Transformation in Oman: education and the political settlement

In the 1970s Oman was said to be 'rushing headlong into the fifteenth century'. It had three primary schools teaching just 900 boys, and no secondary schools. There was one hospital, ten kilometres of paved road, and the average life expectancy was 50 years of age at a time when the OECD average was 70.

After four decades under its current ruler, Sultan Qaboos, 98% of Oman's school-age children are in primary school and 98% of young adults are literate. The World Health Organisation has ranked Oman first out of 191 countries in 'health care system performance and outcome'. In 2010, the UNDP judged Oman to be the 'most improved nation' since 1970, with a life expectancy of 76 against the OECD average of 80.

Why did such dramatic changes occur under Sultan Qaboos while Yemen – roughly comparable to Oman in 1970 – remains one of the world's least developed nations? Building on Dr Sarah Phillips' study of Yemen's dysfunction and Dr Jennifer Hunt's specialisation in Oman/GCC, in this project they will explore Oman's transformation. They will examine in particular Qaboos' emphasis on the need for universal education, in contrast to his father's view of mass education as a political threat, and the role of the educated Omanis that Qaboos invited to return from Zanzibar. The study will also look at the structural factors that shaped Oman's post-1970 political settlement and supported Qaboos' style of developmental leadership.



Dr Sarah Phillips

Dr Jennifer Hunt






Dr Sarah Phillips and Dr Jennifer Hunt (University of Sydney)


Related items

Somaliland's route to peace

What can we learn from Somaliland's approach to peacebuilding? 

Opinion by Sarah Phillips 12th December 2013

Education, development, and the problem with consensus

Why rethink the international consensus on 'quality basic education for development'?

Opinion by Michele Schweisfurth 7th April 2014

What do we do on Monday? Political settlements in theory and practice

The value of the political settlements framework

Opinion by Edward Laws 15th July 2015

Shuffling the decks: quick fixes versus long-term stability

Guest post for Development Progress on 'post-conflict' DRC

Opinion by Suda Perera 22nd January 2015

Indonesia and the political settlements trap

The challenges of 'resettling the settlement'

Opinion by Graham Teskey 17th July 2015

Developmental leadership: putting inclusiveness first

Inclusiveness should be the first step towards building more robust states.

Opinion by Seth D. Kaplan 24th September 2015

Authoritarianism, democracy and development

What does the evidence say?

Opinion by Tim Kelsall 27th November 2014

The inclusiveness test: making change work

Guest post for openDemocracy

Opinion by Alina Rocha Menocal 4th November 2015

Inclusive political settlements: who and what gets included, and how?

First of six posts on political settlements by researchers, policymakers and practitioners.

Opinion by Alina Rocha Menocal 13th July 2015

Pacific power: new femininities and women's leadership in the Pacific

The educated, internationally connected women who are changing the way 'development' is done

Opinion by Ceridwen Spark 24th June 2014

Two remarkable transitions: lessons from Oman and Somaliland

Political settlements and international power structures

Opinion by Sarah Phillips 20th July 2015

Is education a magic bullet for addressing corruption? Insights from Papua New Guinea

This post for Devpolicy unpacks the findings of a new Development Policy Centre / DLP paper 

Opinion by Grant Walton 17th June 2015

About DLP

The Developmental Leadership Program (DLP) is an international research initiative that explores how leadership, power and political processes drive or block successful development.

DLP focuses on the crucial role of home-grown leaderships and coalitions in forging legitimate political settlements and institutions that promote developmental outcomes, such as sustainable growth, political stability and inclusive social development.

Find out more


New article: A typology of interaction between politicians and bureaucrats

Tuesday 14th March 2017

DLP Research Fellow Niheer Dasandi has co-authored a new article on how bureaucrats and politicians interact, and how this affects reform efforts. It appears in 'Public Administration and Development'.

Read more

Power and systems, and their role in developmental change: Guest seminar with Duncan Green

Tuesday 21st February 2017

Seeing power and complex social systems clearly is the first step towards supporting positive developmental change, says Oxfam Strategic Director and DLP research partner Duncan Green. He discussed the themes of his latest book at a recent International Development Department guest seminar at the University of Birmingham.

Read more

Follow: @dlprog