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Motivation in English Language classes in Primary Schools in Saudi Arabia for Year 1 and Year 2 Students


The purpose of this study is to investigate the motivation of year 1 and 2 primary school students in English language classes in Saudi Arabia. English has been studied as a foreign language in Saudi Arabia for many years. However, English was introduced in primary schools in 2004. The research focuses on the different factors that motivate year 1 and 2 primary school students to learn English.

The government in Saudi Arabia has had considerable interest in the English language since the beginning of the Kingdom. Such interest arises from globalization and the increase in international trade. For a long time, English as a foreign language has been offered at different levels of education from when the public school system was established (Alresheedi, 2014). Despite the efforts made by the government to promote the learning of the English language, students in Saudi Arabia continue to perform poorly in English. The students in Saudi Arabia are among the lowest achievers in the English language tests such as TOEFL and IELTS (Shahid & Grami, 2013). There are different factors such as academic, social and institutional factors that explain the poor performance of students in English. For primary students in year 1 and 2 who are usually between the ages of 7 and 11, little exposure to authentic English is among the causes of the poor performance.

Research Interest

The reason for this research is to investigate and understand the motivational factors for year 1 and year 2 primary school students learning English. The reason for the interest in this research is because any improvement in the learning of English for students in Saudi Arabia can only be achieved by incorporating the students’ motivation in the teaching and development of the curriculum. Other research questions that the research seeks to answer are whether culture, age, and teaching practices have an impact on the motivation of students.

Theoretical Background

Although there is no dispute as to the importance of motivation in the learning of additional languages, researchers do not agree on the exact definition. Dornyei (1998, 117) states that there is no agreement among researchers on the definition of motivation despite its wide use in education and research contexts. However, motivation can be understood as that which makes a person to act in a certain way (Keblawi, 2011). Researchers over time have developed different theories of motivation. Gardner’s theory of motivation divides motivation into integrative and instrumental motivation (Alresheedi, 2014). Integrative motivation refers to the desire by the learner to be part of the community of the language being studied. The instrumental type of motivation, on the other hand, is when the learning of the language is done for other reasons other than to be part of the culture. According to Gardner’s theory, learning a second language (L2) or a foreign language is affected by the learner’s social dispositions (Gardner, 2000). This means that the attitude that the students have towards the language in question determines how successful they will be in learning the language. Deci and Ryan’s theory, on the other hand, presents intrinsic motivation which refers to the enjoyment acquired from an activity (Ryan & Deci, 2000). This theory emphasizes on self-determination which promotes learner autonomy in classrooms. This autonomy increases the learner’s motivation (Dornyei & Otto, 1998).


The research will be conducted in three public schools involving a total of 200 primary students in year 1 and year 2. The participants consist of 100 students in year 1 and 100 students in year 2. The age of the participants is between 7 and 11 years. The research is to be conducted through a questionnaire meant to provide information on the motivational factors of the participants of the research. The questionnaire focuses on how the students evaluate their learning experience and how motivated they are in learning English successfully. Due to the importance of the research, the researchers will subject the questionnaire to the pre-piloting and piloting stages (Shahid & Grami, 2013). As part of the pre-piloting stage, the questionnaire will be evaluated by other researchers to ensure its fitness for purpose and also to ensure that it is appropriate for the students. It will also be administered on a representative sample of the research population to identify any issues that may arise (Shahid & Grami, 2013). Data analysis for the research will be done through the use of statistical package for the social sciences because it allows different types of data analysis and transformations. Further, the method also increases the level of accuracy of the results because it is computer-based (Arkkelin, 2014).

Looking Ahead: The ‘Grand Design’

The results of the study could be used to ensure that the English teaching curriculum is developed in a way that either expounds or addresses the motivations of the students. The results of the study could also be used to ensure that teaching practices are designed in ways that boost the learning experience of the learners.

Expected Outcomes

The research will help teachers, parents and the government to understand the different factors that motivate students to learn English. The research will also show that cultural background, age, and teaching practices are some of the factors that affect the motivation of year 1 and year 2 students in learning English at the primary school level. Further, the research will also show that the teaching practices used and the curriculum need to be aligned such that they enhance student motivation in learning English.


Alresheedi, H. (2014). Motivation of female students learning English as a foreign language at Qassim University. State University of New York.

Arkkelin, D. (2014). Using SPSS to understand research and data analysis. Valparaiso University.

Dornyei & Otto, I. (1998). Motivation in action: A process model of L2 motivation. Thomas Valley University, London.

Dornyei, Z. (1998). Motivation in second and foreign language learning. Language Teaching, 31(3), 117-135.

Gardner, R. C. (2000). Correlation, causation, motivation, and second language acquisition. Canadian Psychology, 41,10-24.

Keblawi, F. (2011). A review of language learning motivation theories. Retrieved October 29, 2016, from:

Ryan, R. & Deci, E. (2000). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivations: Classic definitions and new directions. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25, 54-67.

Shahid, M. & Grami, G. (2013). The role of motivation in language achievement: A self-reporting study of university students. The European Conference on the Social Sciences.