History of Saudi Arabian Education

Saudi Arabia’s first experiences with formalized education developed from the emergence of Islam in the 7th century CE. Islam stresses education for all believers, and Islamic education was purposed for teaching God’s laws so that Muslims would live their lives in accordance with them (Federal Research Division, Library of Congress, 1992). Education became a main priority in the late 1700s as a way to encourage the spread of Islam and its teachings. Public schools in the region pre-dated the modern Saudi state in the form of “Kuttabs”, which were entirely religious in nature, led by an Imam or religious leader.

Curriculum was composed mostly of rote memorization of the Holy Qur’an with a secondary
focus on reading and writing (Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission, 1995). Due to this educational
structure, not everyone was fully literate, but many could read and recite a great deal of the
Qur’an. In the beginning stages of education in the region, there was thought to be no need to separate religion and the sciences in the curriculum, as the subjects were seen as intertwined and the Islamic religion was woven into all things (Zuhur, 2011).

SA TimelineSources: (U.S Department of Education, 2012, United States Courts, 2013, Zuhur, 2011)