Oman’s impressive advancement in basic education during the last five years will pay rich dividends in terms of national growth.
For four decades, public schools were lagging private institutions in education. It is changing now, thanks to a new strategy that has already been implemented. The classroom experience has now taken a positive turn. In its drive to improve basic education in government schools, the Ministry of Education has revamped the curriculum by giving higher priority to numeracy and literature.
Moreover, it has granted teachers more autonomy to educate, lead and innovate to keep up with pressing educational demands. But the positive changes have not come overnight. It all started with new tactics in the training of teachers by shaping their skills to keep up with the high standards. With the new system in place, teachers do not merely teach, but also act as a mentor and coach.
In the past, teachers in government schools were bogged down by mundane processes that led to pupils cramming and memorising lessons. They gained very little and left school with inadequate information learned in the classroom. Now, teachers develop the information themselves with the abundant skills at their disposal. With this new motivation, Oman is positioning itself as a leader in basic education excellence in the Gulf.
Nurturing young children in public schools is never an easy task. Retired teachers would tell you that. For a start, the government education’s system has been globally pushed back by the torrid waters of competency. Shaping and moulding it to an acceptable level is an unenviable task many countries in the Arab world find too tough to handle.
Parents now have high expectations from the education standard their children receive. They are much more educated than the previous generation and they know how incompetent it can be in the job market when their children don’t get acceptable basic education.
Those who can afford it, enrol their children in private schools. However, this is changing fast in Oman. Free education is all set to compete with what is taught in private sector institutions. The government’s education is not yet up there with the best, but it is catching up very fast. Concerted efforts are in place to change the attitude that only privately educated graduates can land big jobs. Public education has been associated with children from poor families for so long, but with a new and advance curriculum already in place, no student will graduate at a disadvantage.
The changes are not just in the curriculum. New teachers are not only accountable for what they teach, but they go through annual reviews to improve their competency. The dynamic of teaching in the last five years has already undergone a profound shift and it can only get better.
Gone are the days when teachers were passive and followed only one routine. Young teachers, armed with university degrees, are motivated and develop learning styles that lead to creative teaching. With the news changes sweeping government schools, teachers now hold an edge over their counterparts in the private institutions. They are also championing the task of behaviour management for problematic children to put them on the right path.
The challenge of handling difficult children has always been shunned by private schools, where normally they are expelled to protect the reputation of the institutions. It takes more than classroom experience to put them right.
The new approach in the government schools is to emphasise on problem solving and not punishment. Young teachers now know how to handle students with special needs as well. Plans are already in action to invest more money in such children in an effort to give them the right to education like their peers. The embraced changes are the part of a vision to invest well in school children so that they can pay back with their future contributions to economic growth.