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 explore Oman's transformation. They 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 also looks at the structural factors that shaped Oman's post-1970 political settlement and supported Qaboos' style of developmental leadership.
Dr Sarah Phillips and Dr Jennifer Hunt (University of Sydney)