The Ministry of Education is in charge of the organization of School Education in all its levels (Grades1-12). The Ministry’s responsibilities include the development of education policies, curricula and schoolbooks; development of student performance evaluation mechanisms; overseeing the work process in schools; and providing technical and administrative support for teaching and administrative personnel in schools. The Directorates General of Education across all governorates are in charge of the implementation of the ministry’s plan, and in return, the Ministry is gradually working towards conferring more financial and administrative powers on these Directorates.
The School Education System comprises the following: pre-school education, public and private school education.
The Ministry of Education attaches great importance to pre-school education and is keen to increase enrollment rates in that cycle through engaging the private sector to provide this service. In the 2005/2006 academic year, the Ministry implemented the preparatory classes in the government schools for the first cycle (1-4) of basic education across schools in remote areas where kindergartens are unavailable. The Ministry is also in charge of supervising Quran schools which focus on teaching the Holy Quran and Hadith, in addition to basic reading and math skills.
Public school education comprises the following:
A- Basic Education: Divided into two cycles:
- First Cycle (grades 1 – 4): Students of both sexes are taught in the same classes. The staff in these schools is exclusively made up of females.
- Second Cycle (grades 5 – 10): Male and female students at this level are taught in separate schools. Accordingly, the staff can be either made up of males or females.
B- Post-Basic Education (grades 11-12): It represents the second main cycle of basic education in terms of teaching students by either male or female instructors.
C- Continuing Education: This form of education is reserved for public schools and includes:
- Literacy Programs: Three-year school programs, following which graduates obtain a Free from Illiteracy Certificate, equivalent to completing grade 6 of general and basic education, and may proceed to grade 7.
- Adult Education: Starting from the grade 7 and finishing by the end of grade 12. Education in adult education centers is divided into regular schooling at the centers and free home schooling.
The Ministry is in charge of the technical and administrative supervision of private schools, that is in terms of examining and approving the educational programs and curricula adopted in private schools. There are several types of schools offering private education:
-Monolingual, bilingual and international schools.
-International schools: they offer educational programs and curricula accredited by international education systems/bodies.
Over the past 46 years, the education system has seen major developments. The government’s considerable investment in education has proven to be effective. By the 2015/2016 academic years, the number of schools reached (1,068) schools, offering education to (540,068) male and female students and employing (56,586) male and female teachers.
Statistical indicators confirm the Sultanate’s commitment to achieving the goals of Education for All such as: Enabling children to complete primary education, as the Sultanate recorded over (98%) in net enrolment ratio. As for gender equality in school education, the Sultanate has achieved this goal two decades ago. In terms of the expansion and improvement of early childhood care and education, the Sultanate was able to surpass the specified ratio of (25%), reaching (40%) today. Finally, the illiteracy rate among Omanis in the (15-44) age category decreased by (2.2%) in 2015.
The Ministry of Education has been stepping up its efforts in terms of providing diverse educational services and programs to cover all social groups. The Ministry’s efforts are materialized in the support provided to special education schools and programs. These services are targeted to students with disabilities (motor, visual, hearing and intellectual), as well as students with special needs (learning difficulties and speech-language impairment). The Ministry has launched several initiatives aimed at developing the services provided to these students through the following schools and programs:
- Special Education Schools: they comprise three schools: Al Fikriyah School for students with intellectual disabilities, Al Amal School for students with hearing disabilities and Omar Bin Al Khattab Institute for the Blind.
- The Treatment of Learning Disabilities in Schools Program: it was implemented in 2000/2001, then expanded to schools offering programs for the first cycle (grades 1-4) and grade 9 of basic education.
- The Integration of Children with Disabilities Program in basic education schools: the ministry implemented this program starting 2005/2006 academic year through the opening of separate special classrooms for students with hearing and intellectual disabilities. The program was expanded to cover all the governorates across the Sultanate.
- Speech-Language Program: The program aims to provide diagnostics and therapeutic services to students with speech and language impairments through visits conducted by speech-language pathologists to targeted schools.
