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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Composing journeys : understanding the lived experiences of saudi arabia’s female early childhood educators Alrasheed , Balsam


Within the country of Saudi Arabia, all early childhood education (ECE) teachers in both public and private schools are female. Despite this demographic fact, there has been little academic study into their professional journeys, challenges, and ambitions. This study brings the voices of these women forward. Through the methodological technique of “portrait” based narrative inquiry inspired by cultural anthropologist Mary Catherine Bateson, and building on the framework of Urie Bronfenbrenner's ecological systems theory, this study explores how six female educators working in Saudi Arabia's ECE have entered the field and negotiated their professional journeys throughout the years. In this study I argue that the narratives composed from the six women I interviewed illustrate the complexities and contradictions that underpin Saudi Arabian ECE. The study reveals the overwhelming influence of patriarchal norms, policies, and practices in Saudi Arabia and how they intersect to shape the capacity of women educators to bring about social change, as well as a restating of what it means to be a Saudi Arabian citizen, as daughters, siblings, wives, mothers, and educators. These narratives challenge the perception of Saudi Arabian ECE as an environment filled with apathetic teachers who are completely dominated by patriarchal systems and unable or unwilling to engage productively in discussions of reform. At the same time, these narratives offer a window into the world of subordinated women and the marginalization of their pedagogical thought, particularly in an educational system that is frequently trapped in centralized policies and where professional opportunity and upward mobility for women are often limited. The implications of these findings for our understanding of the prospects and contributions of ECE in Saudi Arabia are subsequently examined.

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