AbstractThe Ministry of Education in Oman developed a new secondary education curriculum (PBEC) that was designed to equip pupils with the necessary skills that would enable them to face global challenges and become good citizens. Specifically, its aim was to contribute to the Omani economy by providing pupils with the skills that would qualify them for the job market and HE, and finally, to reduce the reliance on foreign labour, especially in the private sector, by providing a focus on vocational skills. This study aimed to investigate the extent to which the PBEC has achieved those aims.
To achieve the above aim, a triangulation approach was used in this study; the collected data were both qualitative and quantitative in nature, and were collected by using document analysis, questionnaires and interviews. As well as using a mix of data collection tools, a variety of sample groups were also included in the study to explore their differing perspectives. Using mixed methods and collecting the perspectives of several groups of stakeholders can be of great help in gaining confidence in the results and in finding relevant answers to the research questions.
The first stage of data collection comprised the completion of document analysis which was revisited in the last stage of data collection. For this part of the analysis, I focused on those PBEC documents which defined its aims and described its characteristics. The second stage of data collection consisted of conducting a questionnaire survey with pupils and students (550 participants) who are the target groups of PBEC; pupils who were still studying the PBEC in grade 12, and students at Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) and technical college (TC). The third tool employed was the conducting of interviews with Career Guidance Specialist Teachers (CGST) (10 participants), English tutors in SQU (4 participants), and English tutors in the TC (4 participants). Finally, I compared the outcomes of both the questionnaire and interview data with the results of the document analysis. The findings of this comparison were helpful in identifying problems in the PBEC and providing insight into the changes that might be applied to the PBEC to allow it to become more effective in general, and in preparing pupils for employment or further education.
The results of the questionnaire survey determined that the pupils/students highly appreciated the PBEC aims, skills, and content in principle, but revealed that they are less happy with the effectiveness of PBEC in helping them to achieve these aims and skills and with the content in practice. SQU and TC tutors perceived that there is a gap between PBEC and HE. They also believed that the PBEC graduates are lacking the study skills that are important for the HE stage.
The qualitative data (responses to the open-ended question in the questionnaire and from the interviews) highlighted that there are areas of weakness of PBEC which are: a lack of providing pupils with the skills required for the job market or HE; the lack of flexibility and the unavailability of a choice of study options; and problems in the planning and implementation of PBEC (the PBEC aims, purposes and principles upon which this education system was founded were not achieved). CGSTs believed that the PBEC does not differ much from the previous education system and has not overcome its weaknesses.
Informed by the questionnaire and interview data, I returned to the analysis of the PBEC documents to further explore the above findings of the weaknesses of PBEC. The results of the analysis of the five documents related to PBEC are consistent with the weaknesses that I found. The present research concludes that PBEC has not significantly succeeded in realising its anticipated aims and objectives and it has not provided its pupils with the skills that they urgently need to pursue their HE and future career ambitions. This study also found that there are some factors that contributed to some degree to the failure of PBEC to deliver its skills, namely; teachers‘ skills, teaching methods and PBEC‘s current emphasis on theory content. PBEC does not include any reference to vocational skills in its documents, and, furthermore, there is no specific training provided in PBEC schools aimed at any specific jobs.
The results also show that the PBEC does not differ in essence from the previous education system in two points: in content and the outputs. The comparison made between the PBEC and the previous education system revealed that most of PBEC‘s subjects are theoretical subjects and they do not differ much from the subjects that were previously taught in the General Education System (GES). Also, there are only two subjects which distinguish PBEC from the former education system; those of Research Methodology and Life Skills, which were subsequently withdrawn from the curriculum in 2012. Arguably, the cancellation of such subjects demonstrates that there is a political influence on PBEC which may be one of the factors that has contributed to preventing PBEC from achieving its aims.
Furthermore, the analysis of the PBEC documents determined that there is a contradiction inherent within it in two aspects: a contradiction between what is described in the document and what takes place on the ground. The second aspect is a contradiction between the components and parts of the same document. According to my analysis, the the aims of PBEC, along with its structure, skills and properties, do not seem to be well linked with the PBEC documents. In other words, these aims tell us nothing about the links between training, the labour market and the PBEC graduates. Nonetheless, the properties and structure of PBEC (as stated in PBEC Document (1)) underline that the fundamental aim of this type of education is to prepare pupils for either the labour market or HE. In PBEC‘s aims, skills and content (as stated in PBEC Document (1)) there is no emphasis on practical training, work experience and the link to industrial or economic sectors. These issues raise a big question about the process of the development of education in Oman and the authority of those who are responsible for that development.
In addition, I analysed the statistics on the number of students who enrolled in HE after graduating from PBEC. I also looked at the effect that this had in reducing the number of foreign workers in Oman. Statistics indicate that a large number of students are still struggling to be accepted into HE even after completing the PBEC. Furthermore, the introduction of PBEC has not yet reduced the number of foreign workers in the private sector. Therefore, we can say that the transition to the PBEC system was a superficial rather than a radical one and that it has not contributed to achieving a real and tangible change.
It can be argued that the findings of this study have several implications. Firstly, the authority responsible for PBEC and the political decrees are factors that influence the learning environment and can make a significant change in the quality of such a curriculum. Secondly, the PBEC needs a comprehensive review stemming from a clear vision of the aims that are outlined in it in order for these to be reflected within each of its components and so that they can be translated into actuality, under a stable and strategic plan that is not affected by political decisions. Thirdly, this undertaking would require the investment of an adequate budget to prepare the learning environment for ensuring a high quality curriculum. Fourthly, there is urgent need for clear communication between the authorities and the organisations behind the various educational institutions (schools, vocational centers, Technical College, and SQU). Alternatively these organisations should consider coming together under one umbrella instead of being under the influence of several different bodies because currently there is poor coordination between them. Fifthly, the PBEC‘s core components (aims, skills, subjects and proprieties) should be reviewed and rewritten so that there is consistency throughout the document. Finally, focus and due attention should be given to conduct further evaluation studies so that the obstacles and challenges standing in the way of its effective implementation can be addressed. This evaluation should involve not only the education authorities but also the key stakeholders, including the pupils/students who the PBEC aims to serve, so that it can affect the anticipated change and contribute to the socio-economic prosperity and development of Oman.
|Date of Award||2015|
|Sponsors||Sultan Qaboos University|
|Supervisor||Yolande Muschamp (Supervisor), David Miller (Supervisor) & Ian Barron (Supervisor)|