Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said, on the role of education in developing human capital: Viewpoint

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Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said

From the start, one of our primary aims was to bring education to every part of the sultanate, so that every member of the population could acquire the schooling he or she was entitled to. This country was facing a great challenge in its battle to overcome the result of long years of isolation and backwardness. Therefore, we began a difficult, gruelling struggle as we set about building our modern state brick by brick. We were helped immeasurably in our task by the legacy of our ancient civilisation, history and glory, and by the hard work, determination and noble ambitions of our people.

At the time we first set the education process in motion, we appealed for education to take place “even in the shade of the trees”. We appealed for the entire population – male and female, young and old – to be given the opportunity to join the march of knowledge without discrimination. Because the clear river of knowledge is one from which all should drink, and the channels flowing from it should carry richness, fecundity and growth to every part of Oman’s pure and noble land.

Over the years, education has increased in quality and quantity. School and pupil numbers have increased many times over and there are several educational levels available. In addition to primary, preparatory, secondary and higher education, several streams and specialisations are also available to meet development needs. Students are able to learn agriculture, industry, commerce and vocational subjects, and there are training colleges for male and female teachers. In addition, there are institutes for Islamic studies, and centres for adult education and the eradication of illiteracy.

Our education system is set up with the aim of producing young Omanis who are aware of the world around them; who believe in their religion and their country; and who are able to use their creative potential, talents, and scientific and intellectual skills to serve their country, improve their community and preserve the sultanate of Oman’s distinctive character and ancient heritage.

To achieve this, everyone, whether at an individual or organisational level, is pooling their efforts. Oman can only continue her development and enable her community to cope proficiently and keep pace with all the changes taking place around it, if she has people of this kind – that is, ambitious young people with strong characters and a deep sense of responsibility and patriotism. Only then will we be able to become a beacon of science and scholarship.

From this platform we call upon instructors, scholars, scientists and researchers to roll up their sleeves, make use of the intellectual climate in which they are living, set to work and produce some solid research in technology, economics, science, literature and other disciplines. We appeal to them to apply their experience and expertise to developing the budding talents of male and female students as a first step towards producing a generation of Omani scholars, scientists and researchers, who are capable of disciplined, creative work, imbued with the spirit of true scholarship, which may best be described as working for the benefit of one’s fellow men.

We also call upon the students – our young men and women – to cooperate closely with their teachers so that they can acquire useful knowledge, technical skills and creative ability. Furthermore, we appeal to them to be patient and diligent, so that they can realise their fine and noble ambitions.

The knowledge and expertise Oman’s students acquire will qualify them to play a vital part in building a modern society, preserving the gains of Oman’s Blessed Renaissance, and achieving greater progress for the present and coming generations within the framework of the eternal values we all share. These values represent virtue and truth, tolerance and integration, selflessness and sacrifice, and decent conduct in one’s dealings with others. They are inherited from fathers and forefathers and are absorbed by Omani society over the generations. They have become a vital part of it and have been one of its praiseworthy attributes over the ages.

The acquisition of knowledge is not a luxury, but “a commitment and a contribution”. It is a commitment to all the decent, enlightened values. At the same time, it constitutes a serious, untiring contribution to the building of this country, enabling us to reinforce its achievements and realise both short-term and long-term ambitions.

Commerce in the sultanate has developed and become increasingly complex and sophisticated, making a substantial contribution to the economy. Therefore, it has become essential to produce trained, proficient citizens who are capable of working in the different fields involved.

In addition to commerce, a number of other aspects of Oman’s economy have expanded as a result of successive development plans. Hence, there is also a need for cadres who are highly trained in the various economic sciences, who are capable of administering and developing the Blessed Renaissance’s achievements, and who are able to prepare sound, scientifically based programmes and plans.

It is no secret that today, as always, the economy is the mainstay of a country’s life. It is the yardstick against which progress can be measured, and it is the solid base on which all aspects of human civilisation are built. Thus, any modern society must have an adequate number of nationals with specialised qualifications in this field.

The success of the human experience is the result of constant endeavour, commitment, will and a sense of responsibility. No nation can realise its goals unless its people work together to build a future and develop its potential. We are confident that all of our young citizens will play their part in developing and building up this Omani enterprise, reinforcing its roots and raising its structure.

The private sector is one of the key pillars of development, both in the economic concept that represents commerce, industry, agriculture, tourism, finance and the economy in general, as well as the social concept, which denotes human resources development, training, the upgrading of scientific and practical skills, the offering of new employment opportunities and incentives to take up jobs in the private sector. It is not acceptable that some citizens adopt the impression that the private sector relies on what the state offers to it, or that it does not contribute efficiently to the service of society and support its social institutions and programmes, or that the private sector seeks only to achieve profit and does not work seriously in serving its society, environment and country.

Such an impression would not only harm the future of the private sector, but would also have a negative impact that would extend to the development plans of the country, particularly to the diversification of income. Therefore, the private sector is required to work harder to eliminate this impression and to take well-studied and efficient, practical steps, through increasing its contribution to social development. It must work in closer partnership with the government in implementing its policies, hand-in-hand with civil society institutions which offer social services.

Omanis should also be aware of the number of resources which are available to support the youth and help them set up ventures. The most notable is the Sanad programme, which has played its part well. There are other sources in different government departments as well. We decided to gather all these resources under one fund, called Al Raffd Fund, which is entrusted with a specific task. Al Raffd will help the sultanate’s young men and women to develop small and medium-sized enterprises.

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