OMAN — Oman is leading the modernization of education in the Middle East. The innovative expansion of educational access and quality is due to governmental investment in e-learning: a virtual enhancement to the traditional classroom.
In the past four decades, the Omani society has undergone a considerable transformation in societal priorities and educational access. In 1970, there were only 900 boys in primary school; in 1995, there were 470,000 primary students, boys and girls. This impressive growth is due to Oman’s focus on education for all.
In 1995, the Ministry of Education established a unified 10-year basic educational system for Omani youth, aiming to create holistic institutions that would train children to be prepared, ethical and inquisitive.
An emphasis on scientific curiosity and computer literacy uniquely mark Omani education, as animation, web page creation and advanced programming languages are integrated into the standard curriculum for older students.
Due to these successes, Oman is now graduating thousands of bright and qualified young men and women, who now need access to higher education. To no surprise, Oman’s focus on technological innovation has led to investments in quality e-learning to advance the training of Omani youth.
Due to the substantial budgetary allocation of OMR 3 billion to quality education in 2015 – which equates to approximately US $7.79 billion – Oman has grown to be the top performer of e-learning education in the Middle East, regionally leading with an e-learning growth rate of 19.6 percent.
The Ministry of Education aims to increase higher education participation by 50 percent by 2020. E-learning is the perfect method to encourage this, as it provides students with access to quality education, at any distance.
E-learning eliminates many of the complications that university students experience worldwide. Scheduling conflicts, lack of access to the best educators due to financial or geographic restrictions, classroom shyness and paper textbooks are now a thing of the past for Omani youth.
The demand for higher education and the limited supply of institutional access can be bridged by the distance-learning capability of e-learning. Omani students no longer have to travel to reach the best lecturers, as the material is virtually brought to them through the incorporation of this form of education in the Middle East.
E-learning management systems allow educators to provide online assignments, chat rooms, quizzes, workshops and more, providing flexible and constant access to a wide breadth of course material. These resources are not only useful for distance learners, as they also can be valuable supplements to traditional classroom settings.
Most e-learning programs run on personal computers, giving Omani students nearly unlimited access to higher education. Some learning management systems are particularly accessible, such as a program called Moodle. Moodle is available at little to no hardware cost and has a quality Arabic interface.
There are a number of complications in the widespread implementation of e-learning, including cultural concerns, student computer anxiety and the widespread training of educators in online learning management systems.
Sultan Qaboos University is tackling these difficulties head on, providing professional development workshops that equip faculty members with expertise in e-learning technology. With substantial knowledge, these educators can increase student acceptance and positivity surrounding this method of teaching.
E-learning developers need to work to incorporate Arabic culture and tradition into e-learning technology, in order to allow Omani youth to receive a holistic educational experience, regardless of their geographic distance.
As a result of Oman’s leadership in the adoption of e-learning, this version of teaching has the potential to transform education in the Middle East. With e-learning, Oman has proven that young leaders are created through quality, innovative and accessible education for all.
– Larkin Smith