Ray Petersen –
Empowerment is a word that’s bandied about too freely today, but it’s certainly my intention every time I step into a classroom, and would be true of many of my peers and colleagues. However, I believe we have a problem, consequential and unpalatable, in that too few of the students attending higher education institutions have been appropriately educated through a basic education system that is not functioning in such a manner as to achieve its necessary objective of preparing students appropriately for higher education.
Too many students are unprepared for academia in terms of the simple skills of note-taking, group interactions, study and homework completions, time-management, attendance, individual accountability, academic ownership and responsibility.
There is also an unwillingness to accept marks, as students are often ‘soft-marked’ in schools to prevent offence. I once saw a homework assignment with 8 of 10 questions marked wrong, yet the student was given a mark of 90 per cent. Really!
A document, A Future Vision for Oman’s Economy (Oman 2020), in respect of educational objectives, reads, “(to) disseminate, encourage and care for knowledge and education development by finding the appropriate environment, give priority to the basic education and enable it to everyone through an efficient system that provides opportunities for both citizens and residents.”
In fact, the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner published a report based on the Sultanate’s education system in 2013, with contributions from the Oman Ministry of Education which, if it was fully implemented, could see significantly more effectiveness. It is one of the clearest, most concise, educational policy documents I have ever seen. It looks at teacher qualification levels and continuous professional development for teachers to ensure pedagogical excellence. As I have commented previously, it is not enough to know your subject. The skill is in making, or guiding your students to know and understand it.
The report is a fascinating example of intention and implementation being uneasy bedfellows, as the teaching and learning processes are faultless, and a model for success. So why have the five teaching criteria: Quality of teaching and learning, meeting learner’s needs, learning evaluation, teacher development and senior teacher effectiveness, not yet been fully implemented?
In the same manner, implementation of these stated learning criteria, are all absolute pillars of a coherent learning process: Student attainment and understanding of new knowledge and skills, student employment of knowledge and skills, and the student’s acquisition of positive values, must be embraced enthusiastically.
This country has some amazing young people, who need to be encouraged to develop their areas of passion and enthusiasm, so educational pathways must be discretionary and with vocational and academic options. The education system must ask more of them, earlier, in order to empower them, to maximise their potential and to fully develop their contribution to the national interest.