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University of Nizwa Students Save the Day!

University of Nizwa Students Save the Day!

Yeah not really – this is just a reference to Jimmy’s crazy post about Vietnam. Like I said in my last post, I was at the University of Nizwa in the interior region of Oman last week (Oh yeah – weeks here are Saturday to Wednesday, just in case anyone is thrown off – I know I am). While we were there we witnessed a rare but increasingly common student march. They had the standard assortment of demands – job guarantees, higher pay, and cancelling loans – but they also had one I hadn’t heard before: access to more English instruction.

So, I suppose I should preface this by saying that all the classes at the University of Nizwa are taught in English – all of them. And these kids take some hard classes – microbiology, petrochemical engineering, calculus. And they are given absolutely no leeway in terms of language flexibility. From the conversations I had with my roommates they are seriously working their butts off not only to learn the course material, but also to learn it in English. I was talking to one student and he was lamenting how he got a B- in a class – when I asked him what it would’ve been if the class were in Arabic he unequivocally said A. For the 7000 students on the campus there is a small little annex on the far side of campus which houses a few staff who provide tutoring services. That’s it.

Now try to imagine this. You just graduated high school. You’ve done well on your mandatory huge graduation exams and made it into a good school. You’ve taken English for a few years but – you know – you don’t pay much attention to language classes in High School. You can “get by”.

Now fast forward to your first class on your first day at College. It’s philosophy 101 or something. Your instructor starts speaking in English as he hands out the syllabus. You can catch certain words, you know he’s talking about something in the future – but you’re struggling to keep up. A month later you have a test – you’re still trying to English-Arabic dictionary your way through the first day’s readings – it sucks. After my time in Nizwa I feel like, as a student who lucky enough to learn in his mother tongue, has no excuse to get any grade lower than an A.

Anyway – later that same night we the Sultan made several new Royal Decrees. I don’t think it’s directly because of the Nizwa student march (at all actually) but in response to protests around the country. Several ministries were reshuffled and without a doubt the biggest change was the abolishment – the abolishment – of the Ministry of the National Economy. The whole bloody thing! So yeah – that was last week. Stay tuned.

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