The challenges of designing and delivering an appropriate English as a modern foreign language curriculum for primary school aged children in Oman.
This study examines stakeholders’ experiences of the English primary curriculum reform of grades 3 and 4 in Omani state schools. At the macro level, it examines the impetus for reform and its aims. At the micro level, it examines the challenges and opportunities teachers experienced, the quality of support and training they received from supervisors and trainers, and the views of both students and their parents. A mixed methods design was adopted, using questionnaires, focus group interviews and one-to-one interviews. Phase 1 involved a scoping exercise in the Muscat (capital city) region through the collection of data vis-à-vis a questionnaire from primary school children (n=151) in years 3 and 4 and their parents (n=126). English teachers (n=5) were also interviewed in five schools. In Phase 2, emerging themes from Phase 1 were explored in greater depth through a questionnaire completed by primary school children (n=210) and their parents (n=191) from the AL Dahira region. Semi-structured interviews were carried out with students (n=13) from the Muscat and AL Dahira regions. Three focus group interviews were conducted with English teachers (n=15) in three regions (Muscat, AL Sharqia South and AL Dahira regions) supplemented with semi-structured interviews with policymakers (n=2), supervisors (n=3) and trainers (n=3) from the three regions. Although the findings indicated that progress had been achieved in introducing shared writing, reading time, vocabulary and grammar rules in grades 3 and 4 (reform), the findings also suggested that a number of challenges were identified. Teachers’ views about much of the contents of the compulsory school textbook in relation to choice of topics, the development of the productive skills, lack of resources, and problems with assessment were overwhelmingly negative. The gap between policymakers and teaching communities was also observed, where the latter emphasised the fact that they were not part of curriculum development process. Furthermore, it seems that curriculum reform was neither adequately underpinned by theoretical principles, nor supported with appropriate teacher development. Nonetheless, the study found a high level of enthusiasm for English learning amongst students and their parents. In essence, the study established tensions between the intended, written, supported and taught curricula, which have significant implications for future curriculum development