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Finding the right school in Oman may be tricky and many parents opt for private schools. The standard of public education in Oman has improved with increased government spending and continuous reforms, but 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 send them to 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 along with 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, but are 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 these expats generally opt for private international schools.
International schools in Oman
There are several international schools in Oman which cater to a variety of nationalities and languages, including students from France, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, the USA and the UK.
Unlike government schools in Oman, most international schools are co-educational. Most of these are based in the capital, Muscat and generally offer a high standard of education and modern facilities. As such, many wealthy Omani nationals also enrol their children here.
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 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, 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.
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 with each school the level of support they can provide.
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 allow a networking potential to meet people and make friends.
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 find it is easy finding a tutor and there is a wealth of e-learning opportunities with tutors all over the world.