Back to School: More than 780,000 students begin new academic year in Oman

MUSCAT : As many as (782,818) students will begin the new school year 2023/2024 on Tuesday in various educational directorates across the Sultanate of Oman.

The total number of students in grades (1-4) reached (304,913), while the total number of students in grades (5-8) was (261,804). The total number of students in grades (9-12) reached (120,101) and the total number of new students in the first grade was (76,724).

The total number of special education students reached (1,769). These students are attending (1270) schools including (356) schools for the first cycle, (68) schools for the second cycle, (121) schools in grades (9-12), (25) schools in grades (11-12), and (700) schools operating in the morning and afternoon shifts. The total number of schools operating in the afternoon shift reached (133), and the total number of new schools reached (29) schools.

The total number of teachers in government schools for this school year 2023/2024 reached (60,840) teachers, and (11,509) administrators and technicians. The number of teachers in special education schools reached (284) teachers, and the total number of administrators in special education schools reached (65).

Dr. Madiha Ahmed Al Shaibani, Minister of Education, delivered a speech on this occasion, in which she said, “I am honored to raise to His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik, on behalf of his children, the students, their parents, members of the educational staff and employees of the Ministry, the sincere gratitude and greatest expressions of praise for the special care and attention being accorded to the school education sector.

The minister also extended warmest congratulations to students and members of the educational staff, wishing them success in this academic year.

She also welcomed the teachers who have joined the education system to contribute to building their country and society.

The minister also welcomed teachers from sisterly countries who share this educational message with the Sultanate of Oman, wishing everyone success.

Dr. Madiha said: “In the pursuit of the Ministry of Education to improve education to meet the requirements of the next stage, and thanks to the efforts exerted in expanding the preparation of Omani teacher programmes and qualifying them in coordination with the authorities concerned, the Ministry managed during this year (2023) to appoint more than (5,700) teachers, with an increase rate up to (41%) compared to previous years, bringing the number of Omani teachers to approximately (14 thousand) teachers appointed during the first three years of the tenth five-year plan.”

Believing in the importance of professional development for teachers, and its connection to the professional path plans for members of the teaching staff, the minister pointed out that the Ministry of Education continues to prepare qualitative training programmes for teachers to enhance their professional competencies, and to enable them to perform their duties efficiently and competently.

Dr. Madiha referred to the issuance of the Royal Decree on the School Education Law, by saying: “In continuation of the support enjoyed by the education sector in the Sultanate of Oman in all its aspects, and to strengthen the governance of the educational system and develop the legislative and organizational structure that guarantees a stimulating and supportive educational environment at the technical and administrative levels, the Royal Decree No. (31/2023) issued on the School Education Law to serve as a legislative framework, and an educational and legal document that organizes rights, duties and responsibilities in aspects pertaining to the educational process.

On developing the education system and starting to implement technical and vocational education, the minister said, “In implementation of the royal directives of His Majesty the Sultan to develop the school education system, the Ministry will start during this academic year (2023-2024), applying vocational and technical education in accordance with the best international standards and educational practices in business administration and information technology in the eleventh grade in four schools, two schools for boys and two schools for girls in the governorates of Muscat and North Al Batinah.

She added that the Ministry also intends to offer a number of engineering and industrial specializations in specific schools in the governorates of Muscat and North Al Batinah at the beginning of the next school year 2024/2025, in partnership with the energy sector. In continuation of this approach, the Ministry will gradually expand the application of vocational and technical education by establishing similar partnerships with the rest of the economic sectors, and increase the number of students, majors, and governorates during the upcoming academic years.

The minister emphasized the Ministry’s interest in developing all academic curricula, by saying: “The Ministry has given a great attention to the development of all academic curricula, especially Science, Mathematics, English and Information Technology subjects, due to their direct connection with the fields of scientific and technical development and innovation that the world is witnessing. Therefore, this academic year, the Ministry will complete the implementation of the final phase of the science and mathematics series project for grade 12, and the Ministry will continue to apply the English language and information technology series for grades 3 and 4.

Dr. Madiha added that this year (2023) will also witness the opening of more than (20) school buildings distributed in a number of governorates with the aim of replacing the old school buildings, and accommodating the growth in the number of students. The Ministry also continues to construct more school buildings according to the approved plans, in addition to intensifying its efforts to improve the educational environment.

The minister also talked about the Ministry’s performance system in providing educational services, by saying: “The Ministry has completed the implementation of the re-engineering procedures stage for all administrative and educational processes in accordance with the best international standards, and will continue during the current academic year the digitization of its comprehensive services, with the aim of introducing a new electronic system during the next stage.”

Dr. Madiha further said that the Ministry is also closely following the global transformation in the use of artificial intelligence (AI) applications in its various fields.

In line with these developments, the Ministry began to lay the foundations and controls to take advantage of the optimal use of artificial intelligence, and to prepare an executive programme that includes many procedures and initiatives in line with the privacy of the Omani society, the minister added.

