Saudi women outpace men by learning English

There has been a tremendous increase in the number of English learners among Saudi youths, especially women, in recent years.

September 29, 2012
Saudi women outpace men by learning English
Saudi women outpace men by learning English
Saudi Gazette report

Saudi Gazette report


JEDDAH — There has been a tremendous increase in the number of English learners among Saudi youths, especially women, in recent years.

Young women represent 60 percent of Saudis joining English language institutes across the Kingdom. Experts and investors in the field expect the number of such institutes to double over the next few years.

They attributed a number of factors to the boom in the Kingdom’s English learning sector. These included labor market requirements, support for English learning from the government represented by the Human Resources Development Fund (HRDF), and the growing opportunities for women in various sectors.

They pointed out that a large number of foreign language learning institutes have sprung up in the Kingdom over the past five years. English institutes made up 80 percent of them while French institutes represented 14 percent and institutes for other languages constituted the remaining 6 percent.

Khaled Abdul Razaq Al-Doraian, director of the division for companies at Al-Khaleej Training and Education Company, said the methodology, techniques and curriculum of English learning institutes across the Kingdom have been witnessing substantial improvement year after year.

He added: “Many young Saudis who aspire to go abroad for acquiring proficiency in English are taking advantage of these institutes.”


Al-Doraian’s company owns as many as 80 English teaching centers and institutes in various parts of the Kingdom.

Among these are a number of Direct English institutes for teaching English. He noted that there are several other factors that contributed to the fast spreading of English institutes in the Kingdom during recent years.

He added: “These include the low cost of tuition compared to the expense to go abroad for learning, scope for job opportunities for those who have proficiency in English, a growing trend among various sections of society other than the younger generation to learn English and financial support from the government.

“In the case of those who cannot afford English learning, the HRDF meets most of their expenses.”

Referring to the cost of English learning courses, he said fixing fees was based on various factors such as the rent for the building, salary of teachers and other employees, prices of books and duration of the course.

He said the cost of some courses amounted to less than SR2,000. In some cases, there is an annual increase of 10 percent in the fees while most institutes levy the same charges for a couple of years.

Al-Doraian said most of the teachers at these institutes are native speakers such as those from the United States, Britain, Canada, Ireland and Australia, in addition to those from South Africa and some other countries. These teachers are being hired on a temporary basis and that was in accordance with the nature of the courses.

There are two types of learners at these institutes. The first group includes individuals or employees sent by companies over the course of a year, while the second include summer vacation students.

Most learners fall in the second category, especially regular university students and jobseekers after completion of their university education.


An overwhelming majority (90 percent) of those joining such institutes are employees of various ministries and public sector firms.

Al-Doraian said that most of these institutes follow American or British curriculums or other international English curriculums.

Salafa Hifzi, marketing manager of Wall Street Institute Saudi Arabia, said the entry of more women into the employment market has spurred the growth of English institutes across the Kingdom.

Wall Street Institute (WSI) is among the largest providers of English language learning to adults and corporate clients around the world.


The WSI’s "Blended Learning Method" combines multimedia lessons, small classes, native teachers and fun activities. It has so far provided learning to over 2 million students. There are 16 WSI centers in the Kingdom, including three women only centers in Jeddah, Taif and Madinah.


Hifzi said there has been a 40 percent increase in the number of students enrolled at WSI centers in the Kingdom in 2012 compared to last year. She added: “This prompted us to open new centers in various parts of the Kingdom. We follow more or less the same professional curriculum at all centers worldwide.”


She said WSI currently operates about 450 centers in 27 countries.


Hifzi said WSI centers enroll students individually or collectively over the year. There are also options for the payment of fees. This depends upon the number of students, she said, adding that it gives admission only to those above the age of 17.

There are also special summer learning courses for children. She expects the current huge turnout at WSI institutes to continue for the next 10 years.

According to unofficial estimates, there more than 600 English learning centers and institutes in the Kingdom. These institutes make use of the highly advanced audiovisual tools of learning and offer facilities such as cafeterias, facilities for practicing sports and games, libraries and stationery shops.

According to Khaled Al-Amoudi, executive president of Al-Amoudi Travel and Tourism Agency, the Kingdom’s English-language learning market is valued at SR3 billion.

He added: “Proficiency in English is a prerequisite for getting attractive jobs in the local employment market. This factor has led to more and more English learning institutes.”

A Saudi student spends an average amount of SR20,000 a year for learning English, he added.

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