Abu Dhabi: Sulaiman Al Kindi, the director general of Information Technology for the Ministry of Education (MoE) has warned that Oman needs to upgrade its educational infrastructure, or risk getting left behind as the rest of the world progresses.
While technology does play a significant role in people’s lives today, schools and universities are yet to make full use of it, which could lead to students becoming disillusioned by the standards of education in the future. To bring about technological changes, the MoE signed an Education Transformation Framework with Microsoft last week.
“Students today need a teacher who will make them want to study and learn, and that will instill a belief of them actually needing teachers,” said Al Kindi, at the BETT Classroom of the Future conference, which looked at ways to employ technology to get the best out of students in classrooms in the Middle East and Africa.
“I have a seven-year-old boy, and when he has a doubt, he doesn’t come to me or ask a teacher, he goes on to YouTube and looks up the answer himself,” he added. “Therefore, they are very capable of discovering things for themselves.”
The role of a traditional teacher, Al Kindi said, is changing, and he highlighted the need to change in no uncertain terms.
“If we don’t change our ways, we will die,” he said, speaking exclusively to the Times of Oman. “Today, a teacher must be more like a guide, who should let students learn for themselves, and be accessible to them if they have any doubts or need assistance.
“But even if teachers are to be accessible to students, they need to be taught in an environment which they can relate to, and we need to give them a world they want to live in if they want to pursue education,” explained Al Kindi.
The current disconnect between students and teachers stems from a lack of common understanding of technology that is now commonplace.
“There seems to be a case of ‘digital student, analogue teachers’ in schools now, and we need students to come to us if they want to gain the best of both the real world and the virtual world,” said Al Kindi. “Teachers sometimes feel that technology is not a tool to aid the class but to control them, because they feel that the students will outpace them and they don’t want that.”
“But you must live in a world, which the students inhabit, so that you can best understand them,” he said. “The plan for students when they come to school is not just to get good grades, but to find better opportunities in life, and that is the responsibility of the teachers.
“We’ve been teaching students all the way from elementary to university levels in a way where technology has not been fully used to enhance learning and that has to change,” stressed Al Kindi.
Fortunately, though, there are a majority of teachers who are willing to embrace this revolution and are looking forward to the positive effects it will bring.
“The main challenge to spur this initiative ahead comes from the teachers, and a huge percentage of them are ready for change,” explained Al Kindi. “Change is a part and parcel of life, and although there will always be those who resist it, teachers must understand that this is a two-way effort: it’s not just the students who learn from the teachers, but teachers can also learn from students.”
“But the incentive is that students will love teachers if they can relate to them,” he advised.
“We must encourage teachers to do this and enable them to give them (students) knowledge to work in all fields.”