Representations of source and target identities and communities in English language textbooks used in Saudi secondary schools
In recent years, the Saudi Ministry of Education has enacted several educational reforms. One of these reforms is the introduction of new English language learning textbooks for all educational stages in the Saudi public-school system. The aim of these textbooks is to increase knowledge of the English language and of foreign cultures. This thesis examines six of these new textbooks in the Flying High series used for teaching in the secondary stage (Grades 10- 12). The thesis investigates the representations of various learner and target identities related to gender, nationality, race and religion in these textbooks. In addition, it examines the representations of imagined communities of English speakers and elements of their cultures. The representations of cultural identities and the cultural elements are investigated for both the source and target cultures; with the latter categorized into cultures from the inner, outer, and expanding circles of English (following World Englishes scholarship). Further, this thesis examines the representations of the English language itself, including the characteristics of English used in the textbooks. The analysis is based on the written, spoken, and visual texts that make up the textbooks. Analytic methods draw on content analysis, Critical Discourse Analysis and Multimodal Discourse Analysis.
The findings show that Saudi identities and the Saudi source culture are represented in relatively inclusive and accurate ways. By contrast, the representation of target identities and communities is characterized by oversimplification, gender bias and misrepresentations. The analysis of the representations of English itself finds that the form of English language espoused by the textbooks is Islamic English embedded in Standard American and British English spelling and pronunciation. Overall, the findings reveal "Saudi-centric" representations, with target identities shown to align with rather than to challenge Saudi norms. The textbooks serve to reinforce Saudi learners' knowledge of and positive attitudes towards their own culture while obscuring from them elements of the target cultures that do not align with Saudi and Islamic identities and values. This is also evident in the Islamic English register found in the textbooks.
The thesis closes with a discussion of implications of these findings in light of the new textbooks' aim of increasing knowledge of English and of foreign cultures. It identifies negative impacts that may result from these representations for Saudi learners' intercultural 10 communicative competence and cultural awareness, undermining these aims. This discussion is directed toward administrators of English as a Foreign Language programmes and curricula in the Saudi Ministry of Education.