Jeddah, Asharq Al-Awsat- The King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah plans to strengthen its psychology department and increase the English-language and computer skills of the its students.
Dr. Khadija Khoja, who heads the department, said, “The old plans we have followed so far have proved successful. But restructuring the curriculum will raise standards even higher to allow students to gain more experience.”
The psychology department has proved very popular with female students, with hundreds applying every semester. Iman Basswid, currently enrolled in an Arabic language course, hopes to switch her major to the psychology department because she “had always wanted to study psychology,” especially as ” delving deep within the human character, its motives, capabilities and hidden potential is extremely interesting and beneficial in understanding people.” She adds, “I will also benefit personally, understand myself better and develop my character.”
Dr Khoja asserts that the psychology course is popular amongst young woman. She states, “Over 500 students apply every semester but only between 100 and 120 are accepted . “We encourage students to join other departments as overcrowding in one department could lead to the unemployment of a huge number of graduates.”
Part of the reason the course is very popular because of a number of misconception. “Students somehow believe that, as soon as they are enrolled onto this course, they have become psychotherapists or psychiatrists. They also think that being enrolled on such a course will enable them to analyze people’s characters at first glance. The truth is that to major in psychology is not enough to be a psychiatrist”, Dr. Khoja said.
The enthusiasm and strong interest that students show in joining the psychology department may impede on their future career plans as many rely on becoming teachers of psychology, however there is a limited number of schools that teach the subject, according to Dr Khoja.
However, Dr Khoja emphasizes that Saudi Arabia is in the process of creating more jobs for its graduates, including school psychiatrists. More people are showing interest in psychiatrist and social therapist roles. The popularity of special needs education will also create more jobs for psychology students.
“We encourage students to work in psychiatric wards and clinics in both private and state hospitals but these institutions request that the students volunteers for a short period of time first. We encourage students to work as volunteer and receive training, in light of the increasing necessity for specialists. The curricula are students are taught helps them gain invaluable experience and improves their knowledge. This makes them less likely to become unemployed after they graduate.”
Despite Dr. Khoja expressing hope for the future, many female students continue to face difficulties finding employment after graduation. In several cases, parents do not allow their daughters to work in hospitals and rehabilitation centers, because they believe women and men should not mix in the workplace. However, Dr. Khoja remained optimistic and said the situation would gradually change. “Many families object to their daughters working in hospitals and clinics. But this is a necessity. Most employees there are veiled. I believe time will change people’s outlook on this issue.”