Omani students lag behind their international counterparts in mathematics and science, according to the recent 'Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study' (TIMSS 2007-11) report. With the international average at 500 points, Omani students have scored below ave-rage marks in both the subjects.
According to the study, Omani students in grade four scored 385 points in mathematics and 377 in science. The study concluded that students in grade four were a year behind their international counterparts as far as knowledge is concerned.
In the grade eight category, mathematics assessment covered four main domains including numerical, algebra, geometry, data and probability. Oman’s average score was 366, which is significantly lower than students in other GCC countries like UAE (449), Qatar (410), Bahrain (409) and Saudi Arabia (394), but better than Kuwait (354).
The scores were categorised into four categories - advanced (625 and above), high (550-624), intermediate (477-554) and low (440-474).
The report showed that no student from Oman was rated in the advanced category while two per cent were rated high, 12 per cent in the intermediate and 27 per cent in the low category. More than 59 per cent were ranked below average.
In the science category for grade eight students, the study covered biology, chemistry, physics, and earth sciences. ‘Oman's average score was 420, which was slightly better than Qatar’s (419) as compared to other GCC countries like UAE (465) and Saudi Arabia (436),’ the report stated.
It added that there is a huge difference when the performance of Omani students in mathematics is compared to that of their Singaporean counterparts. However, the difference was not very significant in science. According to the report, students who spent at least an hour doing homework and on computers had better results.
The study recommended that improving the quality of learning should be the central focus of education policy in Oman. 'In order to improve standards, the Ministry of Education will require quality and timely data on key aspects of student learning. It was also suggested that parents support and motivate their children to improve their standards.'
The assessment of mathematics and science knowledge of fourth and eighth grade students is conducted by the International Association for Evaluation of Educational and Achievement (IEA) every four years. 'This is to allow participating nations to compare educational achievements across borders. A total of 50 educational boards participated in the study.'
Aidan Mullein, a consultant with the World Bank who was associated with the study, said, “In 1981, there were 5,000 teachers in Oman out of which eight per cent were Omanis. In 2009, there were 43,000 teachers, 89 per cent of them Omanis. So what has happened is that Oman has moved from a very small education system run by foreigners to one run by Omanis. We work with a lot of countries and no other country has expanded to such a high number from a low base in a short span of time.”
He added that this did not bode well for the quality of education. “An academic score of 90 percentile in Oman is equivalent to 15 percentile by a student in Singapore. Oman has a long way to go as far as quality is concerned. The education standards fall way behind as compared to Korea and Singapore. This is not criticism of Oman as it is doing well compared to its neighbours, but it needs to do a lot more in future.”