I keep reading about the various educational initiatives and strategies in the Kingdom, especially the importance of pushing programs and the youth being educated for fields in technology and engineering, while at the same time I read reports there are too many college graduates in the humanities and social sciences. I agree that Saudi needs to employ and develop strategies for educating the exploding population of young people in the Kingdom in quality training education programs in the technology and engineering sector, but I also believe that we need to take a step back and evaluate the needs related to the social sciences. If there are indeed too many humanity social science graduates then evaluating what has been classified as humanities and social sciences, which in itself is a diverse set of professions, as well as evaluating the quality of the training programs also needs to be under consideration. Examining the various serious current social issues, as well as the social issues that are developing provides an urgent need to examine the needs of the Kingdom to deal with these needs.
When people speak of the social science and humanities, generally they are referring to a diverse set of fields including English, Linguistics, Religion and Theology, History, Political Science, Psychology, Sociology, Social Work, Anthropology, Music, Art, and Education. Within these fields, there are various subfields, which are specialized to study specific areas of the field. Psychology is my area of expertise which is a vast field including organizational psychology, school counseling, clinical psychology, counseling psychology, psycholinguistics, social psychology, educational psychology, career counseling, health psychology, cognitive psychology, aviation psychology, personality psychology, cultural psychology, cross cultural psychology, psychometrics, experimental psychology, developmental psychology, neuropsychology, psychology of groups, and the list goes on. I say psychology is my area of expertise, but to be more accurate and ethical in representing myself counseling psychology, social psychology, and organizational psychology are where my education and career experiences give me expertise. In addition, after living in Saudi Arabia and being married to a Saudi, I have an intense interest and growing love of cultural psychology. I know many of the basic ideas and theories associated with the other subfields (there is overlap between the various subfields), but just because I am a psychologist, I definitely am not an expert in neuropsychology, which focuses on the biological component of the human body in behaviors, perceptions, and psychological processes. Here is my point, what areas of psychology and training programs are needed to cultivate well-trained professionals to meet the needs of the country?
Examining the various social issues within Saudi Arabia that are reported such as domestic abuse, child abuse, lack of motivation and productivity among the workforce, unemployment, poverty, rising incidents of diabetes and heart disease, educational problems, job training, lack of human resources, drug abuse, traffic fatalities, marginalization of women and other special groups, family issues, and mental health issues are just some of the issues that I read about in the daily local newspapers. For those that might criticize me for bringing up these issues because of my Western background, these are the identified issues of Saudis born and raised in the Kingdom writing in the local papers. All of these issues are social issues, which need the expertise and touch of psychologist to work with the community in researching the issues, as well as developing psychologically sound strategies to deal with these issues. Technology and engineers cannot fix these problems alone, although cross-disciplinary projects aimed at reducing these incidents between the technology sector, engineers, medical professions, educators, psychologist, and social sciences can definitely provide a foundation for addressing these issues.
One scenario that illustrates this need is Saudi having the highest traffic fatality rate of anywhere in the world. The government has been active in trying to reduce this problem by installing cameras at traffic lights and along the highways in trying to reduce the incidents of fatalities. Although currently, the number of traffic fatalities in Saudi Arabia continues to be one of the claims of fame of Saudi Arabia. The social sciences needs to be addressed to understand what are the demographic features of those that are causing the accidents. What are the common factors such as age, licensed/unlicensed, environmental features of the place of the accident, what was the driver doing at the time of the accident, and time of the day? I read a recent news article that called for hiring more traffic police, which I scoffed at because the presence on the streets of traffic police seems more highly concentrated than any other country I have visited. An exploration of people’s perceptions of the traffic officers, the power of the traffic officers, as well as their current strategies to apprehend traffic violators seems like a study rich for exploration. The changes needed through social media campaigns, training of police officers, and policies could follow based on sound psychological principles that are known to influence human behavior. These interventions would require the engineers, but also the expertise of understanding the social factors, human behavior, and perceptions of the general driving population.
The Kingdom needs psychology, along with psychology undergraduate and graduate degrees that are well funded, have culturally appropriate curriculums, and competent psychology faculty. In addition, psychology courses need to be intertwined into the curriculum of other programs to teach individuals skills of living and working with others. It does not matter how competent or brilliant an engineer is if she/he is not able to communicate their ideas and bring that idea to reality. It does not matter how technologically advanced a society is if the basic understandings of appropriate parenting and building relationships is not understood. Without the social sciences, and specifically psychology, a field that is based on the scientific tradition, a society will lose the ability to understand how to strategically plan and appropriately deal with the condition of being a human.