutions, it supported the initiatives. The government was on the frontline facilitating government buildings and offering individuals materials that were used during the sessions. The government was later able to put up its first learning institution for persons with disabilities.

Looking at the Saudi Arabia education policies it is apparent that government has been focused on changing the assumption of teaching for persons with disabilities. As earlier mentioned, individuals with disabilities were offered education primary education, and not all of them were included in the program (Alquraini, 2010). A common thing among people with disabilities is that their condition makes it more challenging for them to acquire education and ability to learn. In this case, the individuals with disabilities may require specialized  support such as physical tools to improve their learning (Brown & Parekh, 2010).

However, times have changed since individuals with visual impairments were provided with specialized assistance. The General Education Policy (1995) now recognizes the needs of people with many different types of disability. The article also states that the government will make sure that there is proper curricular and cultural variety of training that are suitable, whatever the disability. This shows that the government recognizes the needs of children with disability in the education system. The recognition of individuals with disabilities in the general education policy shows the changing perception of the special needs education. How this extends to inclusive education remains to be seen. This shows that schools are required to ensure that the curriculum matches the needs of all children. The article 189 in the General Education Policy in Saudi Arabia (1995) offers guidelines to ensure that children with disabilities receive a quality education. The article states that the training will be designed in such a manner that it will cater for the disabled individual (The General Education Policy in Saudi Arabia (1995).  In this case, the government ensures that the teachers receive proper training so as to have adequate skills necessary to cater for children with disabilities (Friend & Bursuck, 2015).

The General Education Policy (1995) also calls for the involvement of the teachers in the process of designing and providing special education for the students. Initially, the parents were left with the burden of educating and caring for their children (General Educational Policy of SA (1995). However, after examining the General Education Policy (1995), it has become clear that the Saudi Arabian government has continued to gradually change its education system to cater for all children. Whether it is yet an ‘inclusive’ education system, however, remains to be seen.

Another important article in the General Education Policy (1995) is Article 190 that children with visual impairment can learn religious studies as well as Arabic language. The report supports the assumption that the education system in Saudi Arabia is based on the Islamic religion. In this case, the government tries to ensure that children at all levels receive the proper education. However, the article only recognizes blind individuals. The education policy does not include other disabilities in its stipulations which might be misleading for the learning institutions.

The General Education Policy (1995) also works towards establishing a deliberate plan for the advancement of all the education branches and ensuring that they achieve their objectives and develop a list of regulated guidelines (General Education Policy of Saudi Arabia (1995). The policy matches the intention of International Education Policy.

However, research from the various literature shows that not many teachers are aware of the education policy(Aldabas, 2015). It is apparent that many teachers are influenced by their school policies rather than the General Education Policy in Saudi Arabia (1995). This can be linked to the fact that school policies are developed to match the school’s requirements, workers’ perception, and the students’ capabilities. Therefore, the teachers get more attached to the systems as they seem favorable compared to the education policy implemented by the government.

This study raises the important issue of barriers to the enactment of inclusive education Policy in schools. The learning institutions may lack financial support, guidance as well as supervision (Oyaid, 2009), but that is outside the scope of this current study. Nevertheless this investigation has indicated that although the Saudi government has attempted to implement policy for children with disabilities based on the international education policy, it has not yet succeeded in achieving inclusive education.

Other documents that are important in Saudi education is the Special Education Policy (2001 and 2016). The second document is the updated version of the first one. The two documents were established so as to cater for children living with disabilities and ensuring that they receive an appropriate education. The policy provides that individuals with disabilities are well recognized (Special Education Policy in Saudi Arabia (2016). The 2016 version of special education policy highlights the precise tasks for teachers, specialists and the workers in the special education system. It also offers guidelines on how to develop early intervention and teaching plans (Henry, Lingard, & Taylor, 2013). Although the guidelines are well stipulated in the policy, it is apparent that the government of Saudi Arabia has failed in its implementation process.

