The mismatch between degrees and jobs

ducation based on life-long learning and scientific research that can create a knowledge-based society and nurture competitive national talents, is one of the many priorities outlined by His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik.
In his address to the nation on Sunday, His Majesty stressed on good education, job creation, economic diversification, and maintaining proper financial discipline, so that the objectives of the Oman Future Vision 2040 could be achieved. In an increasingly competitive globalised world today, developing different levels of education system and improving its outcome are necessary to build Omanis’ confidence in keeping its identity and also commitment to the social values.
“Youth are the wealth of a nation, its inexhaustible resource and the arms that build it. They are its present and future. We will always listen to them, and sense their needs, interests and aspirations which will definitely be accorded the attention that they deserve”, His Majesty said in his address to the nation.
From the speech, it is very clear that His Majesty realises the fact that he wants to increase the quality of basic and higher education and developing scientific and educational curricula, so that graduates are acquainted with competitive qualifications and employability skills to enter the local and international labour market. “On top of our national priorities is the education sector, with all its types and levels. It will receive full attention, and it will be provided with the supporting environment which motivates research and innovation. We will also provide it with all means of empowerment, since it is the base upon which our children will be able to participate in meeting the requirements of the coming phase of development”, he said.
Education, no doubt, has to be practical. It should emphasise on employability and empowerment in addition to enlightenment.
What remains to be solved at a faster pace in Oman, as all experts suggest, is the removal of the mismatch between degrees provided by our universities and jobs available in the market. More importantly, education should be at par with employability.
In addition to this, a developed educational system also entails the development of educational institutions, faculty and staff, the application of international standards for accreditation, the use of modern teaching and learning techniques, and the dissemination thereof as national culture.
Oman’s Vision 2040 targets developing national talents with dynamic capabilities and skills that are competitive locally and internationally. It emphasises that graduates should have an adequate level of productivity and competitiveness to build a knowledge-based economy, enhance job security and foster a participatory relation between the private and the public sectors. Values of competition and qualification should prompt individuals to seek high-ranking jobs based entirely on merit. This implies adherence to institutional values and a performance-based qualification system.
While we need to take our education beyond rote-learning and bookish knowledge and make it value-based, we also need to link it to the employment to tackle the unemployment challenges of our youth. In doing so, a lot of work needs to be done in designing meaningful and relevant job-oriented courses which have a long term utility and really serve the purpose.
Hence, as the Vision 2040 suggests, “a leap is required in quality and quantity in the domain of scientific research and development, through the provision of diverse and sustainable sources of funding to support applied scientific researches to promote innovation in various fields and strengthen partnership between the academic and research institutions on the one hand and the private sector on the other”.
Such graduates will have an adequate level of productivity and competitiveness to build a knowledge-based economy, enhance job security in the private sector and foster a participatory relation between the private and the
public sectors. So it is important that we pay attention to curriculum development, teaching-learning process, student evaluation, quality teachers and research. Equally important is producing strong academic leaders to manage the academic affairs effectively. By accomplishing these, we will be able to produce, as the adage says “good clay but not beautiful readymade dolls for the industry.”