Saudi Arabian teachers visit K-State to acquire new skills

Mansour Abdullah Alnoaim, an English teacher from Saudi Arabia, presents his capstone project for the Khbrat program in Bluemont Hall on Thursday. His project focused on narrowing the communication gap between teachers and parents in Saudi Arabia. (Rowan Jones | Collegian Media Group)

After spending more than a year in Manhattan, educators from Saudi Arabia visited Kansas State University and displayed their capstone projects to students and faculty alike as part of the Khbrat intercultural learning program.

The Khbrat program is a year-long educational exchange program funded by Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Education which sends Saudi Arabian teachers to universities in the United States and other countries for intercultural learning.

Socorro Herrera, K-State education dean and executive director of the Center for Intercultural and Multilingual Advocacy, said the program offers a way for educators to explore innovative ways of teaching students.

The 40 Saudi participants have lived and immersed themselves in local school districts for the past year.

Nouf Aljohoani has been in the U.S. for the past year, but taught physics for nine years in Saudi Arabia. She said the American classroom uses technology a lot more than the Saudi Arabian classroom.

“We need to transition our schools, our primary schools, from traditional schools to smart schools,” Aljohoani said.

For that reason, Aljohoani is proposing to use Google Home’s artificial intelligence to enhance students’ classroom experience. Her goal is to bring her students’ assessment scores up to 90 percent.

James Alberto, professor of elementary science methods and faculty mentor for the Khbrat program, said he thinks the exchange of ideas between K-State educators and their Saudi peers is the most valuable thing to come out of it.

“To be able to break down walls and make something like education non-partisan and just have a free exchange of ideas … is really powerful,” Alberto said. “It’s something that, if used right, it doesn’t just inform what we do, it can transform what we do.”

Despite tense international relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia, Alberto said he believes programs like these will continue to thrive no matter what.

“There’s enough people in the world that value education that [these programs] will make it through,” Alberto said.