Study Underscores the Need for Stronger School-University Partnerships
Educational partnership between schools and higher education institutions has become an important tool towards enhancing students’ achievement levels in both contexts and increasing students’ college readiness level. It has also been identified as one key element of educational reform. In a paper published in the International Educational Studies journal (Vol. 10, No. 3; 2017), Dr. Fawzia Al Seyabi from the College of Education, Sultan Qaboos University, reviewed a number of models of school-university partnership from different parts of the world. The paper presents the results of a study that investigated- among other things- the views of 749 school students and 68 school teachers on the topic of school-university partnership. The paper provides a summary of participants’ suggestions on how best to create better progression between EFL syllabuses in both contexts: post-basic schools and foundation programs in Omani universities, with particular reference to the teaching/learning of EFL reading and writing.
Worldwide, schools and universities together play a very important role in building the human being. Schools have the premise of helping students gain the skills and competencies that would be handful for whatever college and/or career path they get to choose. Similarly, universities have the premise of preparing their graduates to become professionally and socially responsible citizens who are capable of being engaged in both contemporary and future concerns of their societies. Studies from various parts of the world have pointed to the existence of a “great divide” between secondary schools and higher education. To help address this gap, educational partnership between schools and higher education institutions has become a necessity towards enhancing students’ achievement levels at both contexts and increasing students’ college readiness level. It has also been identified as one key element of educational reform.
The Omani Context
Since its renaissance in 1970, Oman has made giant strides in the field of education. From three schools built in 1970 to accommodate 909 students (all males), the number of schools scattered in all educational governorates in Oman has now reached 1077 and is in the increase. The Omani government believes that diversification of the economy depends on human resource development through higher education. With almost 45% of the population below the age of 25, there is both an increasing student demand and an increasing national commitment for access to higher education. Since the establishment of the first, and so far the only, national university –Sultan Qaboos University- in 1986, higher education in Oman has come a long way.
There are now not less than 54 higher education institutions covering different fields and specializations. There is a rapid provision of access to universities and other forms of higher education institutions such as the Colleges of Applied Sciences, the Colleges of Technology and the Institutes of Health Sciences. The private sector of higher education has also undergone steady growth in the last few decades.
There are now 28 private higher education institutions in Oman. Parallel developments were also taking place in the general education school system. However, a number of studies conducted in the Omani context –similar to other contexts-have reported that the students accepted into higher education institutions are not “college ready” and that their high scores from schools do not truly indicate a high level of abilities and skills. Students seem to be having problems with their transition from school to higher education institutions. Studies that examine this issue and explore how bridges can be built between the two educational systems are highly needed in the Omani educational context.
Dr. Fauzia Al Seyabi’s research sheds light on the importance of establishing partnerships between schools and universities in order to help bridge the gap and build the “divide” that often exists between the two educational contexts. The study presents a number of school-university partnership approaches from different parts of the world and shows how this partnership can address different aspects such as curriculum, collaborative research, study skills and teacher mentoring and professional development.
Students and teachers participating in the study made various suggestions on how links could be established between schools and universities in their Omani context. Students’ suggestions focused on three main themes, which were the need for orientation programs, exchange visits and collaboration at the administrative level in issues relevant to curriculum. Teachers too were more concerned with curriculum; most of their suggestions centered on creating change in the reading and writing curriculum and alignment between the school English curriculum and that of foundation programs in universities.
Most of the suggestions that teachers and students made are not part of the current practice. The present paper argues that adopting some or all of these suggestions might have significant implications towards building sustainable channels of communication between the two educational contexts and smoothing the transition of Omani post-basic school students into colleges and universities. Dr. Al Seyabi says that whatever approach institutions choose to adopt, it is very important that it acknowledges the reality, or indeed the multiple realities that surround it so that challenges can be identified and addressed to help this partnership succeed. More importantly, an effective and successful partnership is expected to be a sustainable effort, one that does not involve a specific need on the part of the school or the higher education institution but rather one that aims to yield long term or systemic change.
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