On Education » Sultanate of Oman

Education in Oman

Population: 2.7 million people

Literacy Rate: ? %

GNP: USD ? per capita

uman Development Index: 0.?

Education in Oman is provided free of charge up to the end of secondary education, though attendance is not mandatory at any level. In 1970 there were only three formal schools with 900 students in the whole country. Oman´s national educational program expanded rapidly during the 1970s and the 1980s. In 2006–2007 about 560,000 students attended 1053 public schools. The number of students in private schools is about 20,000. There are also extensive programmes to combat adult illiteracy. Sultan Qaboos University, the only national university near Muscat, was founded in 1986 and in 2006 it had 13,500 students. The 2006 Human Development Report found adult literacy rate to be 81.4% in adults (older than 15) up from 54.7% and in 1990. For the same period youth (15-24) literacy rate increased from 85.6 to 97.3%. Public expenditure on education was reported to be 4.6% of GDP and 26.1% of total government spending.

Basic Education

In 1997 the ministry began development work on a Basic Education programme to gradually replace the three level General Education system. The aim of the reform is to create a unified system covering the first ten years of schooling. Basic Education is organized into two cycles: the first cycle covers grades 1 to 4 and the second cycle covers grades 5 to 10. These two cycle are followed by two years of post-Basic Education system (secondary education). The first schools started to introduce the new system in the academic year 1998 / 1999.

Secondary Education

Lasts for two years.

Higher Education

The Omani higher education system is relatively young as the first public university in Oman, the Sultan Qaboos University was founded in 1986. Prior to the establishment of SQU, the government sent some students to pursue higher education studies in neighboring Arab countries like UAE, Kuwait, Jordan and Egypt. Also some students were awarded scholarships to study in the UK and America.

Currently, the Ministry of Higher Education operates the SQU, Rustaq Education College for preparing teachers and five specialist colleges in Ibri, Nizwa, Salalah, Sohar and Sur (until recently all five used to be Education Colleges). The Law College and College of Banking and Financial Studies are also run by the Ministry of Higher Education. The Ministry of Manpower operates the Higher College of Technology in Muscat and five colleges of technology in Al-Mussana, Ibra, Nizwa, Salalah and Shinas. The Ministry of Health runs a number of health institutes to prepare assisting medical staff like nurses, paramedics and pharmacists.

As the number of students finishing secondary school went up each year (44,000 are expected to finish in 2008), SQU and other public colleges became unable to cope with demand as places were limited.. Competition for acceptance in public higher teaching was (and still) very fierce. Since private colleges were very limited in the mid nineties, more and more parents sent their kids overseas to study in countries like UAE, Jordan and Egypt. The government became aware of the trend and decided to encourage the private sector to form universities and colleges in the country. The first private college was established in 1994. Since this date Oman has seen quite a lot of new foundations. Most of the colleges focus on business administration and computer sciences. They are usually affiliated with European, Australian or American institutions. The language of instruction is mainly English.

As part of the eOman initiative, applications for 2006 / 2007 higher education (public and private) places have been merged under one unified online system (Higher Education Admissions Center). Each higher education institute publishes the minimum entry requirement for each of its degrees and the student selects his or her choices in order of preference. When the Ministry of Education publishes secondary school results in mid July, these results are fed automatically into the system and offers are made in early August. Prior to the new system, the students had to submit their papers to the different institutes by themselves after the publication of results. The process was very inconvenient for the students and the admission departments as there was very little time and students had to travel a lot.

SQU and other private universities offer both Bachelor and Master degrees but not in all subjects. A Phd is not yet offered in the country. A Bachelor degree takes about five years as the first is spent studying English, the second studying relevant science subject and the last three years are dictated to core degree units. A medicine degree takes seven years. The public university is normally visited by Omani only. Expatriates go - as a general rule - to private universities or study abroad. Dhofar University is famous for welcoming international students.

At the moment, colleges teach mostly in the undergraduate area. A few have started to offer Master degrees. At the colleges, the students receive their first vocational graduation. The first year ends normally with a "Higher National Certificate (HNC)". The second year conclude with the "Higher National Diploma (HND)". the third year will lead to an academic grade of a Bachelor.

In the year 2003, Omani Ministry of Higher Education approved the merger of five private run colleges in order to form the Muscat University. However, the plan to merge Fire Safety Engineering College, Majan College, Modern College of Business & Science, Middle East College of Information Technology and Mazoon College for Management and Applied Sciences failed (source: Oman Observer 18.7.2005). Currently, there is some talk that the plan to form Muscat University may be revived.

Updated On: 11.12.02