Saudi Arabia: School books feature womens photos for the first time

Photos of women had been banned in all school books in both girls’ and boys’ schools since the inception of Saudi state education in 1926. (Courtesy: Al-Hayat)

Photos of women had been banned in all school books in both girls’ and boys’ schools since the inception of Saudi state education in 1926. (Courtesy: Al-Hayat)

By Al Arabiya//For the first time in the public education system in Saudi Arabia, photos of women have been added to English high school books, the al-Hayat newspaper reported on Tuesday.

Photos of women had been banned in all school books in both girls’ and boys’ schools since the inception of Saudi state education in 1926.

The current academic year, however, saw the circulation of the first series of books that include women’s pictures. The new copies are still in the experimental phase, however, and the final authorization for the books to be in full circulation is set to take place at the end of the academic year.

Although the women appearing in photos in the books are veiled, the step is still regarded as a major change since only drawings of women were permitted in school books before.

An English book, part of the third year of high school, contains a picture of a nurse wearing a headscarf and a medical mask while preparing an injection. The exercise accompanying the photo asks students to discuss the changes in the percentage of men and women in traditional occupations.

There is also a photo of a girl standing in a lab. The woman was apparently not veiled in the original picture and an additional part was added in the school book to cover her face.

The appearance of women’s photos is not the only change in the English curriculum. There is a general focus on girls and their educational role in the professional world.

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