Sample Essay on Religion and Education in Saudi Arabia

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Background research information 

Education and religion are two fundamental platforms for social institutions. Both education and religion compliment each other in their objectives of uniting the society. For example, one of the objectives of education is to pass information about the importance, structures and dynamics of social institutions such as religion. On the same note, one of the objectives of religion is to offer education in regard to a particular religion’s history, dynamics and beliefs. Saudi Arabia is a fascinating nation when it comes to laying focus on both education and religion. This is because the education system is guided by the principles and beliefs of the major religion within Saudi Arabia. The government within a nation should have control over religion and education. This is not the case in Saudi Arabia as religion has control over education and government. This is because in Saudi Arabia the official religion is Islam, turning Saudi Arabia to a theocratic Islamic nation. The government should oversee the control over education, and if the government in Saudi is controlled by religion, then automatically the education is also controlled by religion.

The laws within Saudi Arabia are Islam based, and so is the education content. Therefore, for the research purpose, the research will tackle the education and religion in Saudi Arabia from the perspective of Islam as the major subject. This is because Islam takes 96% of the total population, Christianity - a mere 3.5% and 0.4% of the population is under Hinduism. The research paper will also look into how Islam influences education, and how education influences spread of Islam and appreciation of Islam. On the same note, the research paper will review whether Islam limits the quality of education and whether the content of education limits the number of religions in Saudi Arabia. Perhaps it is under this review that it will be easy to illustrate the history, development and current status of education and religion in Saudi Arabia.

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Religion in Saudi Arabia

An ideal religion amounts to a platform that allows an individual to practice his/her religious beliefs freely without creating harm to rights of others or their own rights. Is that the case in Saudi Arabia? Doumato & Posusney (2003) answer that question, indicating that “Saudi Arabia is a confessional state where ecclesiastical authority takes precedence over the secular government”. The people have remarkably little say on how the government is chosen as there is an already existing chain of command based on the royal family.  Religion is the most powerful organ in Saudi Arabia as it controls the politics, education, trade, culture and administration. Interestingly, Saudi Arabia is the birth place of Islam; the sacred city of Islam is located in Saudi Arabia. Therefore, there is a high expectation from Islamic people around the world that Saudi Arabia reflects a strong culture of Islam with no flaws in the nation. Due to these expectations and pressure, Saudi Arabia religious authorities are always on their toes to make sure that the nation has a decent picture of how marvelous Islam can be used to create harmony in a nation.

How religion influences education in Saudi Arabia

Religion influences all social learning institutions, starting from the smallest social unit, family. Social institutions, such as work place, schools, game events and rehabilitation centers are all dictated by the Islamic religion in Saudi Arabia. Therefore, there is a centralized educational policy modeled on Egypt's education system, which by then was an Islamic-flavored system.

In the modern era, where Internet has made the world a global village, there is opposition by the Islamic activities in usage of Internet as they argue that the students will be exposed to immoral things. Most parents, acting as educators in the social learning unit of family, do not encourage their children to use Internet for learning. This is because the parents are chained and brainwashed by the Islamic religion activities views that the Internet has a harmful influence on children. Some TV channels are also banned in Saudi Arabia, especially those that broadcast programs that go contrary to religious activities views. On the good side of religion as a good factor, influencing education, there are notable achievements that the religion in Saudi Arabia has made towards education development. All the developments have been on the basis that religion offered beneficial approaches to education.

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How religion influences trade and work in Saudi Arabia

A joyous and comfortable working environment guarantees respect of every person in the scope of their rights, such as religion, expression and culture. Saudi Arabia is dominated by the Islamic religion; most population is Muslims, 90% is Sunni and 10% is Shi'a. Sunni Muslims dictate the laws and regulations to be followed at the work place. For example, the work days are quite different from the normal worldwide accepted workdays. The workdays in Saudi Arabia run from Saturday to Wednesday, based on the Sharia law. Such inconvenience does not accommodate the rights of other people within the nation. For example, a Christian in Saudi Arabia would find it hard to work on Sunday or Saturday. On the scope of time management in regard to working hours, Muslims pray five times a day. That consumes a lot of business hours, thus affecting trade. Therefore, the religion in Saudi Arabia does a lot of harm to working hours and business laws that would guarantee comfort for other people who are not Muslims.

The religious laws have a restriction on the number of business activities that a Muslim can engage in or consume. For example, Muslims are not allowed to consume pork and alcohol. This is quite frustrating to businesses that are operating in Saudi Arabia. It is quite astonishing that a religious outfit has the power to punish its members for engaging in ‘immoral activities’. In Saudi Arabia, there is no difference between immoral activities and criminal activities, both are punishable under the law.

How religion influences culture in Saudi Arabia

Culture go hand in hand with religion as religion is the basis of culture. This is because religion dictates the activities, which are morally right for a certain community. For example, a certain community may consider if a certain cultural activity is in line with respect to their God or the supernatural forces that the community believes in. The cultural activities, events and principles of the people of Saudi Arabia are influenced by the Islamic religion. This is because the cultural activities, events and principles are all dictated by the Islamic religion and comprise of Islamic religion teachings and adherence.
A good example for illustrating the influence of religion on culture is the mode of dressing in Saudi Arabia. Women and men have restrictions of the type of dressing to be put on for each specific event or day. The dressing mode is based on Islamic religion and those that do not adhere are prone to punishment. Another platform for illustrating Islamic religion`s influence on culture is marriage rituals and practices. The type of polygamous marriage is in line with the Islamic religion teachings. The religion teachings also dictate how marriage partners are supposed to associate in developing their homes and taking care of their children. The social structure of Saudi Arabians is mindful of their clan, heritage, extended family and the nuclear family. That is the reason it would be hard to differentiate names of Saudi Arabians from the same family. The naming structure and considerations are in line with the Islamic teachings of social network and the family support in times of need.

