Oman - English-medium Science and Maths in Oman

English-medium Science and Maths in Oman

The British Council organized two days of meetings and workshops in Oman to do with the teaching of content subjects through the medium of English. The workshops took place on Sat 10th and Sun 11th Nov, 2007. 

Day 1, Sat 10th Nov, meetings with the Ministry of Education and teachers

Alex McGee
, Teacher Training Co-ordinator at the British Council, mediated my visit with Dr Lida Schoen to Oman. It was a visit I was particularly looking forward to as it involved a needs analysis of schools, teachers, and learners with the view to advising the MoE on implementing Science and Maths through the medium of English. We saw a lot and learned a lot about education in Oman.

Meeting with the Curriculum Department at the MoE

This first meeting was a 'testing of the water' meeting. The colleagues who came along to the meeting were already very experienced in implementing developments in Oman's educational system. They wanted to know what English-medium Science and Maths would entail and had a good many recommendations to make regarding levels, ages, training, a timeframe and others. Acquaintances were made, introductions were given to the colleagues on the main issues related to implementing foreign language content teaching.
We also met with Dr Janet Al Lamki, Director of English Language. Curriculum Department, and received a useful introduction to Fawziyah Al-Zedjali and Sally Etherington and the Integrated Schools project. This led to an impromptu meeting with these two colleagues. Fawziyah and Sally are coordinating content and language integrated learning project in cycle 1 schools (grades 1-4). Their project has language teachers delivering content in their English classrooms which complements the work of subject teachers in Arabic lessons. They will be presenting their project at an ELT conference in Bangalore in the New Year.
Mahmoud and colleagues from the Curriculum Department at the Omani MoE

Dr Sana of the Technical Office at the MoE and Mahmoud welcomed us into their section and Mahmoud gave us a very useful background presentation on the history of education in Oman.Dr Sana stressed the Minister of Education's personal interest in the implementation of the teaching of Maths and Science through the medium of English.
Mahmoud and the history of Omani education

We delivered a presentation on CLIL to 65 Science and Maths teachers, inspectors, advisors, representatives of the Minister's office.

The presentation focused specifically on English-medium Maths and Science as this is the area of most interest to the MoE in Oman. The talk covered a wide range of issues including the role of language support in English-medium education. We also began a working a definition of CLIL methodology and presented briefly Science Across the World as an instrument for introducing communication into the Science and Maths classroom.

There is still a lot of uncertainty among the teaching community about this initiative. A question for the MoE will be how best to 'market' the idea to learners, parents, and teachers.  Are the teachers up for it? Well, we asked the audience and there was a significant number who were ready to make a start there and then.
senior teachers arriving for a presentation on CLIL

Day 2, Sun 11th Nov,
School visits

The Qurum Private School, Muscat.
Outside the Qurum Private School

We visited a Grade 5 class in Biology in English by Miriam from Tanzania. The lesson was on the characteristics and classification of vertebrates and invertebrates. The students had lots of support for their work in English. They had specimens they could get their hands on, draw, label, and talk about. The teacher provided a good deal of repetition, paraphrasing and questioning which ensured that the students heard many examples of key language and content in context.
Specimen in Biology

The objective of the observation was to feed into the process of describing needs for the implementation of the teaching Maths and Science in English in the state system. We made notes on the class, made suggestions for supporting the language in the lesson as well as areas where the language could be 'scaffolded'. One way of doing this would be to provide some of the language learners need to feed back their findings to the class on the worksheet itself where they record their work.
drawing and labelling diagrams of specimens on a worksheet

We also visited a Grade 10 class in Maths in English by a teacher from India. The lesson was on 'Angle properties of polygons'. The teacher had an excellent level of English, certainly native speaker level and what we heard from the students told us that their level was also very high. This meant that the lesson was delivered as if the students were native speakers. 
We were shown the previous year’s excellent grades in IGCSE Maths. This was certainly an 'ideal' context on which to base a description of needs for teaching Maths and Science in English.
Grade 10 Maths

We also met with two teachers for an informal discussion and some feedback for Miriam. Miriam is a very communicative person and this comes across in her teaching. It's the communication which counts a lot when the teaching of the subject is in a foreign language. Miriam used a lot of repetition, paraphrasing, questioning to expose learners to key terms, key descriptions. She also had many visuals in the lesson such as specimens for the students to handle. There was also a worksheet which structured the students' note taking and diagram drawing and labelling.
The Qurum School courtyard

It was an interesting first school visit. I'm sure that this profile of school offering English-medium education is about to boom all over the world. The Qurum School is a private one. The question is whether or not these good practices can be brought over into the state system. One question raised is simply the following: 'How do you deal with learners who need a lot of language input?'. CLIL offers a lot of ideas in answer to this question.

the class clearly had a good relationship with their teacher

The lesson focused on safety in the laboratory. The teacher went over the symbols of dangerous chemicals and substances in the lab and what to do in cases of accidents. There were substantial questions and answers between teacher and students as well as repetition of terms and sentences to do with safety in the classroom.
what to do in case of accidents in the lab

The students were given the task of drawing and labelling numerous instruments in the laboratory on a worksheet for this purpose.
filling in the worksheet

Cycle 1 school: Al-Nubugh Basic School

When we arrived at the school there was a welcoming committee to great us at the door. It was made up of a song and marching group of girls who, we were informed, were chanting our a rhyme in step to welcome us to the school.
The school also made the most of the visit by nominating two older girls as reporters. They interviewed me about the visit and took a number of photographs of our visit to the class.
working with food colouring

The class was very lively as you might imagine with 6-7 year olds but the teacher had complete control. Three groups looked at how colours mix to give other colours. One group worked with paints, another with coloured plastics and a third worked with food colouring.
The class was followed by a meeting with Science, Maths and English teachers from the school to discuss the possibility of teaching through the medium of English. This group of teachers expressed a lot of enthusiasm for the initiative and when asked said they would be prepared to commit to ongoing in-service training over the period of a year. 
working with coloured plastics

- Report to be written on visit for the Ministry of Education to suggest areas for preparing teaching of Maths and Science through the medium of English
- good chance of return visits to further investigate and support the work of Maths and Science in English in Oman
- 65 colleagues, including teachers of Science, Maths and English, inspectors and Ministry representatives attended presentation on CLIL and Science Across the World
- network building between groups of stakeholders in education in Oman
- on a personal note I learned a great deal about the young history of education in Oman