Special education development in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia from 1958 to 1987

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching and Leadership


Dan Sage


Special education

Subject Categories

Special Education and Teaching


Education in Saudi Arabia, excepting the last fifty years, has concentrated entirely on teaching the Muslim religion to young Saudi men. When the country began its drive for social and economic development, public education was governmentally perceived as a means of raising social consciousness; thus, in the past three decades, Saudi Arabia has witnessed considerable development in many fields. Special education is one of those fields. It has received attention from the government and the public. The government has taken steps to provide its handicapped people with conventional education to fulfill its obligation to offer appropriate educational opportunities to all, regardless of their mental, physical, or economic condition. The purpose of this study is to describe the development of special education in the country over the last three decades. The study focuses on how internal influences (e.g., the Islamic religion and the social and cultural attitudes) have affected the emergence and progress of special education. Other factors included in the study are the Egyptian and American influences on the programs which were exerted through the training of Saudi professionals in these countries with subsequent Saudi use of their programs and ideas.

Despite the barrage of foreign ideas and techniques, Saudi Arabia remains a highly traditional Islamic Society, a trait clearly demonstrated in the Saudi educational system.

Aspects of the study include: how and why special education emerged; which agencies are responsible for providing services to the handicapped; Saudi society attitudes toward the handicapped; perception of the handicapping conditions; and educational objectives for handicapped students. Data for the study have been obtained through interviews with teachers, administrators, and other special education personnel. In addition, original reports, bulletins, public documents and official records of all concerned agencies have been examined when available. The results of the study indicates that, despite the establishment of a number of schools for the handicapped by different sources, the majority of the identified handicapped (blind, deaf, mentally retarded and the physically disabled) are not being served. From among those who are served, only the blind are provided with appropriate education that meet their needs.


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