For the first time in the history of public education in Saudi Arabia, new textbooks will feature photographs of women.
The textbooks, designed for third year high school English students, feature a woman as a nurse about to give someone an injection. In the photograph, she is wearing a headscarf and a surgical mask. The photograph is also accompanied by an exercise asking students to discuss men and women’s changing involvement in traditional jobs. The textbooks also picture a woman in a science lab. In the original photograph she was not wearing a veil, but the publishers of the textbook altered the image to cover her face before final publication.
Photographs of women have been banned from Saudi textbooks since the country first adopted a public education system in 1926. If women were pictured in a textbook, it was only a drawing and not a picture of a real woman. The textbooks are currently only in an experimental phase and have limited circulation. At the end of the current academic year, the textbooks can then become authorized for full circulation in the school system.