Education in Nicaragua
“Sanuallimu awladana walaw tahta thilli shagarah” means “We will provide education for our children even in the shadow of a tree.” It has been the mantra for many Omanis over the last three decades. It was the dream of Sultan Qaboos bin Said, who in 1970 vowed to make education available to all citizens of his country.

In 30 years, the country went from having three schools educating 909 males to over a thousand schools educating hundreds of thousands of students, both male and female. This great push in education is just one of the many initiatives that has sent Oman forward into industrialization.

Despite this very dramatic change in Oman, recent numbers show a decrease in the number of students taking advantage of the Oman education system. According to the Times of Oman, “31,608 seats in government educational institutions were available for students this year. However, 4,312 seats, 14 percent of the total, remained vacant at the end of the registration process on July 26.”

Education in Oman is free and it is not mandatory, so why would so many youth forgo the opportunity to bettering themselves and their country? Dr. Richard N. Rutter and Dr. Awadh Ali Al Mamari, educators at Sohar University, offered up quite a few concerns about the Omani education system: “Currently, Oman is still having to import vital technical and academic skills from abroad, rather than being able to develop its own base of domestic expertise.”

Another problem facing Oman higher education is the lack of Key Performance Indicators, or KPIs. These are a set of values measured over time, and they are used to compare institutions with one another. With the education system expanding so rapidly and no KPIs in place, students and parents are becoming increasingly confused as to which institution will provide an appropriate learning and research experience.

The Omani government has taken notice of this alarming decrease and the reasons for it. That is why they have announced a moratorium on approvals for universities over the next three years. This necessary pause is so the Education Council can investigate the current standards of the universities.

The government has also decided to raise the bar further so that Omani students are on the same level as other countries. The budget allocations for 2014 show that the government is investing 2.6 billion rials in education. This is a little over 18 percent of the country’s total budget.

While Dr. Rutter and Dr. Ali Al Mamari were critical of the current standards of education in Oman, they did offer this silver lining: “Oman has the chance to learn from the drawbacks of established KPI regimes and to institute league tables which truly reflect the goals of the country’s education strategy.”

Frederick Wood II

Sources: Global Arab Network, Times of Oman, Zawya
Photo: Oman Medical College

From May 12 to May 14 the Global Education for All summit will be held in Oman, at the Al Bustan Palace. The secretary-general of UNESCO’s Oman National Commission for Education, Culture, and Science stated that Oman was chosen because it “has been quite successful in achieving the EFA goals.” Between 52 and 70 countries are expected to attend and participate in discussions regarding the Education for All (EFA) goals and the 2013/2014 EFA Global Monitoring Report. In addition to these UNESCO member countries, many EFA agencies, UN organizations, and research organizations will participate.

UNESCO established the six EFA goals “to meet the learning needs of all children, youth, and adults,” with a set completion date of 2015. Released last month, the 11th Global Monitoring Report is titled Teaching and Learning: Achieving Quality for All, and evaluates progress towards the completion of the EFA goals. Though progress has been made, the report makes it clear that it has not been enough to meet the 2015 deadline. The following is a summary of reported progress that has been made on each of the EFA goals since 1999.

Goal 1: To expand and improve comprehensive childhood care and education.

  • The global pre-primary education gross enrollment ratio was 50 percent in 2011, up from 33 percent in 1999, though in sub-Saharan Africa it reached only 18 percent in 2011.
  • Over this period, enrollment in pre-primary schools grew by 60 million children, but 57 million still have no access to primary education.
  • It is estimated that 48 percent of the 141 countries with data will reach the goal of pre-primary education gross enrollment ratio of 80 percent by 2015.

Goal 2: To achieve universal primary education

  • It is estimated that 14 countries have a population of 1 million or more children out of school.
  • Between 1999 and 2011, the number of children out of school decreased by half.
  • Between 1999 and 2011, the net intake rate for the first year of primary school increased from 81 percent to 86 percent.

Goal 3: To provide access to necessary learning and life-skills programs for youth and adults

  • The gross enrollment rate for lower secondary school increased from 72 percent in 1999 to 82 percent in 2011.
  • Since 1999, the number of out of school adolescents has fallen to 69 million, a decrease of 31 percent.
  • In sub-Saharan Africa, the number of out of school adolescents remained at 22 million between 1999 and 2011, due to population growth that counteracted increased enrollment.

Goal 4: To increase global adult literacy by 50 percent

  • It is estimated there are currently 774 million illiterate adults.
  • It is projected that by 2015, this number will fall to 743 million.
  • Nearly two-thirds of illiterate adults are women.

Goal 5: To eradicate gender disparities and achieve gender equality in education

  • It is estimated that by 2015, roughly 70 percent of countries will achieve equal enrollment of boys and girls in schools.
  • In 1999, 43 percent of 150 countries surveyed had achieved gender parity.
  • By 2015, it is expected that 56 percent of countries will achieve gender parity.

Goal 6: To improve the quality of all aspects of education

  • In 2011, 26 countries of the 162 surveyed had a primary education student/teacher ratio that exceeded 40:1.
  • Between 1999 and 2011, the student/teacher ratio in primary education rose by 20% in nine countries, but decreased by that much in 60 countries.
  • In one-third of countries with data, roughly 75 percent of teachers were not trained according to national standards.

At this rate, it is unlikely that the global community will achieve the EFA goals by 2015. However, both UNESCO and the UN are developing agendas to continue current growth and increase progress towards a new set of goals after 2015.

— Kristen Bezner

Sources: EFA Global Monitoring Report, Muscat Daily, UNESCO
Photo: Blackberg TV