Addressing the Challenges of Cross-Cultural Understanding through Service Learning in Higher Education: the Oman experience

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ABSTRACT Globally, teachers need to expand their knowledge of other peoples and cultures. As a
case in point, Oman is challenged by a problem of separation between national and expatriate
populations. Expatriate students attend either international or expatriate community schools, whereas
Omani children can only attend government schools or Arabic/English private schools. The teacher
education program at Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) in Oman was able to implement a service
learning project that helped students cross cultural boundaries while improving their own English
language skills. Using a mixed-method approach in data analysis, this study discusses the experiences of
thirty EFL student teachers involved in the experiment. Expatriate teachers and principals had
expressed a need for their students to learn more about Omani culture. In response, student teachers
prepared 45 cultural kits that included written reports, presentations and artefacts, which they
presented to classes. Not only did expatriate teachers and K-12 students learn about Omani culture, but
more importantly, student teachers developed new cultural awareness about the expatriate
populations with whom they seldom have an opportunity to interact or exchange ideas and cultural
values. The ‘ELT [English Language Training] Multicultural Awareness Transaction Model’ has
application potential not only in teacher education, but also in EFL or ESL classes where cultural
exchange is important.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCitizenship, Social and Economics Education
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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