The minister also appreciated the efforts made in caring for cultural, scientific and sports activities in the last academic year, saying: “We affirm the continued efforts in caring for cultural, scientific, and sports activities inside and outside the school environment due to their importance in building the integrated personality of students, highlighting their talents, developing their abilities, and investing their time in a way that benefits them, and to be a fence that protects them from harmful influences and extraneous ideas on their authentic Omani society.

The minister also commended the role of the educational directorates in supporting the efforts of their schools and their students in this aspect. She hoped that the schools would benefit from what is provided by innovation centers and scientific clubs, and incubators of cultural and artistic activities in terms of educational capabilities and facilities, and employing what was included in the strategy of the Omani School Sports Association of contents and foundations in refining students’ skills, empowering, and preparing them to compete at the local and international levels in various fields.”

The minister also appreciated the sincere efforts made by school administrations in cooperation with the teachers and students’ parents to participate in the international study to measure reading skills and the success of the electronic application of the international study in mathematics and science for the fourth and eighth grades, and the international study to measure computer and informatics skills for the eighth grade, which the Ministry implemented last academic year.

Dr. Madiha also referred to the tangible role played by students’ parents, saying: “We appreciate the pivotal role that you play in sharing your opinions and suggestions in improving educational work, following up the levels of achievement of your children, giving them more care and attention, directing them to preserve their identity and heritage, instilling a love of loyalty and belonging to their homeland. In consolidating the existing partnership between home and school, the ministry will hold meetings and panel discussions that bring you together with the educational body as essential partners in the educational system.”

On his turn, Dr. Abdullah Khamis Ambosaidi, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Education for Education, said in his speech on this occasion: “The Ministry seeks to implement a number of educational goals, the most important of which represented in continuing to update and develop school curricula in line with the requirements of sustainable development and global trends, achieving Oman Vision 2040, and empowering new teachers in the teaching and learning processes through the implementation of the strategic training programme for them, the establishment of the third forum for school administrations, and the second supervisory forum.”

Dr. Abdullah added that the Ministry will launch this year (2023), in cooperation with the Omani Indian Fertilizer Company (OMIFCO), the “OMIFCO Award for School Creativity,” and the launch of the “Excellence Award for the Omani Teacher” in its second edition to motivate teachers to launch their educational initiatives and projects.

The Undersecretary referred to the Ministry’s development of the executive regulations for the school education law, its issuance on the specified date, the advancement to adopt and develop the parents’ councils’ regulation, and the updates in the student affairs regulation, in line with the school education law.

Strategies have also been developed in the education sector that include the strategy for discovering gifted students in school education and taking care of them, which will be launched during this year, and the adult education strategy, in addition to the issuance of a guide for requirements for school buildings for private schools, a guide for security and safety in them, and organizing an investment exhibition in this type of education (EDVvest 2023), Dr. Abdullah added.

At the end of his speech, the Undersecretary confirmed that the Ministry will implement many activities, programmes, and competitions for students that include holding a school theater festival, a public speaking competition in classical Arabic, implementing the health-promoting schools initiative, and preparing a guide for vocational guidance services for beneficiaries. Innovation and Science Olympiad will implement various programmes and events with the aim of building students’ creative and innovative skills that qualify them to compete in national, regional and international scientific events and refine them, in addition to implementing decentralized forums for scouts in the educational directorates within one day to develop future skills, enhance their Omani national identity, and establish scout and guide camps, in cooperation with the Oman Challenge Foundation.

Majid Said Al Bahri, Undersecretary of the Ministry for Administrative and Financial Affairs, said in his speech on this occasion, “The total external transfer requests from the faculty and related positions submitted for the academic year 2023/2024 amounted to (5229) requests, and the total number of transfers reached (2416) of the total applications.”

The Ministry completed the procedures for appointing (5693) teachers, with a rate of (88%) of the total appointment. A total number of (39) integrated school buildings have been implemented, and (9) school buildings are put into operation at the beginning of the first semester, (23) school buildings at the beginning of the second semester, and the rest will be operated as soon as they are ready. A total of (RO 2,300,000) have been allocated to educational directorates in order to renovate their schools, he added.

Majid pointed out that the volume of financial liquidity for spending on development projects has been increased by an additional (RO 11 million) and an allocation of (RO 23 million) to replace (92 thousand) air-conditioners during the years of the tenth five-year plan. The Ministry increased spending on school advances by an additional amount of (RO 2 million) and allocated an additional (RO 5 million) to provide (800) new buses.

He indicated that the Ministry continues to digitize the curricula, start the trial operation of the electronic preparation platform for teachers, equip educational directorates with integrated educational studios, re-engineer procedures for the Ministry’s services, develop the educational indicators system, operate the electronic platform of the Specialized Institute for Vocational Training for Teachers, the supervisory job system, and the alternative guard system.

