Empowering Girls' Higher Education Through Social Learning Platforms: Implications for Socio-Cultural Change

Empowering Girls' Higher Education Through Social Learning Platforms: Implications for Socio-Cultural Change

Abdulrahman M. Al-Zahrani
DOI: 10.4018/IJVPLE.331383
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This study explores the potential of social learning platforms (SLPs) to enhance female students' learning experiences in Saudi higher education and address socio-cultural constraints. It examines the advantages and disadvantages of SLPs from the perspective female students and analyses the impact of personal beliefs on their perceptions of SLPs. The study includes a mixed-methods approach, combining a survey questionnaire (n= 87) and semi-structured interviews (n= 3). Results indicate that female students generally perceive SLPs as beneficial, despite implementation challenges. Preference for male instructors and family teaching preferences vary among participants. Computer experience was found to influence perceived advantages of SLPs. Qualitative analysis provides deeper insights, including educational, cultural, and economic aspects. The study offers recommendations for future research and implications for enhancing the learning experiences of female students in conservative higher education systems.
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For the last few years, Saudi Arabia has been booming economically, socially, and culturally (Saudi_Vision_2030, 2017; United Nations in Saudi Arabia, 2023). Saudi Arabia is undertaking initiatives to diversify its economy and society, reduce its dependence on oil revenue, and promote innovation, entrepreneurship, and sustainable development (Saudi_Vision_2030, 2017). To achieve its vision, Saudi Arabia has launched several initiatives and programs, such as the National Transformation Program (NTP), the Quality-of-Life Program (QLP), the Public Investment Fund (PIF), and the Saudi Industrial Development Fund (SIDF). These programs aim to support the growth of non-oil sectors, including tourism, healthcare, education, renewable energy, and technology. Saudi Arabia also encourages foreign investment and international partnerships to enhance its global competitiveness and knowledge exchange (Saudi_Vision_2030, 2017; United Nations in Saudi Arabia, 2023).

Furthermore, the country has introduced significant social reforms to promote gender equality, empower women, and promote cultural diversity. These reforms include lifting the ban on women driving, granting women the right to travel and work without male guardianship, and opening up the country to international tourism. Saudi Arabia is also investing in its human capital by improving education and training programs, increasing job opportunities, and enhancing the skills and capabilities of its workforce (United Nations in Saudi Arabia, 2023). One significant social change in Saudi Arabia is women’s empowerment and rights regarding work and education, as well as political and community participation. Under the economy theme, Saudi Vision 2030’s objective is to increase women’s participation in the workforce from 22% to 30% by 2030 to aid in the economic growth of the country. It states, “Saudi women are yet another great asset… we will continue to develop their talents, invest in their productive capabilities, and enable them to strengthen their future and contribute to the development of our society and economy” (p. 37). This can be achieved through the adoption of proper educational policies- and the implementation of a competent educational system in the social structure of the country.

Despite the goals outlined in the Saudi Vision 2030 to empower women, the status of female education in Saudi Arabia has not yet reached the desired level. Recent statistics from the Ministry of Education indicate that while female enrollment in Saudi higher education has exceeded that of males, the total number of female faculty members remains lower than that of their male counterparts (MoE, 2023). Interestingly, the number of female students studying abroad is less than half of the number of male students (MoE, 2023). See Table 1.

Table 1.
A statistical summary of Saudi higher education (MoE, 2023)
Faculty MembersMale41,250
Student EnrolledMale87,546
Students Studying AbroadMale11,068

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