We were pleased to present the following paper at the IAACS 6th World Curriculum Studies Conference 2018.  Held at The Graduate School of Education, Melbourne University, Melbourne, 9-12 December 2018.

You can download a copy of the paper below.

Co-creating an Industrial Design Curriculum for a women’s only college in Saudi Arabia: The challenges of transnational curriculum development

Karin Oerlemans, Kairos Consultancy and Training/University of Canberra, Australia
Elke Stracke, University of Canberra, Australia
Carlos Montana-Hoyos, Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation, United Arab Emirates


Since 2015, our international/multi-disciplinary team of academics have worked on an industrial design curriculum project for a women-only college in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), aiming to “[e]mpower women and materialize their potentials”, as part of KSA’s National Transformation Program 2020. The project ran over 3 phases, the negotiation phase, at the beginning of which the initial approach was made, the project team members were selected, and the boundaries of the project were established. The second phase was the curriculum development phase, during which the curriculum was written and re-written, as the team faced the challenge of coming to terms with the requirements of the KSA National Qualifications framework, a framework superficially not unlike the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF). In the third phase, the project culminated in an on-site visit in late 2017. Here we explored the implementation of the curriculum as developed, observed any evolution of the curriculum, and reviewed student assessment outcomes, conducting individual and focus group interviews with staff and students, document study, and site observations. We also wished to develop better understandings of KSA interpretation of design, design education and design theory within the explicit context of the KSA industrial workplace. Specifically, we were interested in the place of potential graduates of the course in that workplace, through industry site visits. This paper discusses some of the main challenges encountered developing a transnational curriculum during the second phase. But then moves quickly to explore further understanding developed from the research conducted during our visit in the third phase of the project.

Designing a curriculum for other cultures must always present a number of difficulties; often there are complexities around understanding different systems, and in particular the curriculum goals – broadly or in the detail, such as the different interpretations of Bloom’s taxonomy, the differing use of constructive alignment and cultural perspectives on knowledge construction. This last point proved to be a significant hurdle. Designing curriculum for a developing country has this added complexity – because, as we observed, the KSA accrediting body has mostly kept very close to the traditional function and objectives of Western universities (Kouwenhoven, 2009). In our case, the challenge encountered during the development phase included the different expectations and understandings of how design knowledge is taught and learned. The KSA Framework focuses strongly on knowledge as content, dividing application, or ‘doing’, from theory, whilst at the University of Canberra, the pedagogical approach is design thinking, focussing strongly on Boyer’s (1990) scholarship of application.

This challenge raises a key question: How relevant are these ‘technical matters’ of higher education curriculum development to transforming the lives of women in a developing nation? We also discuss in this paper whether the differences noted above reflect the Saudi Arabian’s own knowledge system and so present a challenge to the Eurocentric knowledge system (Connell, 2017; Delors, 1996), or whether they are a strict adoption of a traditional Higher Education Curriculum system, as a critique of it, to create KSA’s own new reality? And will their application in fact lead to the transformation of this society, or reinforce an existing dominant order?

Boyer, E. L. (1990). Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate. New York: CFAE.
Connell, R. (2017). Southern theory and world universities. HERD, 36(1), 4-15.
Delors, J. (1996). Learning: The treasure within. Paris: UNESCO.
Kouwenhoven, W. (2009). Competence-based curriculum development in Higher Education: a globalised
concept? In A. Lazinica & C. Calafate (Eds.), Technology, Education and Development. Vukovar,
Croatia: In-Teh.

Download Presentation Here

Please cite as:

Oerlemans, K., Stracke, E., & Montana Hoyos, C. (2018). Co-creating an Industrial Design Curriculum for a women’s only college in Saudi Arabia: The challenges of transnational curriculum development. Paper presentation for the IAACS 6th World Curriculum Studies Conference 2018, Graduate School of Education, Melbourne, December 11, 2018.

Copyright © Karin Oerlemans, Elke Stracke, & Carlos Montana Hoyos, 2018

You can read more about our project here

Co-creating Curriculum

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