How religion influences administration in Saudi Arabia

The basis of a country administration and governing should be the people’s decision of acceptable rules and structure in the society. Saudi people have remarkably little say in the government administration and other activities. The culprit to blame for the hindrance is religion. This is because as much as people would want to say, the administration is based on religion. Therefore, it is not easy for people to confront their religious leaders or leaders anointed by their religious leaders. It would be seen as an abomination to oppose the god`s choice. The administration structure is based on the royal family, which has some religious ties to be in power. The Islamic religion does not oppose the administration in place, hence the unending rule of the royal family. Religion dictates most of the things in Saudi Arabia, and if it was willing it would have opposed the dictatorial administration of the royal family. Contrary to that cause, the legal systems of Saudi Arabia are based on the Sharia law. To make the mater worse, the 1992 Basic Rights Act states that the Islamic holy book, the Koran, and the Sunnah are Saudi Arabia system of laws and principles, thus influencing the justice and administration system. The justice system, which is already influenced by religion, is also dependent on the outcome of the administration.

Education in Saudi Arabia

Despite Saudi Arabia formation in 1926, formal and informal education started in the late 1948, when plans were laid out to absorb the Egyptian system of education. By 2001, the population of Saudi Arabia had reached 22,757,092. However, at that time the country literacy level was 62.8 % (71.5% percent for males and a projected 50.2 % for females). The central intelligence agency estimates that illiteracy levels in 2010 were “total population: 86.6%; male: 90.4%: female: 81.3 %”( CIA, 2012). The gap between the male and female literacy levels is blamed on religion and culture. The Islamic culture does not value education for girls as they are seen as marriage objects. Therefore, the education system in Saudi Arabia is discriminated by sex and alienated into three separately managed systems: education for girls, general education for boys and traditional Islamic education (for boys). In its inception in 1952 general education for boys was obligated by the Ministry of Education, while the education for girls was put under the authority of the General Presidency for Girls' Education. However, there is no difference in the exams issued or the curriculum used for teaching. The purpose of this division is to prevent or limit the level of intimacy between students in respect to the Islamic teachings. Majority of the studies comprise content that is aimed at educating the young ones, teachings beliefs and practices of the Islamic religion. In the early days, just after the appearance of Saudi Arabia, education was relayed through the worship places as there were distinct classes for learning Islamic religion teachings and culture. The foundations of secular Western-slanted schools were only possible in 1952 after World War II. The adoption of the secular curriculum did not see the end of Islamic influence in education, and up to date the new curriculum is dedicated to Islamic religion, especially the cramming of the Quran, elucidation and understanding of the Quran.

The first Saudi Arabia King, Ibn Saudi, viewed education as a means of fostering national unity and enlightening the Saudi people. The same view has been held in Saudi Arabia from the time of inception of secular education up to now. However, religious influence has been on its toes to ensure that whatever is learnt in the institution is within the concepts of the Islamic religion; this is done in order to safeguard the existing harmony in Saudi Arabia. The religious activists, who are also in the management structure of Saudi Arabia, are afraid that teaching of Islamic context may brainwash the students to adopt other religions and culture. The religion views that a single dominating religion, in this case Islam, ensures that the nation has harmony and peace because the people within that nation are taught to think the same way, perhaps it is the mode of teaching people to think the same way that avoids social and political differences. That is the main reason why education in Saudi Arabia has four unusual characteristics: prominence on Islam, divided education for male and female, centralized educational system and state monetary support for education. Islam is the heart of each Saudi Arabia curriculum. The incorporation of Islam in the curriculum is meant to minimize the cases of indiscipline, thus strengthen brotherhood, respect and harmony.

There are cases of discrimination in respect to gender, when delivering education in Saudi Arabia. The female gender has been neglected, even by the religious team, for ages as the Islamic culture does not value education for girls, whether formal or informal education. That was the case a few years ago, by the end of 2009, but the Saudi government has made landmark steps towards achieving a universal education without discrimination. The steps have been achieved through the government efforts of making primary education compulsory and accessible to all Saudi Arabians by offering incentives for girls. However, despite the government intervention to help girls, culture influenced by Islamic religion is responsible for the high girls drop out of schools. This is because girls drop out of schools is due to enter into a forced marriage or due to lack of quality education. The girls and boys education is separate in terms of institutions, but the girls’ institutions suffer from lack of adequate teachers or poor learning facilities.

Conclusion

The existence of Saudi Arabia as a rhetoric nation does not give much room for growth and development of religion and education in the country. A similar approach for delivering education and religion has been in existence for ages in Saudi Arabia. This is because all the activities of religion and education are dictated by one religion, thus there is no room for growth. However, things are changing for better in Saudi Arabia as the government wakes from slumber to listen to the people`s demands.  A majority of Saudi Arabia nation has succumbed to violence due to use of religion as a means of dictatorship. Perhaps Saudi Arabia has learnt from its neighbors, Syria and Egypt, and decided to implement a favorable education and religious system, especially now that the world has become a global village. Saudi Arabia has made a reservation for international students and teachers exchange programs. Religion, influencing all aspects of life in Saudi Arabia, has lowered considerable developments that the nation would have made, considering the amount of oil revenue.

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