Muscat - A two-day symposium on ‘Learning Loss in the Light of the Corona Pandemic: Its Effects and Methods of Remediation’ began under the auspices of HE Dr. Said bin Muhammad Al-Saqri, Minister of Economy on 24 June at the Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Dr Madiha bint Ahmed Al Shaibaniya, Minister of Education, Dr. Rahma bint Ibrahim Al Mahrooqia, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research and Innovation attended the opening session with a number of honourees, their excellencies undersecretaries, chief executives, educational experts from international organisations (UNESCO, UNICEF, ESCWA) concerned with the education sector, academics, researchers and specialists from institutions of higher education and technical and vocational education, specialists in curriculum development, educational supervision, evaluation and teacher training and representatives of the Follow-up Unit for the Implementation of Oman Vision 2040, civil society institutions and the private sector, as well as representatives of the youth and people with disabilities.

The agenda of the symposium was finding a package of alternatives to mitigate the educational losses and address its effects according to educational plans in line with the global approach in standing up to the challenges faced due to the spread of the pandemic.

The Sultanate of Oman, represented by the education sector, has taken the initiative to participate in many seminars and meetings in order to exchange experiences on the best practices followed by educational systems in the world for the early recovery to ensure the sustainability of education and building stronger and more flexible educational systems that have a greater ability to serve students.

The Symposium began with a speech by Dr Madiha Al Shaibaniya, Minister of Education, in which she said: “Due to the importance of conducting comprehensive educational assessments for the post-pandemic stage, the importance of good compensatory education for all learners, and to benefit from the success stories achieved in light of the spread of the pandemic, this symposium aims at identifying the adverse impact of the pandemic on the educational sector and the remedies there of to correct the losses. This has enabled the education system to find a package of alternatives to mitigate the losses and address the anomalies according to educational plans that are in line with the global approach. The Sultanate of Oman, represented by the education sector, took the initiative to participate in many seminars and meetings in order to exchange experiences on the best practices followed by educational systems in the world for the early recovery in the post-pandemic phases to ensure the sustainability of education and building stronger and more flexible educational systems that have a greater ability to serve students.”

The Minister pointed out: “Despite the low level of indicators of achieving sustainable development goals, especially the fourth goal related to education, the United Nations report ranked the Sultanate of Oman in the first place among the Gulf Cooperation Council countries in achieving the goals of sustainable development of the United Nations for the year 2022. The report also indicated that the Sultanate of Oman is on the right track in achieving goals related to many aspects, including equality in education, which reflects the pivotal importance of the sustainable development file within the national agenda.”

Dr. Rahma Al Mahrouqi, Minister of Higher Education, Scientific Research and Innovation, said: “This symposium is replete with many positive and progressive ideas, which will undoubtedly have a great impact in shedding light on the reality of education in the Sultanate of Oman and anticipating its future features in line with the strategic national plans based on the priorities of the Oman vision 2040 and in line with the objectives of the renewed renaissance and will be an essential tributary to achieve the goals for which it was held, including the sustainability and quality of education in its two parts (school education and higher education).”

Dr. Rahma Al Mahrouqi stated: “The higher education in the Sultanate of Oman has witnessed, over the past years, steady growth and significant positive transformations that came in line with the rapid global developments in various fields. In this direction, the Ministry has taken many steps to support and develop higher education, including paying attention to the training system of professional development, increasing the dose of practical training in higher education institutions, diversifying its sources and linking it to the labor market, supporting the efforts aimed at these institutions to improve the quality of higher education and occupy advanced ranks in international classifications, establishing solid bases for scientific research, innovation and entrepreneurship in these institutions, and supporting the establishment of innovative start-ups through various programmes such as the “Upgrade” program to transform students’projects into start-ups and the “Manafa” programme that supports the creation of startup-based companies.”

Stefania Giannini, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education, gave a speech in which she said: “This symposium is indicative of the Sultanate of Oman’s vision of education as a cornerstone for achieving a sustainable and more prosperous future, as is evident in Oman’s 2040 vision. The Covid-19 was a clear call to start the transformation, as our societies have become increasingly more dependent on each other and more connected to each other and the digital revolution affects and increases the pace of change in all aspects of our lives. The climate change and biodiversity loss are also weakening our planet, while inequality is exacerbating the division in our societies. In order to address these issues, we must have discussions about the kind of education we need to have more sustainable, inclusive, resilient, and equitable future education, this is in fact the ambition of deciding to reimagine the future together.”

