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Oman: Education
Country Study > Chapter 3 > Society > Education


As in other sectors of Omani society, the education system was radically altered after the accession of Sultan Qabus ibn Said. Prior to 1970, there were only three primary schools in the sultanate -- in Muscat, Matrah, and Salalah. These were reserved for approximately 900 boys personally selected by the sultan from among many applicants. Additionally, in Muscat there was a religious institute with an enrollment of fifty boys, three private schools for Hyderabadis (Indians), and one United States missionary school serving fifty foreign girls. Sultan Qabus ibn Said initiated a shift in the government's policies and priorities from neglect to expansion of the school system, increasing the public's access to general education.

The education system is guided by the policy-making body of the Council for Education chaired by the sultan and operated by the Ministry of Education and Youth. General education is divided into three levels: primary (grades 1-6); lower secondary (grades 7-9); and upper secondary (grades 10-12). Teacher-training colleges provide training programs for primary and lower secondary school teachers.

Education accounted for a modest 11.2 percent of the government's current expenditures in 1990, up from only 2.4 percent in 1975 but still considerably less than the 28 percent planned and less than the proportion recorded by other countries in the process of expanding their school systems. By the 1989-90 academic year, the percentage of students enrolled in primary schools was almost 100 percent in the respective age-group, compared with 53 percent in 1977-78. The percentage of girls attending primary schools also rose rapidly during this period, from 37 percent in 1977-78 to 97 percent in 1989-90. The student-teacher ratio at the primary level was twenty-seven to one in 1988-89. Secondary school enrollment lagged behind primary school attendance and rose from 8 percent of secondary-school-age youth in 1977-78 to 48 percent in 1989- 90. In 1986 Sultan Qabus University opened at Al Khawd, west of Muscat, with faculties of agriculture, education, engineering, Islamic studies, medicine, and science. Faculties for commerce, economics and the arts are planned.

Rapid expansion and enrollment have exceeded the capacity of the ministry to plan and administer the system. This has produced problems in planning, budgeting, curriculum development, and teacher training. Often, inappropriate sites for facilities are selected, and programs are of poor quality or unavailable. Lower secondary education remains underdeveloped, contributing to the low enrollment rates in upper secondary school, particularly for females.

The government emphasizes teacher training for Omanis, in order to create an indigenous teaching force. The dependency on foreign staff, and hence the high turnover rate and lack of continuity, further compromises the quality of education. In the 1980-81 academic year, 618 of a total 5,663, or 11 percent of the teaching staff, were Omanis. By the 1985-86 academic year, the number had increased to 18 percent. The majority of ministry employees (55 percent in 1990) are non-Omanis, of whom more than 70 percent are Egyptians; the balance consists of Jordanians, Pakistanis, Sudanese, Indians, Filipinos, and others. As of 1990, there were six teacher-training colleges providing a two-year program and enrolling a total of about 700 students. Secondary school teachers receive training at the Faculty of Education at Sultan Qabus University.

The government's medium-term objectives are to ensure that all six-year-olds are enrolled in primary school and to expand access to primary and secondary education in rural areas. The government also seeks to expand teacher-training facilities; to increase the number of trained nationals staffing schools by increasing the number of teacher-training colleges; to improve teacher-class ratios and school-building operations; and to introduce student testing and new programs.

Data as of January 1993

Last Updated: January 1993

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Oman was first published in 1993. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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