Music Education in Saudi Arabia

While I don’t want to be a proponent of all education and culture offered in Saudi Arabia, I did want to point out this interesting news coming out of the country – early music education!

Yes, Saudi Arabia will be offering music education in early childhood education as a means to identify young talent. This isn’t necessarily new news. In 2020, Saudi Arabia opened its first music school. Their Music Commission presented its strategies of Education, Production, Performance, Delivery & Distribution, Advocacy, and Licensing & Intellectual Property Rights. This same commission will train kindergarten teachers the basics for music education for the upcoming school year. One of the reasons cited by the commission was in the increase in instrument ownership. It appears some have already embraced learning music for music’s sake. However, it’s important to note the the interest in music education among the Saudi Arabia Music Commission began with adults and trickled down to children. And, music hasn’t always been a subject taught in schools as it violates Saudi Arabia’s devout Islamic beliefs regarding music in public places.

What they might not be aware of, however, is how much more music education will benefit these students far beyond recognizing talent! It appears that Mohamed Elkabany, the leader behind the Madrasty music curriculum, may be of that same mindset. Let’s take a look!

Now, I have primarily talked about how music affects English literacy skills, but phonological awareness transcends languages! We can sound out the phrase, maybe add some rhythm, and figure out the letters to “Reading is fundamental”. In Arabic, that looks a little different. But these letters still represent sounds, and it’s possible that students can move from sounds to letters to reading!

In a qualitative study, researchers interviewed 15 Saudi Arabian mothers, sampled to include various socioeconomic levels, education levels, job status, employment status, age, and marital status. All mothers had children between the ages of 2 and 5 years-old. These mothers cited toys as being the most influential on their children’s reading status. These same mothers (73.3%) found that there were unintentional literacy influences – related to entertainment. They were divided, however, on the importance of educational materials at this young age and most felt that literacy should be taught when children were in school rather than at home. Researchers gathered that literacy skills learned at this age were most likely tied to interactions with children’s parents. Further, they found that parents could use more instruction on the benefits of a home literacy environment. The technology of Madrasty can assist in this area.

In a second study on early literacy in Saudi Arabia, researchers wanted to know if emerging literacy for Arabic-speaking children operated similarly to development in native English-speakers. Though not specifically named, music is inferred as one mode of literacy instruction, specific to rhyming. Asiddiqi et al. (2022) studied 40 typically developing Saudi Arabian children and 24 children with developmental language disorders with a hypothesis that oral skills correlate with early literacy skills. Vocabulary and reading comprehension were highly correlated with typically developing readers; however oral skills (something that those with developmental language disorders lack) are actually highly correlated with the development of early literacy skills in those with developmental language disorders. Asiddiqi et al. (2022) believes this connection will strengthen these children’s emergent literacy skills.

So, what’s next? First, I’m incredibly excited at the prospect of Saudi Arabian children learning about music in the early grades, and I will continue to follow this news. But I’m also interested in the Madrasty education application that Mohamed Elkabany created. I have reached out to him and hope to share his thoughts in a future blog.

And, as an encouragement to Saudi Arabian children who are about to be fascinated with music education, let me say

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