EDUCATION HOLDINGS

Oman 2020 | EDUCATION | B2B

Training is an important part of any country, now more than ever, and both the public and private sector are pushing to get the best out of their students.

Anees Almamari
ANEES ALMAMARI
CEO
Oman Education Training Investment Company (OETI)
Hussain Sulaiman Al Salmi
HUSSAIN SULAIMAN AL SALMI
CEO
Oman Educational Services (OES)

What is the role of OETI in Oman's education landscape?
ANEES ALMAMARI The founders of OETI were pioneers in the sense that they established the first publicly listed investment company specializing in education and training. OETI had the privilege of running Sohar University, the first private university in Oman. Despite being private, it had received an enormous amount of support and funding from the late Sultan Qaboos bin Said. OETI will soon feature a vocational training institute that caters to all engineering and manufacturing courses, along with an international industrial incubation center. At a national level, Sohar University was the only university to participate in the Tanfeedh program, which shows our commitment to innovation. This alignment will help us create jobs and develop an entrepreneurial spirit among young Omanis to reduce the overall reliance on government jobs.

Where does OES stand in the educational system, and what are your strategies moving forward?
HUSSAIN SULAIMAN AL SALMI In 2006, we established a private university in Oman that was more connected to practical education rather than theoretical, following more German standards in education, research, and innovation. After 2011, the government decided to focus more on higher education, forgetting the basics: vocational training. We cannot have 75-80% of high school graduates enrolling in higher education institutes, leaving most hands-on jobs to expats. For this reason, we are now focusing on a conventional way of vocational training. Oman has some vocational centers, but they are all driven by short-term needs. Oman needs vocational centers that focus on quality, which is why we carefully select trainers that see the future demands driven by technology. This way, we can convince Omanis that vocational training and higher education are two different paths.

How do you expect the balance between education and vocational training to evolve moving forward?
AA Industry specific training is where the economy will be moving in terms of education, so we want to get into that sector. The main difference between higher education and vocational training is the high assurance of jobs that vocational training provides. Those looking for a job should consider vocational training because it provides a direct link to market players, such as factories and engineering companies. Understanding where the gaps lie is paramount; however, maintaining this interaction with the market is also crucial for the future, since some jobs will definitely disappear, and the learning process will change. Curriculums should feature a healthy balance between more practical modules and transferrable skills. Currently, we notice an attitudinal shift among students toward IT and engineering based on the needs of the market.

Will research in Oman be centralized or decentralized?
HSAS Since the beginning, the research council acted as a big umbrella, although each institution has its own way of looking for research and activities. Not necessarily everything from research will be applied or the other way around. We do not want to stop our researchers from conducting their own research, though at the same time we encourage them to conduct research at the research council.

What role will technology play in the learning environment?
AA There will be more dependence on technology going forward, and that will require investment. Technology is taking over, though we will continue to balance it with our staff even 10 years from now. There will always be a need for human interaction. Investment wise, it would be more feasible to offer digital books; however, some students will always prefer physical books. It is an adjustment process that everybody has to go through.

Can you tell us about the Oman Hydrogen Center?
HSAS In 2018, we discussed with a German partner about the potential of hydrogen as the energy source of the future and Oman's role in it. We wanted to produce green hydrogen because Oman has water and the sun in abundance, both of which are needed to produce hydrogen. Japan and Germany are the two main countries driving green hydrogen, so we wanted to connect with them. Green hydrogen can generate almost the same income for Oman as oil and gas in the next 15-20 years. Based on that, we established a research center at the university looking at hydrogen as the fuel of the future.