AHEAD OF THE FIELD

Oman 2015 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | FOCUS: RESEARCH AT SQU

His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said has always made education a priority for the citizens of Oman, and the Sultan Qaboos University is leading the field in education and research.

Education in Oman has evolved rapidly over the past few decades. Around 45 years ago, the Sultanate had but one school and was devoid of universities. When His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said rose to power in 1970, he wanted education to be the focal point of his reign. Today, Oman has almost 1,300 schools, a public university that bears the Sultan's name, and several private universities. Thus, in line with His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said's vision, education is pullulating in the Sultanate.

At the forefront of this educational awakening has been the prestigious Sultan Qaboos University. Recently, it has experienced a boom in research on different subjects in a wide variety of fields. According to Dr. Ali Saud Al-Bemani, Vice-Chancellor of Sultan Qaboos University, “the main fields of research are medical and engineering."

One particular area of focus in engineering is enhanced oil recovery (EOR), which is key to the Sultanate's vital oil and gas industry. Professor Saif Al-Bahry of the University's Biology department points out that the department is “exploring the biotechnological possibility of using microbial enhanced oil recovery [MEOR], which is considerably more environmentally friendly, cheaper, and safer." According to Professor Al-Bahry, “this is believed to be the future technology of EOR." The university is currently on the road toward becoming an “internationally recognized establishment in providing solutions related to oil industries using biotechnological techniques."

In the medical research field, Sultan Qaboos University is at the forefront of advanced research on autism in Oman by leading the nation in conducting research on the condition. Dr. Yahya M. Al Farsi, Assistant Dean for Training and Community Service of the College of Medicine and Health Sciences, explains that the university “created the first registry of children with autism." In addition, the university has collaborated with the Ministry of Social Development on a common strategy to help poor families that do not have the resources to acquire the necessary aid for their children diagnosed with autism. As a result of the research conducted in Sultan Qaboos University, the government has decided to establish state-of-the-art centers for autism in several new clinics.

The relationship between research and education is symbiotic, and the government tries to foster research through strengthening education. To that end, the College of Education at Sultan Qaboos University is fully committed to preparing new teachers, and ensuring they are kept up to date with all the latest techniques. The College is currently going through the accreditation process of the US based National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. This process should be completed in 2016, and will assure that graduates of the College of Education are internationally recognized. The Dean of the College, Professor Thuwayba Ahmed Al Barwani, emphasizes that his “number one focus as Dean has been to develop more strategic research. Thus, five or six research proposals are funded annually by the university's internal grants. To encourage research, the college holds brain-storming sessions for researchers to share ideas." Al Barwani is proud of the unprecedented amount of collaborative research that is currently being undertaken at Sultan Qaboos University. And such research and the added value it can bring to the country bode well for all Omanis.