Giannini also stated:“the report issued by the International Committee on the Future of Education, is an inspiring and living document, and an invitation to reflect on the current educational systems and how to study the paths of transformation in the first place, it is about acquiring values and transferring knowledge and skills in order to balance our main relationships and our relationships with technology, and of course our relationships with the planet, through new teaching ways, new teaching paradigm, and new curriculum, and a different organization of learning.”

A dialogue session was also held on the participation of Omani youth in the UNESCO World Forum, and the impact of this participation in enhancing their various ideas and knowledge and refining their skills. Zina Al Kindi and Sultan Al Hadhrami, two students from Sultan Qaboos Private School, an affiliated school of the ASPnet of Oman UNESCO, participated in this session. Hilal Al Riyami, who was chosen by UNESCO from among the Sultanate’s candidates as the first Omani youth to deliver the outcomes and recommendations of the41st UNESCO General Conference, also participated in this dialogue session.

Dr. Sobhi Al-Taweel, Director of the Future of Learning, and Innovation at UNESCO, presented the main paper of the symposium, which was entitled: “Developing New Perceptions of our Future Together –New Social Contract for Education.” He said: “Concluding any social contract for education requires in the first place a common vision for the general purposes of education, and the social contract for education must be based on the basic and organizational principles that determine the structure of education systems, as well as on the work that is being distributed and undertaken in order to build, maintain and improve these systems. Any new social contract for education must be based on two basic principles, namely, ensuring the right to quality education for life, and promoting education as a mutual benefit. The conclusion of a new social contract for education is a critical step in the endeavors to develop new visions of our future together.”

After that, two scientific sessions were held. The first session was chaired by HE Dr. Bakhit bin Ahmed Al-Mahri, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Higher Education, Scientific Research and Innovation for Scientific Research and Innovation. The session focused on (The Reality of Education through International Reports, and Educational Indicators), and included four papers. The first paper was entitled: ‘The Education Quality Report in the Arab Countries’, presented by Dr. Khaled Abu Ismail from the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA). Shamsabint Khamis Al Balushi, an economic indicators specialist at the National Competitiveness Office, presented the second paper, titled: ‘National Education Indicators in International Reports’.The third paper, entitled: ‘Policies and Indicators of the Fourth Goal in the Sultanate of Oman’, was presented by Badr bin Sulaiman Al-Harthi, Director of Education Sector Department in the Omani National Committee for Education, Culture and Science in the Ministry. Dr. Maryam bint Belarab Al Nabhani, Director-General of Private Universities and Colleges at the Ministry of Higher Education, Scientific Research and Innovation, presented the fourth paper, entitled: ‘Entrepreneurial Skills and Future Jobs in the Sultanate of Oman’.

The second session was chaired by Prof. Dr. Abdullah bin Khamis Ambosaidi, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Education for Education, which focused on ‘The Future of Education’. It also included the presentation of four papers. The first was entitled: ‘Response, Recovery, and Reimagining: Global Lessons for Achieving Education Results in the Sultanate of Oman after the COVID-19 Pandemic’ and was presented by Francesca Salem Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation Officer at the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in the Sultanate. Maryam Al-Maskari, from the Follow-up Unit for the Implementation of Oman Vision 2040, presented the second paper, entitled: ‘Education in Oman Vision 2040’, while Kawthar Al-Hanai from the Ministry of Transport, Communications and Information Technology presented the third paper came entitled ‘Digital Transformation in the Educational System’. The fourth paper, entitled: ‘E-Learning in the Light of the Corona Pandemic’, was presented by Dr. Yahya bin Khamis Al-Harthi, Director-General of the Directorate-General of Curriculum Development at the Ministry of Education.

The second day of the symposium includes nine scientific sessions, each three of which are held simultaneously. These session focus on various themes including the role of the teacher in transforming education, learning and digital transformation, inclusive, equitable and safe educational environment, investment and education financing, scientific research and innovation in directing education to create a knowledge-based economy and education for global citizenship and education quality control.

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