Caring, Sharing and Giving without any Hesitation: Teacher Educators’ Perceptions and Practices of Citizenship Education at Sultan Qaboos University in Oman

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July 2021

Source: European Journal of Educational Research, Volume 10 Issue 3, Pages: 1437-1447

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This article highlights the necessity of discovering the perspectives of a group of teacher educators (TEs) in one college of education in one Arab country, namely Oman, to understand how this concept is perceived outside the context where it was generated and where it has evolved.
It was assumed in some previous studies that teacher educators have a richer perspective than their students on the relationship between citizenship and preparing teachers for developing citizenship (Estelles & Romero, 2018). Focusing on exploring the perceptions of TEs on citizenship education (CE) in Oman, will help to understand to what extent those educators take this issue into consideration when they prepare future teachers.

Methodology

Research Goal
Exploring the perceptions of TEs on CE in the College of Education, Sultan Qaboos University, in order to understand to what extent those educators take this issue into consideration when they prepare future teachers.

The Context of the Study
The College of Education (COE), which was opened in 1986, at Sultan Qaboos University, offers teachers preparation programmes for middle and high school at undergraduate and postgraduate degree.
The college was established mainly to prepare effective teachers, to assist in achieving a good education in the Country.
According to AlRubay'ee (2004), the college specifically aimed to prepare qualified teachers with positive attitudes to employ new teaching methods and direct attention to reinforcing Islamic and Arabic values with student teachers (STs).
Although the COE has undergone several developments during the current decade, among them international accreditation, CE has not yet been transferred into a policy in the college.
Therefore, the present study originates from the necessity for exploring how CE is perceived and practised by the college's faculty members in addition to exploring their views about the ways to incorporate it.

Sample and Data Collection
The participants were selected purposefully as it was important to reach those TEs who have some interest in CE in terms of research and teaching.
Five participants fulfilled this criterion, and all of them agreed to take part in the study.

Analyzing of Data
The study is based on a qualitative methodology to collect data and analyse it (Radnor, 2002).
The aim of employing semi-structured interviews was to obtain in-depth qualitative data.
The author seeks to examine candidates' interpretation of various discourses of CE, their definitions of citizenship and CE, and their practices related to CE.
The goal was not to assess for the "correct" definition of CE, but to determine if the candidates had a critical and self-reflective understanding of CE and the ability to incorporate it in their courses accordingly.
Analysing of the data was done by identifying the themes emerging from the transcriptions.

Findings and discussion
It is clear that participants have a strong sense of nationalism irrespective of their nationality.
The views of the participants related to the minimalist perspective on citizenship described by Kerr (2002).
While building citizenship that enhances participation politically and economically is crucial for Oman currently, the TEs stressed a nationalist perspective on citizenship that revolves around symbolic deeds.
These understandings of citizenship are highly influenced by social and political discourses of citizenship which stress patriotism and citizens' obligations.
In addition, they seem pertinent to the Islamic principles that emphasise obligation towards the community over the individual's rights in order to strengthen social solidarity (AlMaamari, 2009).
Based on the typology of Westheimer and Kahne (2004), this kind of citizen must have good character, be honest, and be a law-abiding member of the community.
Interestingly, the TEs seldom referred to the other two kinds of citizen mentioned by this typology, namely participatory and justice-oriented.
This result validated the result reached by the studies conducted by both Li and Tan (2017) in China and Estelles and Romero (2018) in Spain, which reveal that teachers and TEs understand citizenship through personally responsible practices.
Associating citizenship and its practices with a personally responsible vision showed a clear influence of the context on understanding citizenship.
TEs believed that teachers are prepared to accept social realities, as criticising them might lead to a person being regarded as a negative citizen.
Kerr (2002) described this as a minimalist kind of CE, which is content-led and teacher-based.
It is totally different from the maximalist concept that focuses on discussion, debate and active participation.
As the TEs understand CE in a narrow sense, their limited practices in and perspectives on incorporating it in teacher preparation programmes are influenced by their perceptions of CE.
Accordingly, their practices were limited and focused on either nationalistic values such as being proud of Arab and Muslim scientists or personal traits like cooperation, cleanliness and coexistence.
Therefore, a majority of them were in favour of introducing a distinct course for it instead of introducing it as an interdisciplinary issue in all courses, especially as it regards the main outcome for all students of the university.
Therefore, they feel that there is a need for professional training on CE.
TEs expressed personally responsible vision of citizenship which might not be compatible with what is expected from teachers' learning nationally and internationally.
At the national level, Omani teachers are expected to be taught according to a new philosophy of education which was issued in 2017 and stressed developing a citizen to meet the requirements of 21st century challenges.
In addition, productive citizenship is regarded by Sultan Qaboos University, where the participating educators worked, as one main outcome that is to be achieved by all graduates, including the STs.
With regard to the international level, it has been agreed by many scholars that achieving the requirements of citizenship that have been echoed around the world in the last two decades will be difficult if teachers are ill-prepared for developing citizenship.
Therefore, educational aims stated in Oman's philosophy of education risk failure unless TEs incorporate CE as the main outcome of their courses.

References
AlMaamari, S. (2009). Citizenship education in initial teacher education in the Sultanate of Oman: an exploratory study of the perceptions of student teachers of social studies and their tutors [Unpublished doctoral dissertation]. University of Glasgow.
AlRubay’ee, S. (2004). Teacher preparation and training in Oman: Achievements and ambitions. New Colour Press. (In Arabic)
Estelles, M., & Romero, J. (2018). Tacit assumptions of citizenship education: A case study in Spanish initial teacher education, Education, Citizenship, Social Justice 14(2), 131-148.
Kerr, D. (2002). Citizenship education: an international comparison across sixteen countries. International Journal of Social Education, 17(1), 1-15.
Li, H., & Tan, C. (2017). Chinese teachers' perceptions of the 'good citizen': A personally-responsible citizen, Journal of Moral Education, 46(1), 34-45.
Radnor, H. (2002). Researching your professional practice: doing interpretive research. Open University.
Westheimer, J., & Kahne, J. (2004). What kind of citizen? The politics of educating for democracy. American Educational Research Journal, 41(2), 237–269

Updated: Nov. 02, 2021
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