The undersecretary further said that the Ministry has begun to replace more than (40 thousand) computers for computer laboratories, learning resource centers and school management devices. It will also start in the second phase the process of replacing devices in science laboratories and vocational guidance centers.

Meanwhile, Khamis Mubarak Al Hadidi, Director-General of Projects and Services at the Ministry said: “The Ministry has formed committees from various educational directorates in order to examine the current school transportation means, the contracts of (18,989) school transportation vehicles were renewed.

He added that the Ministry pumped about (RO 88 million) in the item of school transportation means for the year 2023/2024. It also provided (800) additional school transportation means and opened new school buildings to the tune of (RO 4,800,000). The Ministry stipulates in the technical specifications that the means of transport must be equipped with an (automated system) related to road safety, which is characterized by its tracking of the transportation means, the presence of internal and external surveillance cameras, and motion sensors.

He pointed out that the Ministry also coordinated with a number of private sector institutions to implement awareness programmes and fund a preventive driving course for school transport drivers in cooperation with the Royal Oman Police (ROP), the latest of which is the coordination of training (500) school transport drivers funded by the Petroleum Development Oman (PDO).

Dr. Sana Salim Al Sinani, Assistant Director General for Curriculum Affairs at the Directorate-General of Curriculum Development in the Ministry, highlighted the developments in the school curricula, by saying: “A number of (17) new curricula have been authored, developed, and harmonized, such as completing the harmonization of global series in science and mathematics subjects for grade 12, and completing the application of international chains in the subjects of English language and information technology for grades 3 and 4, writing and developing (15) new books in Islamic education, school sports and musical skills for grade 7, Arabic language subjects, social studies and life skills for grade 5, and plastic arts for the first and second grades.”

She added that the Ministry was also keen to print and supply all the textbooks for this year, so that the textbooks would be in the hands of the students at the beginning of this academic year, as (260) textbooks were printed, (15) new textbooks, and (62) books for international chains for science, mathematics, English language, and information technology subjects, and (183) reprinted books.

She also pointed out that the Directorate-General of Curriculum Development in the Ministry has also taken upon itself the responsibility of printing (290) enlarged books for the two semesters, (220) books printed in Braille for the two semesters as well, for the visually impaired and blind students.

Regarding the digital educational contents that support the curricula, Al Sinani said: “The Omani Curriculum Library is one of the digital tools that help students and their teachers in the educational process. It will be available for viewing and downloading via the link: https://ict.moe.gov.om/book.

Al Sinani further said that on the “Educational Mawred” channel on (YouTube), a number of (7,221) educational clips have been uploaded for grades (1-4), as well as all produced educational pictured lessons have been made available for grades (5-12), and placed within the general classification instead of the special one. As for the school laboratories, they have been developed and provided with the latest modern technologies, such as the use of sensors in scientific experiments, the mobile laboratory, and providing them with interactive whiteboards.

On the readiness of the Ministry to apply vocational and technical education for business administration and information technology majors, Dr. Atom Mohammed Al Khatri, Assistant Director of the Office of the Project for the Development and Structuring of the Educational Ladder at the Ministry, said: “Construction work and school maintenance have been completed, and classrooms have been prepared with the necessary materials and requirements to implement vocational and technical education in the business administration and information technology programmes. Suitable furniture, laptop computers, and smart screens were provided for students, in accordance with the required international standards. A contract was also signed with the Modern College of Commerce and Science to provide specialized and internationally licensed lecturers to teach specialized subjects for business administration and information technology majors, who were chosen according to approved international principles and standards, while the basic subjects are taught by the ministry’s teachers. The study and time plan for teaching business administration and information technology majors has also been developed in line with the study and time plan in public schools.”

Dr. Waleed Talib Al Hashmi, Director-General of Education in North Al Batinah, said: “The Directorate is preparing to welcome this new academic year, the (BTEC) programme in the vocational and technical tracks, in two schools: Halima Al Saadiya School in the Wilayat of A’Suwaiq, and Kaab Bin Barsha School in the Wilayat of Saham, as the information management and information technology majors were added to the students’ options in grade (11). They will be taught in the English language in cooperation with the Modern College of Business and Science. This program allows students to study a variety of specialized subjects, including specialized English language subjects, introduction to business, commercial marketing, business decision-making, training for the business world, and other subjects that contribute to building strong base of knowledge and skills.”

He added: “The BTEC programme is a distinguished option for students who seek to enter directly into the labour market after completing their studies. The programme provides them with the opportunity to compete in standard admission to complete higher education. The certificate awarded by the programme is internationally recognized, which provides wider opportunities for students.”

He added that the Directorate always strives to achieve the goals of the Ministry of Education in order to provide quality education, by contributing to the development of an integrated educational system with resources that serve the future of students and contribute to achieving the Ministry’s vision and its national and educational mission alike.

The post Back to School: More than 780,000 students begin new academic year in Oman appeared first on The Arabian Stories News.

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