The importance that Oman places on education is reflected by the fact that well over a quarter of the civil expenditure of the state budget is spent on the education system, though this has not always been the case. Until 1970, there were only three public schools in the country, and most other schools were Koran-based schools primarily aimed at teaching religious values. The public schools were elementary boys’ schools, located in Muscat, Mutrah and Salalah. Throughout the entire country, 909 students were taught by about 30 teachers. It was not until subsequent years that a school system free of charge was introduced and became accessible to the people of Oman. This system stands out for its quality in the Arab world. However, the previous generations that did not benefit from a good school system were not forgotten in shaping current education policy.
Naturally, as the education system in Oman grew, so did the gap in education between young and old people. To address this, Sultan Qaboos established a strong adult education system in parallel to the ever-improving public education system. There are now approximately 250 adult education centers and over 180 literacy centers open to every adult citizen of Oman. Anyone who wishes to do so will be instructed in Arabic reading and writing as well as various other educational courses.
While urban populations have been quickly and effectively integrated into the education system in recent decades, the process in more rural areas have tended to be slower. Since Oman is a vast country that is sparsely populated in some areas, creating educational opportunities is often not simple in more rural areas of the country. Now more than ever, it is possible to access remote regions and promote literacy in the deserts and smaller villages and towns on oases or desert outskirts. Particularly older women are extensively using the opportunities of adult education in the country with great enthusiasm because, in the past, they had little access to education in reading and writing.