Omanisation hampered by high number of school dropouts
MUSCAT // Saleh Al Hajri has been looking for permanent employment for three-and-a-half years, one of thousands of school dropouts in Oman who finds it almost impossible to land a job.
The 21-year old was confident when he entered the job fair in the Oman Convention Centre, mingling with about 2,000 other job seekers hoping to get his first break. But after an hour-and-a-half, his confidence was taking a severe knock.
“There are over 40 different jobs on offer today by different companies. Not one of them offers jobs to school dropouts. School dropouts are now the lepers of the society and I am getting very frustrated,” Mr Al Hajri told The National.
Oman’s ministry of manpower says it has 6,129 school dropouts registered as job seekers, but the total could be more than twice that number, according to the statistics available in the ministry of education and experts.
Anyone leaving school without a secondary school diploma is defined as a school dropout. The diploma is issued at the end of standard 12, when students are 18. Without one, they cannot apply to university.
“I would say less than half of them (school dropouts) register themselves in the ministry of manpower,” said Hamood Al Toky, director at Capital Manpower Agency. “Most of them see no point in registering because the government cannot force the private sector to employ anyone. School dropouts are fast becoming a problem because the private sector at the moment is spoiled for choice with so many graduates available.”
Figures from the ministry of education show that about one in three students in both public and private education leave school without the secondary school diploma. While about 37,000 students do attain the diploma, about 16,000 students do not, either because they fail the exam or leave school early without taking it. Ministry figures also show about 70 per cent of the dropouts are boys.
“Out of every three job candidates, one is a school dropout. We cannot downgrade the services we offer by offering the positions to young people who did not finish school,” said Kamil Al Sawafi, proprietor of Beach Homes Properties and Consultancy Services.
But why is there a big number of school dropouts and what can be done about it?
Education experts say the fault lies with the Omani curriculum and teaching methods which rely heavily on memorisation and are not up to international standards.
“The weakness in the school curriculum is to blame. Some of the students do not find themselves motivated enough to finish their education. They just drop out to seek employment or do odd jobs rather endure all 12 years of education,” Khalifa Al Sabri, a retired teacher and a private education consultant, told The National. “We need to adopt the curriculum now used by European countries that offers knowledge-based education favoured by most employers and discard old-fashioned classroom methods that only encourage students to memorise what they learn.”
One option available to draw school dropouts back into education is for the system to dispense with stringent and monotonous rote-learning that makes up the current curriculum in most local state schools and adopt the British vocational model of study.
“These young dropouts need something different to go back to education. Business and Technology Education Council (BTEC) designed by the British is new to Oman. It is ideal for them to join because there are no exams or tests, just assignments. It is based on what the employers want and they get a diploma recognised as equivalent to a secondary school certificate by the ministry of education,” said Dr Aleksandar Djordjevic, director of the Centre for Continuing Education and Professional Studies at the Modern College of Business and Science in Muscat.
Many who dropped out of school say they did so because they could not cope with the high number of subjects taught in overcrowded classes.
“There can be up to 50 students in a class and about 11 subjects taught. Teachers cannot cope with teaching a large number of students,” said 20-year-old Fahad Khalil, who failed his secondary school diploma. “Also, because there are so many tests, exams, assignments and homework, students have no choice but to memorise instead of understanding what they are taught. I am now doing BTEC. It is ideal for me because it is challenging, motivating and it is about understanding the subjects. And when I complete the 18-month programme, it will also allow me to enrol on a degree course.”
Updated: May 17, 2017 04:00 AM