The Ministry of Education in cooperation with international research institutes conducted several studies aimed at identifying the strengths and weaknesses of the education system. The following are among the most notable studies: “Education in Oman: The Drive for Quality,” conducted in 2012, in cooperation with the World Bank. In 2013, the Ministry conducted an extensive study entitled “Evaluation of the School System in Oman for K-12” in cooperation with the New Zealand Association for Research in Education. The two studies concluded with a number of proposals and recommendations which the ministry benefited from as starting points for achieving quality in education. The Ministry also began the drafting of the document of the general framework for education policy development along with its implementation plans.
The Ministry of Education understands that, in order to fulfill its ambitious aspirations and objectives aimed at achieving Universal Education/Education for All quality, it needs to usher in a complete and large-scale transformation, as well as undertake a substantial improvement of its capacities and capabilities in order to implement its policies and projects for developing the School Education System in the Sultanate. The following are the most notable projects adopted in the past few years:
Established in 2008, its mission is to promote the quality of educational and pedagogical services offered to students by helping them to prepare for higher education and future employment according to their aptitudes and capabilities, as well as supporting entrepreneurship, promoting the entrepreneurial projects culture and highlighting the importance of self-employment for students.
The idea behind the establishment of this center is derived from the need to develop high-quality examinations and evaluation tools to assess the performance of the education system in general and school education in particular. Furthermore, the center aims to promote the student learning achievement level by providing credible indicators on the students’ real learning performance and developing educational evaluation and examinations tools as one of the main pillars of the Education System in order to enhance the quality of the elements of the educational and learning process. The Education Council, in its second meeting 2016, issued a directive to complete the establishment of the center, in cooperation with the competent bodies.
Inaugurated in June 2014, the center is in charge of improving the level of teachers, promoting their skills and measuring their performance, through the implementation of a number of specialized programs aimed at training teachers according to the performance standards adopted internationally and developing clear mechanisms and plans for training them and monitoring their performance in the field of education.
The establishment of the center was approved by the Education Council in 2015. It is considered an advanced level of the school performance development system initiated by the ministry in the 2002/2003 academic year. The center is in charge of reviewing the general framework for internal and external evaluation, setting comparative standards based on the best international expertise, developing a systematic strategy for conducting transparent, accurate, and credible internal and external evaluations according to national standards of performance, establishing mechanisms for promoting and monitoring education policies, and providing support to schools so that they can improve their performance.
The Ministry has started reviewing the financial management system so that the decision-making process is based on clear basis in terms of financial affairs. Among the most notable accomplishments in this regard are:
- Participating in a study on public expenditure on education in cooperation with the Ministry of Finance and the World Bank.
- Working toward improving the overall efficiency of the educational system in terms of resources, financing education, and improving the quality, alignment and fairness of educational services, in a cooperation between the Ministry represented by the Oman National Commission for Education, Culture and Science and the International Bureau of Education.
- Expanding the financial policy’s decentralization by supplying directorates of education with the equipment and software necessary for the financial system users, as well as conferring on them more financial powers.
The Ministry has implemented the quality management system according to requirements of ISO 9001 at the Directorate General of Planning and Quality Control and the Directorate General of Administrative Affairs at the ministry’s headquarter. As of the 2016/2017 academic year, the Ministry has begun the expansion of this system to the rest of its sectors.
The quality policy aims to achieve certain goals such as: delivering human resources and administrative affairs services with more accuracy, speed, transparency and fairness using modern technology, improving school transportation services by providing adequate human resources, financial, security and safety requirements, adequate planning and providing the schools’ needs in terms of human cadres, buildings and school facilities, and ensuring high levels of accuracy and quality for education-related statistics, indicators and data.
The Ministry is currently working on a number of developmental initiatives aimed at improving education policies. These initiatives remain in various planning and development stages. Among these initiatives are the following:
1. Project of School Education Law in the Sultanate.
2. Project of the National Framework for Education including the document of teachers’ professional standards.
3. Project of private school’s classification.
4. Project of data management and performance indicators development.
5. Project of developing and improving the ministry’s online services through the development of the Educational Portal website platform and introduction of many online services to serve the Ministry’s Directorates.