Education Policy and Governance of Secondary Schools in Saudi Arabia: A Critical Review Informed by Nussbaum’s Capabilities Approach

  • Saad Algraini
  • Janet McIntyre-Mills
Part of the Contemporary Systems Thinking book series (CST)


This case study of both public and private schools in Saudi Arabia is drawn from a completed PhD project that aimed to contribute to the understanding of human development in education. The research defines human development in education in terms of students’ ability to achieve their learning goals as well as to maximise their human potential. The research design includes the collection of data from public and private schools for boys and girls in two provinces in Saudi Arabia. A range of qualitative methods is used in the research, including documentary review, interviews, focus groups, and field notes.

The study draws on the ‘Capabilities Approach’ (Nussbaum 2011) to analyse policies and governance challenges faced by the Ministry of Education in Saudi Arabia. Nussbaum’s Capabilities Approach to human development is applied in order to address the complex needs of students pertaining to the ten basic capabilities, including basic physical needs, educational content and context, and social empowerment. This chapter pays special attention to the process and content of education, in order to critically investigate the development of students’ capabilities and the extent to which the educational outcomes are able to produce well-rounded graduates. Participants in schools have expressed concerns about passive forms of education and the relevance of the curriculum in a centralised learning system. The recommendation made in this chapter is that the current governance system should provide better opportunities for students and teachers to share their perspectives to facilitate better accountability across public and private schools so that equitable learning outcomes could be obtained across genders. In addition, centralised grading systems should reward creative teaching and learning that goes beyond the limits of the curriculum, rewarding critical engagement that fosters lifelong learning capabilities.


Human development Capabilities Approach Education policy Saudi schools 



This research was funded by the Saudi government, and it was approved by the Social and Behavioural Research Ethics Committee of Flinders University, South Australia (project number 6169).


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Authors and Affiliations

  • Saad Algraini
    • 1
  • Janet McIntyre-Mills
    • 1
  1. 1.Flinders UniversityAdelaideAustralia

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