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Thinking through Oman's Current and Future Educational Demands

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This is Part 3 of a Series of Articles on How to Move Past Austerity and Oil in a New Omani Economy. The first article was called: Modest Development Proposal for my Omani Friends: An Aircraft Industry for Oman. The second article was: Another Modest Development Proposal for my Omani Friends: Renewable Energy . In each of the essays, comparisons between Kansas (my homestate) and Oman are undertaken in a way that focuses on past, present and future Omani development. Oman, like all of the GCC countries is overdependent on petroleum industries and needs to think through new possible development activities--and implement them very quickly.

by Kevin A. Stoda, from Kansas but living in Oman for five years now & Comparative Historian

In the 18th century, both Kansas of today and Oman of today, were parts of empires that straddled two or more continents. Kansas was claimed by the Spanish and French Empires. Much of present day Oman was central to the Kingdom of Oman & Zanzibar and were part of an empire that spread from South Asia to Southeastern Africa to the islands and the inland of present-day Kenya and Tanzania, most notably including Zanzibar and other Spice Islands.

Neither the French Empire in the Americas nor the Omani regimes in its Indian Ocean realm spread out were very much interested in an educated populace. In fact, both (France, most notably in present day Haiti) and Oman in Africa were more interested in buying and selling slaves and building plantations. On the other hand, both were also interested in sending missionaries on the coasts, up the rivers or around the islands and even into the highlands (or high plains) to carry out their religious mandates to propagate their faiths.

Records of muslim faith expeditions into the dark continent record marches into western Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Mozambique territories. Catholic missions were to be found throughout the present day southwest in the USA and up the Mississipi and Missour Rivers. Schools, centers or madrasas to teach reading Korianic Arabic of the Africans was likely under taken by the Muslim mission leaders, but in the case of Kansas and most of the nearby Missouri river basin there is no record of French missions founding any missions for natives has been recorded.

In contrast, wasn't until nearly a quarter of a century after the United States had bought from France in 1804 the Louisiana Territory (where Kansas is now located) that American churchmen first arrive in the Kansas territories to offer mission schools to the native peoples.

History of Development of Kansas Schools Colleges & Universities

Catholic and Methodist missions were founded west of the Missouri state line in Kansas in 1837. The township and school districts in that metropolis were eventually named Shawnee-Mission. Meanwhile, it wasn't until the 1850s or 1860s that Kansas' first public school buildings were constructed. Some were made with imported wood. Others were built with earthen sod or even local rock.

It wasn't until "1866 [that] Leavenworth [Kansas] established the first public high school in the state. Classes for all grades (1-12) were held in one school building until 1875 when a separate high school was constructed."

However, by the 1870s and 1880s school construction was taking place throughout the state of Kansas (and its 82 million square miles of land). "As settlers built towns and cities across Kansas, communities were quick to establish public schools. Providing an education for their children was a priority. Soon colleges and universities also were begun although, during the 19th century, most Kansans did not attend school past the eighth grade. Schooling consisted primarily of the 'three R's' ("readin', 'ritin' and 'rithmetic")."

The Kansas public school system (prekindergarten through grade 12) currently operates within districts governed by locally elected school boards and superintendents. Kansas public schools have just under 500,000 students enrolled in a total of 1,351 schools in 321 school districts. Until the past few decades, i.e. as austerity and highway building became more important than education, Kansas public schools were ranked high nationally year-after-year.

In 1858, Kansas' first (or oldest) private college was opened in Baldwin City, Baker College. It was named for Osmon Cleander Baker, a Methodist Episcopal biblical scholar and bishop. It has been been associated with the Methodist churches of the local communities and across America. Dozens and dozens of similar institutions were founded by churches in the state over the next half decade.

For example, my first college alma mater, Bethel College in North Newton, Kansas, was founded in 1887. It is still affiliated with the churches that founded it. Starting in the 1870s, thousands of Russian Mennonites had begun arriving in Kansas. Under the Russian Tsars these same German-speaking settlers had been allowed to run their own educational institutions. First, in 1882, they opened Emmental, a training school for teachers, north of Newton, Kansas. Soon this school was moved to Halstead, Kansas. Finally, the final site was found in North Newton, Kansas, and the cornerstone of the main building was laid on October 12, 1888.

Kansas has historically had an astoundingly large number of private institutions of tertiary education. There are currently about 28 such institutions operating in Kansas. There are also many schools not on this list (below) that have operations in Kansas:

When I went to attend Bethel College in Kansas in the autumn of 1980 there were nearly a dozen more tertiary level institutions not now shown on the list above. For example, there were many small liberal arts colleges, like St. John's College at Winfield and S t. Mary's of the Plains in Dodge City, who closed their doors soon there-after. In all, since the 1860s there have been over 40 more such private educational institutions in Kansas, which are now defunct.

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KEVIN STODA-has been blessed to have either traveled in or worked in nearly 100 countries on five continents over the past two and a half decades.--He sees himself as a peace educator and have been-- a promoter of good economic and social development--making-him an enemy of my homelands humongous DEFENSE SPENDING and its focus on using weapons to try and solve global (more...)

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