Amman, Jordan Report of what it's like to live there - 02/10/21
Personal Experiences from Amman, Jordan
1. Are you the parent of a child(ren) attending this school? A teacher at the school? Or both?
Parent, 7th grader.
2. What grade or grades do/did your children attend at the school? During what year(s) did they attend the school?
6th and 7th grade.
3. What years did you live here?
4. What was your reason for living in the city where the school is located (e.g., government, military, corporate, NGO, retired)?
5. Are other schools available to expatriates in this city? Why did you choose this particular school?
Yes, a few. Most English-speaking expats send their kids to ACS.
Admissions & Welcome:
1. Are the admissions and placement procedures clearly stated to prospective families, either on the school website or through other means of communication?
It was fine, neither superb or poor.
2. How would you rate the school's support and welcome/integration of new students and their families, and why?
Uneventful. There was a student that reached out as a sort of student ambassador.
Administration & School Procedures:
1. How is the overall communication between teachers and parents, and the administration and parents? How is communication facilitated?
Confusing and poor, in my opinion. Assignments aren't posted on the websites regularly, and in our experience, teachers having varying comfort levels with the technology used. Kids didn't know where to look for their info and parents were inundated with information that could have been consolidated.
There were teachers who responded swiftly and accurately, but overall it was laborious. For example: Extra curricular info was an exhausting experience. You received an email that the newsletter was ready. Then you had to click a link, insert a password, get to a page that didn't really have any info, then you had to look for info that was buried 3-4 pages down and had to know you were looking for it. Then you would finally find it, sign up for the cooking activity, and receive an email thanking you for signing up for band. Then you are confused, go through the same thing, and get another band sign up. So you have to contact someone, ask if you did it wrong, if your kid is signed up for the right thing, they don't answer, you follow up several times, copy a principal, yes they are signed up, auto response is wrong, then you get an email your kid wasn't signed up on time, circle back, etc. You get the picture. It should not take two hours+ and 5 emails to get your kid into an extra curricular class. This kind of thing was constant.
2. Aside from school fees, are there required expenses such as uniforms, laptops/tablets, musical instruments, or field trips that parents are expected to cover? What are the approximate costs?
Just school supplies and special trips.
Academics & Resources:
1. Does the school have a library? How large is it? How updated are the books? Can students borrow books to read at home?
A beautiful space.
2. Describe the physical education resources at the school. Is there a gym? A swimming pool? Are there playing fields or tennis courts available?
The school advertises itself as a sports school but we found the facilities to be poor (pool is the exception) and you had to drive a lot to other places because transportation is not provided for activities. Limited team sports and even less for girls. Many families chose to enroll in outside programs which we found to be poorly organized and often ran late (as in games were scheduled but didn't start until 1-1.5 hours late). They had a fabulous swimming pool.
3. Are students generally challenged appropriately by the curriculum? Please describe any particular strengths or weaknesses in this area. Do you have any thoughts how the curriculum is applied and implemented at this school?
Seemingly dated curriculum. There was one assignment where 6th grade girls were asked to describe their ideal boyfriend, and boys were asked to describe an ideal girlfriend as part of a writing assignment. Yes, this is a hetero-normative, conservative Muslim country, but maybe then ask them to describe their ideal vacation/friend/adventure/day? Asking 12 yr olds to reflect on partners seemed odd.
There was also emphasis on teaching kids to advocate for themselves and manage their own workload and communications, which seems like a good idea. However, the school was not very good at minimizing confusion or providing the kids with a road map, so much time was spent with parents scrambling. Where is this assignment posted? When is this due?
There was an excellent math teacher and social studies teacher.
4. Is the amount and type of homework generally appropriate for the age and grade of the students?
Not a lot of homework.
5. What fine arts electives are available (music, drama, visual arts)?
Good drama program.
6. Are the teachers at the school required to speak English as a first language--or at least fluently?
I believe so.
7. What services are available for students with learning disabilities at this school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.
There are some basic supportive services for "light" disabilities. Extended test times, special support class.
8. What extra-curricular activities (including sports) are available at this school? Have your children participated in these activities? What activities do you feel are missing at the school?
Most after school programming was geared to young kids and, seemingly, toward girls. Sports were very limited and many parents were getting increasingly frustrated with the school about the lack of physical activity options. This is incredibly important in a city with virtually no parks, lawns, bike trails or even good side walks and much housing being apartments. Kids had nowhere to blow off steam, the school said they had no staffing for such programs, and when parents volunteered it was still not feasible for some reason.
There were very few games (in one case, training all season for one game) and there was overlap between sports seasons which was very confusing. There is a very vibrant swimming program and a stunningly gorgeous pool facility that is brand new. I did not know anyone who participated, but just judging the book by its cover, the pool may be the best I have ever seen in a school.
When we were there, there were no field trips. Jordan had a terrible flash flood and several school children died some years back, so the MIN of ED said no more field trips to anywhere.
Social & Emotional Well-Being:
1. What is the climate for LGBT+ kids at this school? Are there resources they can draw upon? Does there appear to be any exclusionary behavior?
Very hetero-normative and not inclusive. This is a conservative society where people live with their parents until they marry. Being gay in middle or high school is not an option, sadly. I heard several homophobic slurs used by middle schoolers in casual conversation, who did not know better because this was socially acceptable language and there was no education at school or at home about that.
2. Do expatriate students socialize with local students at the school? Are both groups successfully integrated into the school culture?
Yes, there are several very wealthy local families who are connected to the royal family somehow. There does seem to be overlap between the wealthy Jordanians and expats, but it feels separate.
3. Are there are any problems with exclusionary behavior, cliques, or bullying at this school? Please describe any problems your children may have experienced in this area.
We did not experience this.
1. What letter grade (ranging from A, excellent, to F, fail) would you assign to this school based on your overall experience? Would you choose it again?
2. Please describe some of your child's/children's highlights and challenges during their time at this school.
Highlight was a nice group of friends. Challenge was the lack of physical activity or available "fun" for that age group. Many people were pleased with the school but we found it merely adequate.
3. Please tell us anything else you think prospective parents and students should know about this school. Thanks for your contribution!
Even though the school is close, traffic is terrible. Anything after school requires budgeting a lot of travel time. Also, many guest speakers, orientations, parent meetings, etc. were scheduled in the day. The schools seems to have a very traditional view of family life, so the assumption is that there is a stay at home mom who can come to school for a PTA coffee, mid-morning on a Tuesday. The idea that both parents work or that there is a single parent is not considered when scheduling parent events. Permission slips had to be signed by mother and father and when I signed alone, it was returned to me for completion (what about single parents?).
Jordanians are a friendly and well-educated people, but this is coupled with a mindset that is 2-3 decades behind mainstream American life at this school. Having lived in Turkey, we just assumed this would be a child-centric society too, but were surprised by how limited activities were for kids, both from the school and life in general.