It’s a well known phenomenon for all visitors to ‘fall in love at first sight’ with this excellent country-The Sultanate of Oman. Beautiful natural landscapes, mountain cliffs, sea faces blended with the reformist and forward looking approach of His Majesty. The warm and hospitable Omani hospitality makes the country an ideal setting for anyone, be it a business traveler, a leisure freak or even an expatriate worker. I am no exception to this and my first few weeks in this heavenly abode made me wonder about the inherent advantages the country and its citizen’s offers to the world. Being a management teacher, I would prefer to hover around into the teaching-learning scenario, which is again a unique one, inherent to the all the people of Oman.
Importance of Leveraging the Advantages
The first few weeks of interaction with my students at the Ibra College of Technology and the inputs received from my fellow peers in the teaching fraternity made me sit back and take note of the exceptional capabilities which the fantastic people of Oman have. As a teacher, irrespective of the faculty one is representing, one simply has to build upon the inherent advantages of the pupils so as to perform the role of a teacher to perfection. Its not rocket science to reach out to the receptive and sincere students of the Sultanate, what is required is the proper channeling mechanism, the tinge of technology and the localization aspect so as to explain the concepts of different disciplines in a user friendly manner to the enthusiastic students of the country.
To understand the inherent advantages of the students of the Sultanate, one simply has to look through the prism of the rich Omani culture. The sense of respect the students have for their teachers, the willingness to learn, to experiment, to take notes at face value, open to learning, unlearning and relearning are few of the unique advantages the students of the Sultanate offers to a teacher. Opines Abdul Jaleel, Head of Business Studies Department of Ibra College of Technology, said ‘Omani students are always very benevolent and one gets the real satisfaction of teaching after seeing the way they adapt themselves to receive the learning inputs’. Since the time I walked into the college I had been gauzing quite closely the students and their activities both within and outside the classroom. It’s always important for a teacher to understand the basic characteristics of the students before embarking on the exercise of teaching. My past experiences in teaching the Indian and Emarati students definitely helped me in dissecting the actual need of the Omani students; however it was my continuous observation of their verbal and non-verbal behaviors, along with the rich inputs received from my colleagues in the department which enabled me to make a unique roadmap for my teaching assignments.
My Teaching Roadmap in Oman
A country which is having one of the most respected leader in the globe, possessing one of the most valuable currency, having the right mix of their culture enmeshed into everything, be it the world of science and technology or business management offers yours truly a wealth of inputs. These inputs would enable me to customize the academic delivery plan as like any other services, be it restaurants, aviation, hospitality, since the education services simply can’t accept a ‘one size fits all’ approach. It’s important to understand the student psychology, the level of awareness before actually making the presentation, whether it is the four walls of the classroom or the corridor of the college.
My teaching roadmap would have the following as tools which can be updated from time to time in consultation with the students, my colleagues, the senior academic administrators and honorable ministry personnel-
1. Content Localization:
It’s very important for a lecturer to localize the contents of his academic delivery matching the tastes of the target audience. To illustrate, a student reading business and trying to understand the concept of corporate governance in the United States it would be perfect if the examples/cases of Lehman brothers, Freddie Mae and Fannie Mac, Enron, are used as teaching supplements in the form of contents, likewise for the students graduating in the UK , examples/cases like British Airways for services, Richard Branson for entrepreneurship, would allow them to relate; similarly for Omani students to understand the nuances of different spheres of business, one can very well lend credence to prestigious organizations like the Oman Air, Bank Muscat, Bank Dhofar, the professional functioning of different ministries of the Sultanate and the far sightedness of the visionary His Majesty so as to drive home the points. It is here the expatriate teachers need to spend some quality time to do their homework. Staring from understanding the local culture while moving around the roads, while interacting with the students, while shopping, while reading from secondary published sources, the faculties has to pick up threads commensurate with his/her discipline which would make it easier for the students to understand and apply it in their professional and personal lives. Although I am trying to project the perspective of the business management faculty, I am sure the same simulation can also be conducted for subjects like engineering and technology, applied sciences or even the literatures. A slight initial effort can go a long way in making the task of the teacher easier, more than that it would enable the students to understand the concepts taught to a nicety culminating in tangible, user friendly takeaways.
2. Blending Technology with Conventional Approaches:
In an era where technological revolutions have taken center-stage, it is important for the teaching fraternity to be contemporary. The freshness and newness which is always appreciated as it results in more benefits for the end-users (read as students) has to be understood while finalizing the teaching plan. Even before I landed in the Sultanate, I thought of experimenting here with some Novel Teaching Methodologies (NTM), as the thought process of a teacher has to be continuous so that he can invent new approaches and techniques, rather than lean upon the tried and tested ones. I have planned to open a devoted blog for my Omani students (URL- www.novellearning.blogspot.com) where I would present the additional information pertaining to the topics taught in the classroom consisting of glossary of important words and their meanings, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for various topics, certain small case-lets/articles/situations matching with that of the local Omani market/economy, so that the students can consider them as ready reference. I also intend to make my Omani students adapt to www.twitter.com and leverage this tool for staying connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to simple questions the students would like to pose from different subjects. The mentoring which is addressed as advising in our college parlance would be done through a virtual interaction forum (either through google/yahoo groups), apart from the real one, where every student would assemble and brainstorm on topics initiated by the teacher as well as the students. This would enable the students to reach out to the teacher independent in addition to the benefit of posing questions which they would otherwise hesitate during the routine advising process. The benefit of making the right mix of technology and content would provide multifold benefits in the form of 360 degree learning, round the clock learning, knowledge reinforcement after the classroom sessions, apart from acclimatizing the students with the world of technology, so that they embrace the new age tools with ease.
3. Contributing Towards the Existing Resources and Platforms:
The Department of Business Studies at the Ibra College of Technology, under the leadership of the honorable dean, assistant deans, head of the department, head of sections and my esteemed and learned colleagues has state-of-the-art resources and plans, which are already contributing a lot to the student development. Different committees under the stewardships of the college and departmental administrators and coordinated by all my colleagues are trying to bring in the element of innovativeness so that the stale learning approaches can be done away with. The advantages because of a mix of expatriate and local colleagues along with the humble and enthusiastic students makes these resources and platforms unique so as to make the students feed and grow on the diet of employment and entrepreneurship.
It’s definitely not a cakewalk, but it’s also not insurmountable either implementing new practices and testing novel approaches is loath with challenges though. However, as teachers and trainers, the basic reason for which we are paid by the ministry of manpower and other associated ministries or through their business partners be it Tatic, Global or Bahwan is to take these challenges head on and come out triumphs. The amount of cooperation and collaboration I have witnessed in the first few weeks makes me extremely positive about the fact that overcoming these challenges would not be a Herculean task. To simplify our effort in reaching the goal of making that difference in the Sultanate, it’s important for the teacher community to leverage the inherent strengths which are resilient and are always welcoming things for the good. That has been the metamorphosing theory of His Majesty. Let’s follow his footsteps and contribute to this excellent country in our own small way.