Saudi Arabia: Hyderabadi mothers oppose co-education in Indian schools

Emotions ran high at IIS Dammam as angry parents approached the principal, demanding written assurance that the move decision will be revoked

Jeddah: The decision to introduce co-education in International Indian Schools (IIS) across Saudi Arabia has sparked outrage among a number of parents. Mothers, particularly from Hyderabad, have expressed deep concern over the move.

IIS branches in Jeddah, Riyadh, Dammam, and Jubail have been at the forefront of adopting mixed-gender classes. Last year, co-education was extended up to the fifth standard, with plans to extend to the sixth and seventh standards in select cities from the upcoming academic year.

This unprecedented move has triggered a spontaneous outcry from a large number of Indian parents. They are demanding a review and withdrawal of the co-education policy, citing discomfort and adverse effects on their daughters’ learning abilities.

MS Education Academy

Spontaneous gatherings in Jeddah, Dammam

This is the first time in the Kingdom that Indian parents in such large numbers gathered at Indian International Schools in Dammam and Jeddah to demand a reconsideration of the decision. However, there is mixed reaction in Riyadh for logistical reasons.

Mothers, in particular, have raised concerns about the lack of separate washroom facilities for girls, questioning the feasibility of extending co-education to higher classes.

Emotions ran high at IIS Dammam as angry parents approached the principal, demanding written assurance that the move decision will be revoked. However, principal Sunil Peter issued a circular on Monday, March 25. “The decision to implement co-education in International Indian School, Dammam, the largest CBSE school outside India, is kept on hold till the infrastructure readiness is strengthened,” the circular said. Despite this, some parents remain skeptical, fearing a potential reintroduction of the policy in the future.

In Jeddah, the expansion to the sixth grade for the academic year 2024-25 has been temporarily suspended, according to a circular issued on Sunday, March 24. However, co-education will continue up to the fifth grade.

Mixed reactions in Riyadh

In Riyadh, some parents are in favour co-education for logistical reasons and others oppose it. There are two views — one advocates for segregation of the gender in the same building and another is for co-education in higher classes with separate toilets.

Unlike other cities, in Riyadh, co-education is set to extend up to VII grade in boys section building.

Amidst the debate, a mother in Riyadh shared her son’s distressing experience, where he faced teasing, leading him to skip school for a week. A girl jokingly told her fourth-grade son that he was her husband. Since then boys were teasing him. Thus, he stopped going to school for a week.

Another parent highlighted concerns about the use of unisex washrooms, emphasising that young children may not understand the implications of co-education.

While some parents advocate for co-education, citing its benefits in preparing students for real-life scenarios, others caution against its implementation at a young age, suggesting it may lead to distractions and reinforce gender stereotypes.

Malyali community silent

Notably, the Malayali community has remained relatively silent on the issue. However, mothers from Hyderabad taking a leading role in opposing the co-education.

The debate over co-education underscores both its advantages and disadvantages. It highlights the need for careful consideration and management to address the diverse needs and challenges of mixed learning environments.

It results in developing mutual respect for the opposite sex, reduces gender discrimination and enhances social and communication skills and prepare the students for the real-life world. However, it can also lead to less concentration, social pressure and reinforce gender stereotypes.

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