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Students’ Backgrounds Affect How They Learn, Omani Researchers Find

A new Omani study says that in today’s diverse classrooms, students’ different cultural and social backgrounds affect how they learn.

The study, titled “Strategies for Attention to Diverse Education in Omani Society: Perceptions of Secondary School Students”, says that “diversity within the Omani education system can be enhanced by comparing the beliefs and experiences of students in diverse classrooms.”

Such comparisons give teachers a better understanding of diverse students’ learning needs and an avenue for adapting their teaching methods and the learning media they use.

Student diversity, as defined in the study, might involve gender, age, nationality, language or disability. The report said eliminating prejudice against people of different cultures and abilities, and promoting equality among all social groups, was one of the primary goals of diversity in education and other areas of society.

Perceptions of Teaching and Learning

The survey was based on survey responses from 283 11th and 12th graders at international high schools in Muscat, Oman.

Ali Al Musawi, a professor of instructional and learning technologies in the College of Education at Sultan Qaboos University, is one of the study’s authors. He told Al-Fanar Media that the research focused on whether the students’ gender, nationality, and socio-economic status made them react differently to teaching methods, assessment techniques, curriculum design, and practical skills.

The survey questionnaire gathered data on the participants’ perceptions of their learning experiences in five subjects: mathematics, English, science, information and communications technology, and Arabic.

The researchers found that across all five subjects, non-Arab students tended to grade more highly than Omani and Arab students did.

Al Musawi, who holds a Ph.D. in teaching techniques from the United Kingdom’s University of Southampton, said the study was an attempt to contribute to the literature on diversity by presenting data on whether students’ differences in terms of gender, nationality, and social and economic conditions were reflected in their responses to teaching methods and other variables.

He said he believes that the study offers insights that can help government institutions, universities and schools better address diversity and create a more efficient and inclusive education system.

The study recommended harnessing students’ perceptions and experiences of diversity so teachers and school administrators can make lessons more successful.

Diversity in University Classrooms

The study is an attempt to contribute to the literature on diversity by presenting data on whether students’ differences in terms of gender, nationality, and social and economic status are reflected in their responses to teaching methods and other variables.

Ali Al Musawi A professor in the College of Education at Sultan Qaboos University and one of the study’s authors

Omani academics agree on the importance of diversity in university classrooms and want training programmes for teachers and professors so they can meet the needs of students from different backgrounds.

Fakhriya Al-Yahyai, a professor in the department of art education at Sultan Qaboos University, told Al-Fanar Media that preparing a teacher to be aware of diversity in language, gender, customs, traditions, religion, politics, and social and economic backgrounds was especially important with immigrant groups and minorities.

Al-Yahyai, who was one of the first academic artists and researchers specialising in the plastic arts in Oman, said diverse curricula were essential to meet the needs of groups with different cultural backgrounds, not only in content, but in teaching and assessment methods and activities as well.

She said diversity in the classroom included students with different backgrounds and abilities, whether superior students, ordinary students or those with special needs. She called for curricula to be designed to address these differences.

The study calls for Omani universities and higher education institutions to put its recommendations into practice and to promote multicultural learning.

Al Musawi believes the Ministry of Education should design courses on diversity at training colleges for teachers and university lecturers.

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Nabil El Kadhi, an expert in higher-education quality assurance, sees the importance of educating teachers about diversity and how to engage with it in their teaching.

El Kadhi taught for about 15 years in Gulf universities and for eight years at France’s Epitech Institute for Computer Engineering Studies.

He told Al-Fanar Media that adapting to diversity improved the effectiveness of teaching methods and included the preparation of university and school buildings for professors and students with disabilities.

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