Muscat: Educational experts and employers said bilingual schools prepared children for better careers than students who study only one language curriculum.
According to the official data, only 27 per cent of schools in Oman, both public and private, offer English and Arabic education. A majority of them have their entire curriculum taught in Arabic. It means that out of about 600,000 students, who get basic education in Oman, only 162,000 have their curriculum taught bilingually.
“In a very competitive job market we have today, these students, who take both English and Arabic in school, stand a much better chance to get better and well paid jobs than those who study only in Arabic. Students, who study in both languages, also have better opportunities of getting a promotion because they have the advantage of communicating in both English and Arabic,” Ahmed Al Farsi, a retired principal of a public school told the Times of Oman (TOO).
Employers agreed saying that students, who attended bilingual schools, did a much better in job interviews and were preferred than those who had only studied in Arabic.
“To start with, no company in Oman accepts a CV in Arabic. Those who have not studied both curriculums present an unprofessional CV. They also fail written tests, which are in English and do not do well in interviews. We are reluctant to give jobs to graduates, who struggle to speak English, because we deal with international companies,” said Abdulkareem Al Alawi, HR Manager at engineering company Carlton Enterprises.
Other experts argued that bilingual schools served the Omanisation drive more efficiently than a one-language curriculum.
“We talk a lot about Omanisation, but we forget that basic education is the foundation of getting Omanis accepted in the private sector. Companies now increasingly prefer employees who are fluent in both English and Arabic. Parents need to make sure that their children attend such schools to ensure they get jobs quickly,” Rashed Al Habsi, director of Recruitment at Al Habsi Manpower Company, told TOO.
This has a significant effect on the development of the country when most Omanis are strong in Arabic, but considerably weaker in English.
“In international business, where contracts, presentations and reports are written in English, Oman will continue to lag behind. Most Omanis working in both government and private companies cannot write a good report in English. This is where we lose our competitive edge in the global businesses,” Al-Alawi added.
Al Habsi said a good command of English is also essential for Omanis when they deal with expatriates working in the Sultanate to improve efficiency in the workplace.
“Most Omanis have problems conveying ideas to their expatriate counterparts because of their English language weakness. They lack effective communication skills and that creates frictions, conflicts and sometimes misunderstanding between them and their expatriate colleagues. So it is not about speaking a foreign language, but about breaking cultural barriers, winning trust and being tolerant.”
Schools that offer bilingual education teach mathematics, social sciences, physics, biology, chemistry and ICT in English.