Artificial Intelligence and Renewable Energy are considered two of the most important specialisations that are expected to be demand in the near future in Oman. This was stated by Hannat al Hinaiya, Head of the Human Capital Pillar of the National Innovation Strategy (NIS), which is supervised and facilitated by The Research Council of Oman. The question is how many educational institutions in Oman are looking at these majors for students to take up as professions. Most of the educational institutes that we asked said it comes under computer science but not extensive programme.
Meanwhile, the NIS is looking at even schools and not just higher educational institutions in the country to develop innovative thinking and problem-solving skills. Human Capital Pillar of NIS is identified as individuals who are capable of offering and discovering current and future innovative opportunities in order to sustain the country’s development. Human Capital Pillar focuses on the development of policies and systems of general education, higher education, research, development and job market.
The objective is to make highly productive individuals, enhance institutions to be highly efficient and create a competitive, knowledge-based economy.
It is with this objective in mind the challenges have been identified through various indicators.
The challenges that have been identified are limitations in the general education system in terms of entrepreneurial skills, limitations in the higher education system in terms of innovation and entrepreneurship, gap between the education outputs and the labour market requirements, limitations in educational policies towards innovation and research and development system in terms of availability of suitable expenditure and related research capacity.
Al Hinaiya said there is a need to strengthen the education system to provide students with technical qualifications and project management skills.
“There must be a way to balance between humanity majors and non-technical studies in universities and higher education institutes and the labour market requirements. The development policy should consider the link between supporting and assisting advanced technology and innovative works, in addition to the creation of labour- intensive business sectors such as tourism.”
There is a requirement, according to the head of the Human Capital Pillar, to evaluate the level and growth of employment in the public sector to provide highly efficient public services.
One of the main initiatives within the Human Capital Pillar has been the introductory session in Ministry of Education and some of the programmes such as innovative education and identifying specially talented students have already been implemented.
“The Ministry of Education has already begun to implement some of the programmes we had suggested such as developing KPIs and the indicators for assessing teachers in the schools and in the academic field.
They are also looking at further training and introducing entrepreneurship curricula at least in some schools for now.”
According to data released by the National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI), the Sultanate’s population increased by 0.4 per cent between 2012 and 2016 in which the number of children below 17 years by mid-2016 was 1,006,651. This is 41.5 per cent of the total population.
Now that is the segment of society, according to the human resources expert, that would benefit from having a shift in focus more towards creating highly productive and competitive individuals.
To achieve this objective, Al Hinaiya pointed out, “Develop innovative thinking and problem-solving skills at all levels of education and adopt an environment of innovation system for science and technology by forming a wide network of experts and professionals.”
What can be established are innovative project incubators in schools, universities and colleges, and expand technically as well as technologically in advanced laboratories and libraries.
“This will enable students to start establishing their projects innovatively. There is also a need to provide Intellectual Property Curricula programmes throughout the education stages as well as establish small business development centre to provide support and steer in the education institutes. We need to adopt environment for innovation system especially for science and technology and introduce it at all educational levels. Even libraries are going to be incorporated so the students will be self-driven.”