Oman – Fatma
I am an Omani teacher and I teach English to young children ages (6-9) years old. I took my teaching diploma over two years in a Teacher Training College after which I started my first teaching job in 1993.
The education system in Oman has been undergoing dramatic changes over the past four years. A new education system has been established which is the Basic Education System in which, amongst other things, children learn English from first year (6 years of age). Prior to the new system the youngest age at which English was taught was 9 years of age. I am fortunate to be involved in these changes as I am now teaching at one of the new Basic Education schools.
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These reforms have been a large undertaking for the Ministry of Education which had to train teachers all over the country to enable them to work with young learners. This was made even more challenging due to the fact that the principles behind the new English curriculum are very much founded on communicative teaching methodology. This constituted a large shift from the previous principles followed which were very traditional.
In addition to the training programme for the teachers, a new course book was designed and some very useful materials, such as visual aids, prepared to help the teachers to make learning English as enjoyable as possible.
In this new course children learn English through a variety of activities such as songs, games, stories and acting. On top of this there are many activities which take advantage of the children’s natural instincts. Therefore it is not unusual to walk into an English lesson these days and see children cutting, building or pasting. This certainly makes their learning meaningful and generally provides a genuine purpose for the young children. Of course there were initial reservations from all quarters, as there often is when change is involved but I think it is safe to say most teachers and parents are satisfied with these new changes.
Being an English teacher is a great thing in Oman because it means that you know two languages and most people hold great respect for this; they feel that they can depend on you. Also it provides more chances to meet native speakers and to keep in touch with the changes in the educational world through the courses arranged by the Ministry and of course through being able to read educational literature which is usually in English.
However, teaching English as a foreign language is a hard job since it is completely different from the learners first language, which means we have to work hard to support their learning and to motivate them to learn and keep on learning. It should be remembered that we have to help the children learn a new script and to write in a new direction as well as all the other aspects usually found on the curriculum.
Finally, the future has great potential for our nation as more and more schools adopt the new system and the Ministry of Education adopts progressive ideas.
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