Oman education: Muscat University project aims to boost English skills in primary schools

Times Of Oman


Muscat University, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, will train 25 primary public schoolteachers from the January 15 to 19, 2017. A workshop will be held at the Muscat University’s temporary headquarters at the Children’s Public Library next to the Amphitheatre in Qurum for the purpose. The aim is to improve the English-teaching capabilities of the teachers, who often educate children between the ages of six and nine.  This initiative is the brainchild of Eliot Wright, the Director of Pathway Programmes at the university. “The idea of a teacher training course emerged following a meeting we set up with the Director General of the Ministry of Education where we spoke about the possibility of sharing best practices in learning English,” he said while speaking exclusively to the Times of Oman. He said he had carried out similar initiatives in the past. “We carried out an online survey and sent it to the Ministry of Education,” added Wright. “I believe there are about 1,100 primary and secondary school English teachers in Muscat. From the response we received from them, we tried to learn about the kind of training they underwent in the past and the challenges they face in the classroom.

“We then arranged two school visits in late November and dropped in on a few lessons,” he explained. “We were impressed with the standard of teaching and then we formed a focus group with about 10 teachers, where we discussed their needs, their challenges and the pragmatics of the teacher training course. We found that two school visits were enough because teachers were saying similar things about what they needed in terms of training and the challenges they faced.”

“Some of the challenges they enumerated included making lessons interesting and enjoyable,” added Dr. Said Al Kitani, the Executive Director for Quality and Government Relations at the Muscat University. A former Technical Director of the Ministry of Higher Education, he will be supervising this teacher training programme. “We also saw that kids were not speaking a lot of English at home, because they were not being taught properly in school,” he said. “We want to teach these children English at a young age, so that when they graduate and reach university level, they are able to speak the language fluently. “This is actually very important in a country like Oman, because most of the courses at university are taught in English, and the admission criteria for these are quite high. So not just anyone can enroll for these courses,” said Al Kitani. “In addition, English is the language that most businesses in the Sultanate use, so if students want to join the workforce, good English language skills are a must.”

Dr. Anthony Cahalan is Vice Chancellor for the newly-formed University, having served in that position for the last 16 months. “The Muscat University was established with a vision to contribute to higher education in Oman and the wider region,” he said. “Universities do three things: teaching and learning, research, and an active involvement with the community. “The Muscat University wants to be involved with the community and we want to be an active corporate citizen as well, so that we can actually contribute towards the good of the country,” added Cahalan. “We engage with employers, with industries and with the government in order to make sure we are providing what’s needed. “It’s really practical and grounded in what the country needs.”