OMAN:

Ministry and Creative-led MEPI Project Support Child-Centered Classrooms

February 27, 2009

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Improving student learning through active participation is at the core of the Child Centered Classrooms Methodology (CCCM) project.

It’s a pilot project introduced to Omani schools under the Partnership Schools Program (PSP), a more than $4 million effort of the U.S. State Department’s Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI)/Education Pillar.

The Sultanate of Oman’s education ministry has committed to raising education standards to a level which will enable Oman’s children to perform more effectively in schools and – eventually – in the marketplace. CCCM enables students to direct their own learning, a critical capability in an ever changing technology-based world.

Implemented by Creative Associates International, Inc., CCCM introduces new approaches to teaching and learning and emphasizes development of students’ critical thinking skills. Yet despite its current success, the CCCM approach wasn’t immediately embraced by teachers who found the new methods different from their teacher-centered traditions, which strongly emphasized rote memorization.

CCCM is widely regarded as a successful example of how to improve education quality and prepare students from first to fourth grades to be self-directed in their educational development. The Oman Ministry of Education is working with the Creative Associates team to scale up and institutionalize CCCM practices in schools and teacher training institutions.

The CCCM classroom strategy includes a Morning Meeting, where students interact with each other and their teachers about lessons and subjects that interest them. “With the old way of teaching, the teacher’s role was bigger, meaning the teacher was the one who controlled the educational process,” said Rabab Mohammed Al Ajmi, a grade four science teacher at Al Bustan school. But CCCM “prepares the student to rely upon himself in the learning process and this helps students to develop and promote self-learning in the future.”

A project sponsored Learning Resource Center provides a variety of reading materials to encourage students to read at their own level and pace. While student-designed classroom rules and student duties reinforce responsibility and help build confidence, it is the insistence on parent participation that provides the critical link to making CCCM in Oman a success.

“I like this philosophy of teaching because it made me a better teacher,” Al Ajmi said. “I am able to communicate with my students more efficiently and effectively. CCCM has enabled me to trust my students’ abilities and interests.”

Initially piloted in 2004 in 20 schools in Oman’s capital, Muscat, the CCCM project has had a positive impact on student achievement in these schools, creating a demand for wider project implementation. This year, the project extended to include 16 new schools throughout the country.

CCCM activities and resources in these new schools were funded by the Omani Ministry of Education with MEPI’s support focused on institutional capacity development within the MOE achieved through training and policy development initiatives. Today, child-centered methodologies have reached more than 12,000 students and trained 1,900 supervisors, school principals, and teachers through project activities.

“The most important change observed is the confidence of students to express their views inside and outside the classroom,” said Principal Maymoona Malik Al Kindi, of Al Bustan School, about the impact of CCCM. “The students have a greater role within the school in the educational process which means that they have the initiative to seek knowledge on their own.”

Parental involvement in their children’s education is universally seen as having a positive impact on students. With respect to community mobilization and the role of parents, Al Kindi said, “parents have become involved with their children and share their life experiences which contribute to the further development of students’ capabilities. It is one of the successful results of the project.”

— Alexandra Pratt in Washington, D.C. with Mohammed Al Kindi, Program Officer, MEPI Partnership Schools Project, reporting from Oman

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