Cultural dimensions of conducting educational research: a case study of Saudi Arabia

Year: 2016

Author: Alsulami, Naif Daifullah Z

Type of paper: Refereed paper

This paper is part of a doctoral study seeking to gain an in-depth understanding of how returning Saudi international students experience their re-entry to Saudi Arabia and why they have such experiences. The doctoral study aimed at knowing the impact of overseas studies programs on the lives of returning Saudis and identifying if the huge investment into education via a scholarship program (King Abdul Abdullah Scholarship Program) has brought positive impacts on the lives of returning Saudis. The participants of the study were 13 male and 8 female Saudis who spent about one to six years living in some English speaking countries such as the U.S., the U.K. and Australia, undertaking postgraduate studies. In terms of methods of data collection, as a Saudi from a similar cultural background with participants, I thought that the best method of data collection for this study was by conducting face to face individual interviews as it would enable me to engage and learn what the interviewees think or feel about their experiences. In fact, similar studies about the re-entry experiences usually employ face to face individual interviews with participants as the best method to extract the experiences of the interviewees (see Arouca, 2013; Casteen, 2006; Fridhandler, 2006; Guerrero, 2006; Gray, 2014; Lester, 2000; Shougee, 1999). However, one of cultural dimension in Saudi Arabia is gender segregation which is practiced in many aspects of life, including in workplaces and education institutions, it was found that in the case of this research these cultural factors have made me find difficulties to conduct such direct interviewing techniques with females. Rather than conducting face to face interviews with female participants, the interviews have been conducted through a broadcasting lecture and phone.This paper discusses how factors such as gender segregation influence educational practices in Saudi Arabia, as well as the methodological implications for educational researchers seeking to understand them.