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Finding the right school in Oman can be tricky. The standard of public education has improved with increased government spending and continuous reforms, but these schools are more suited to Omani nationals. Due to the language barrier and cultural challenges, expat parents generally choose to send their children to private international schools in Oman or boarding school in their home country.
Public schools in Oman
There are many public schools in Oman, and education in these schools is free of charge until the end of secondary education.
Basic education is separated into two levels. The first cycle covers grades one to four, with co-educational options, then cycle two of grades five to ten, which are single-sex, with boys and girls attending separate schools.
Following these cycles, post-basic or secondary school covers grades 11 to 12. At the secondary level, students can develop both a core specialisation in an area of study, such as science, and have some electives for subjects of interest. Alternatively, vocational training programmes are available.
Government schools largely cater to Omani nationals. Classes are taught in Arabic and follow an Islamic curriculum. While public schooling can be compared to international benchmarks, non-Muslim expats may have difficulty enrolling their children in local schools in Oman.
Private schools in Oman
Private-sector education remains relatively small, both in terms of schools and students, with most Omanis attending public schools. That said, private schooling is largely preferred by expats. Private schools have flexibility when selecting their curriculum and resources, but they must be approved by the Ministry of Education.
Some private bilingual schools offer both Arabic and English but, despite this, most expats opt for private international schools.
International schools in Oman
There are several international schools in Oman that cater to a variety of nationalities and languages, including students from France, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, the US and the UK. There are also a range of schools offering different curricula, such as the English National Curriculum, American or the International Baccalaureate.
Unlike government schools in Oman, international schools are usually co-educational. The majority of these schools are based in the capital, Muscat and generally offer a high standard of education and modern facilities. As such, many wealthy Omani nationals also send their children to international schools.
The cost of tuition at international schools is high and expats should ensure that they make provision for this in their contract negotiations when moving to Oman with children. Most schools demand that fees are paid upfront, before the first day of term, and some schools even expect a deposit and administration fees.
Due to the large expat community in Oman, demand for places at international schools is high and space is limited. Expat parents need to consider their options carefully and plan well ahead of time.
Nurseries in Oman
Expats can find a range of daycare centres in large cities such as Muscat. Some are attached to larger international schools, while others follow various styles and languages, including Montessori-based nurseries.
Deciding on a suitable nursery may also depend on how far expats must travel between the kindergarten, schools, work, home and other amenities.
Homeschooling in Oman
Where formal schooling fails to meet certain standards or the tuition fees are too high, many families opt for homeschooling. This gives families an alternative, finding their curriculum and teaching style, often giving real-world lessons while equipping their children with skills and knowledge for growth and development.
The official rules, legalities and regulations around homeschooling are complicated, and expats should contact their embassy for more on how to go about it. Expats can find additional support and information through social media such as Facebook groups, which also have the potential for networking; to meet people and make friends.
Special-needs education in Oman
Oman is working towards improving special needs education. While integration is limited in formal schools, there are increasing numbers of inclusive programmes that incorporate services to support teachers and students. Some institutions remain separate, with specific special-education needs schools for those with physical disabilities, blindness, deafness and intellectual disabilities.
Private international schools offer a greater level of support, with inclusive programmes catering for a variety of needs, including students with Autism Spectrum Disorder, learning disabilities, behavioural and communication disorders, and Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. These services are comprehensive, aiming to provide full support to their learners, while raising awareness in the community and offering assistance for teachers and parents.
It’s important to check what level of support each school can provide before enrolling.
Tutors in Oman
Like with homeschooling, the legalities of private tutoring in Oman are complicated as teachers in formal schools are not allowed to take up extra private classes. Still, tutors can be found through online platforms such as University Tutor.
Adults hoping to learn Arabic, for instance, will discover that it is relatively easy to find a tutor and there is a wealth of e-learning opportunities with tutors all over the world.