In 1970 there were only three official (governmentrun) schools in the country of Oman, with slightly more than 900 pupils. In fact, these three schools were reserved for boys that were personally chosen by the former sultan. In addition to these official schools, there was a religious institute with an enrollment of about 50 boys, three private schools for Hyderabadis (Indians), and one U.S. missionary school for 50 girls. Schools were, and continue to be, segregated by gender in Oman; the exception to this is rural schools where a lack of facility space requires gender-mixed schools.
In contrast to small enrollments and a few schools in 1970, by 1998 there were more than 950 government schools, 84 private schools, 192 adult education schools, and 228 literacy centers. In addition to these educational facilities, a special school for children with hearing impairments and a special school for children with intellectual impairments were established in the 1980s. However, by 1998, a special school for children with visual impairments had not yet been established, resulting in many of these students being sent to neighboring countries to get an education.
In 1970 the adult illiteracy rate, according to the Europa World Yearbook 2000, was at a high of 80 percent. By 1994, under the leadership of Sultan Qabus, who made the expansion of the school system a national priority, government education expenditures rose to 4.5 percent of GNP and had grown to represent 15.5 percent of all government expenditures. By 1995 adult illiteracy had dropped to 36 percent, and government literacy centers had been successful in helping to correct illiteracy problem. By 2000 the illiteracy rate had dropped further nearing about 20 percent.