What is it like to teach in the Sultanate of Oman?
In January 2024, I visited Cheltenham College in Muscat, Oman, to work with the teaching staff. A country known for its rich history and breathtaking landscapes.
Teaching in Oman
Oman is the 17th country I have ‘visited for work. The country is about 1.3 times bigger than the UK, and there are an estimated 12,000 schools (Times of Oman, 2022). It is reported to be the safest country in the Middle East.
To understand the context, I explore the teacher workforce data, attrition rates, and workload data in every country I visit. As a result, my teaching and learning [in country] blog series continues to grow …
How many people live and teach in Oman?
The Omani Ministry of Education website provides statistics to help understand schools, teachers and students across the system. Searching various research papers and government portals, there are 5.2 million people living in Oman, with expats making up 40% of the population, with approximately ~8,000 British expats.
I believe there are 60,000 teachers in Oman, so weighting the data proportionately, 24,000 must be teacher-expats from across the world, with a ‘best guess’ of 0.15 per cent being British.
Not every expat works in education; we can assume a smaller number of people are British teachers working in Oman.
The State of the Nation
In Teacher Quality and Stability in Oman, the “educational system has often been described as being massive, unprecedented and unparalleled compared to other countries” (Al Barwani, 2016, p163)
Arabic is the official language of the Sultanate of Oman in all government schools. English is taught as a subject starting in first grade, and in 2021/22, the Ministry of Education assumed full jurisdiction over private schools that provide preschool programmes.
In public schools (grades 1 to 4), students of both genders are taught in the same classes. Male and female students are taught in separate schools (grades 5 to 10) with 180 school days per year.
In international schools, there is greater flexibility.
According to Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS, 2021), “teachers have been trained on classifying questions” and a bachelor’s degree as “the current minimum qualification for teaching.”
Working with teachers
Their new building is under ‘phase 2′ of development, with fantastic facilities already available. The British teachers I spoke with are very happy and are bored/disillusioned with the English education system.
I am not surprised, sadly.
We know workload and wellbeing impact teachers everywhere, and it is no different in Oman. As you can imagine, there are some cultural differences, but expectations, pedagogy and learning/behaviour are not too distant from our schools’ challenges across the UK.
British teachers are working happily internationally …
The visit allowed me to connect with passionate teachers, British and international, to learn more about teaching in Oman. The more I travel to visit schools internationally, the more I understand that thousands of happy British teachers work internationally. Of course, there are one or two downsides, such as two-year contracts and local constraints, but they are insignificant to all the positives …
If I did my teaching career all over again, with cheaper and shorter flight travel, it’s something I would seriously consider …
“Over the forty-year history of formal education in Oman, the recruitment of teachers evolved from being an open access job to being a highly selective one and from being a job that needed practically anybody who was willing to teach, to being a job that requires qualifications with highly specialised” (Al Barwani, 2016, p162).
One can understand why we lose 13 per cent of teachers after the first year of qualification. I suspect many disappear to work overseas …