Ray Petersen –
Universities and colleges all over Oman process hundreds of students who have sought higher education via the Higher Education Admissions Centre (HEAC) for Oman. This body was constituted by Royal Decree in 2005 to “regulate admission of general certificate students at higher education institutions” according to their wishes, marks obtained and the admission requirements of the institutions.
Applicants can express their course and institutional preferences, and are then ranked on a calculated academic order of merit based on their school achievements in the relevant subjects. The greater their subject marks, the higher their academic merit ranking.
Foundation programmes were put in place in response to low levels of English, Maths and Computer Skills in higher education entrants by the Higher Education Council of Oman (HEC) in 2008. The purpose of the programmes was to ensure that students are capable of functioning effectively in a higher education environment.
Of course, there are those who speak, read and write very well. The disappointment most keenly felt though, is that the students have had a significant eight years of English language prior to entering foundation programmes, yet still have problems with the level of learning, so there is an issue.
Higher education teachers and lecturers do understand a social reluctance to study and learn English, but they have difficulty with an absence of genuine study skills, and critical thinking, which indicate greater issues within the general education sector, based around pedagogical performance.
It appears the current student experience is an unfortunate consequence of the rapid growth of education in the Sultanate, which has almost certainly outstripped the teaching resources in the basic and general education system. Here in educational parlance, the word pedagogy, of Greek origin, and meaning ‘lead the child’, can be defined as “the method and practice of teaching, and especially teaching concepts.”
It is the science therefore, and the art of teaching, correlating the teacher’s instructional strategies, with the student’s learning, experiences and environment to meet the learning objectives of any course, whatever subject it is that is taught and learned.
We have all met people who have a great amount of knowledge about what they do and are very good at what they do. Many of those are also very good at telling people what they do and know, and sharing their experiences.
However, teaching children and young adults what one knows can be more difficult than you would think, be demanding, and sometimes frustrating, even if you have the education, the teacher training and the experience.
One of the key concepts one must embrace as an effective teacher though, is the ability to check the student’s learning progressively, not just once, or twice, but ten times if necessary, and with every student.
Enthusiasm must be maintained throughout, and that too is not always easy as students have become more demanding in many respects, and certainly bolder. One of the key factors in staying enthusiastic and happy is to prepare and plan well, and I guess that is the same in all walks of life, and that is not to say that teaching should be regimented, but that pace does have to be maintained to encourage enthusiasm in the classroom.
One good way to do this is to ensure that the class is involved in the appearance of the classroom and change the seating patterns for greater interaction.
Then, steer them towards an appreciation of the ethical and work requirements of student achievement.
Finally, keep your assessments and marks of students ‘real’, as many students get to higher education and are shocked, when they are suddenly faced with marks that are based on achievement, rather than potential. It’s an unwelcome slap in the face, and a surprise they certainly neither need or welcome.