The purpose of this study was to analyze the Saudi Arabia inclusive education policy in relation to international policy. Through examination of Saudi education policy documents utilizing aspects of Bacchi’s (2012) WPR approach, this study has focused on Saudi education policy documents.

This study has found that the Saudi Arabian inclusive education plan has been guided by international education policy and the international disability legislative framework. At the same time, questions have been raised about how well inclusive education has been enacted in the school system. It is evident that the aim to educate all individuals in Saudi has been influenced by religious beliefs as well as the International rights. The government of Saudi Arabia has continued to develop and change the education sector.

However, although it is well stipulated in Saudi policy documents that teachers should be actively involved in inclusive education processes, the inclusive education policy in Saudi Arabia does not give proper guidelines on how they should be involved. Many learning institutions have partially implemented the guidelines (Forlin & Loreman, 2014). Children with disabilities are remaining behind in the Saudi education system and it has not yet achieved inclusive education. It appears that the Saudi education system has some way to go in terms of policy implementation within schools.  Schools have not yet been provided with appropriate guidance for them to enact the policy to fully support the learning of individuals with disabilities. The Saudi government has established inclusive education policy from an international perspective.However, its people continue to lag behind in development (Forlin & Loreman, 2014) and this particularly applies to inclusive education. The policy states that all students receive a proper education like their regular counterparts. Inclusion is a process which is utilized by schools to respond to the needs of every student. However, the lack of proper guidelines, implementation plans and resources appear to be hindering development in the inclusive process.




This study examined how Saudi Arabian educational policy supports inclusive education through close examination of policy and legislative frameworks. The international literature was reviewed and the Saudi policy environment was found to be consistent in many ways with international policy. In the methodology chapter, several approaches were considered but the decision to adapt Bacchi’s (add date) WPR approach was justified.

The central research question: ‘How do Saudi Arabian policy documents reflect international inclusive education policy?’served to focus and limit the study to critically examine publicly available Saudi policy documents and how these documents fit with international policy documents. As outlined in the methodology chapter, in order to provideclarity for the study, the two sub-questions have also proved helpful to retain focus on the the central question:

            (a) What Saudi Arabia policy documents address inclusive education?

 (b) What are the key international policy documents about inclusive


Special Education Policy of Saudi Arabia (2016) offers guidelines for the education of students with disabilities in special education schools and institutes.Historically, the government of Saudi Arabia did not offer special education services for children with disabilities who depended on their parents for education and care. Blind adults became the first individuals to be recognized by the government, and in 1958, special education was established as a training program to educate blind adults how to read Braille. However, the Law of Disability in Saudi Arabia (2000) has adopted the term disability to include other disabilities.

The recognition of people with disability is adopted from the United Nations Documents of Rights of People with Disability (2006). It is apparent in all of the policy and legal documentation examined in this study that the government of Saudi Arabia recognizes disabled people. The government guarantees the rights of disabled individuals to be taken care of and receive rehabilitation services (Haimour, 2013). The state also makes sure that individuals with disabilities are offered the proper education under the Law of Disabilities in Saudi Arabia (2000). The law stipulates that people with disability should be provided special education at all levels.  The updated version of Special Education Policy in Saudi Arabia (2016)  stipulatesclear guidelines on how to cater for students and individuals with disabilities. The 2016 version has clearly specified tasks that teachers need to follow. However, the aim appears to be ‘integration’ into regular or mainstream schools, rather than inclusive education.

In summary, Saudi Arabia has developed key disability legislation and education policy that is consistent with international literature, legislation and guidelines. However, it has failed to move as quickly as other countries towards inclusive education. Rather than keeping fidelity with the international community, Saudi education systems would benefit from clear guidelines and expectations that move beyond integration towards inclusion. Based on human rights, the nature of inclusion is more effectively understood through the experiences of individuals involved in the process and this has not yet occurred in Saudi Arabia. It is anticipated that this small-scale study will provide a solid base from which the PhD project can be developed.


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