Muscat, Oman Real School Experiences

Personal Experiences from Muscat, Oman

Muscat, Oman 10/26/17

The American International School (TAISM)

School Website

http://www.taism.com


Background Information:

1. Are you the parent of a child(ren) attending this school? A teacher at the school? Or both?

Parent of elementary student

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2. What grade or grades do/did your children attend at the school? During what year(s) did they attend the school?

Grades 3-5; 2016-2018

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3. What was your reason for living in the city where the school is located (e.g., government, military, corporate, NGO, retired)?

US Embassy family

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4. Are other schools available to expatriates in this city? Why did you choose this particular school?

There is a British and Canadian school but I'd say about 99% of Embassy families use TAISM for K-12. We chose TAISM for the American curriculum focus and truly "international" student population.

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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?

Yes it was very easy and we received notification of admission well in advance. It was a worry and stress-free process.

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2. How would you rate the school's support and welcome/integration of new students and their families, and why?

There is a student Ambassador program. At orientation/registration days they had students of all ages available to give tours which was very helpful.

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Administration & School Procedures:

1. How is the overall communication between teachers and parents, and the administration and parents? How is communication facilitated?

I'd say it's pretty decent. There is a weekly Elementary school newsletter that covers all the bases. Classroom communication varies from teacher to teacher of course but all of the teachers we had, communicated weekly via email and also maintained classroom blogs and other social media sites. My only frustration is the academic calendar that is put out each year is not conclusive. It lists only the major holidays and non of the in-service days i.e. parent/teacher conferences, teacher training, etc. Granted, the newsletter would show these pop-up days a few weeks in advance. But for planning purposes I would rather know ahead of time all of the days off for the year.

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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?

Uniforms are required. Every other day the uniform switches between PE and regular. The PE uniform is a pair of blue athletic shorts and a gray shirt. The regular uniform consists of a TAISM polo (in red, white, or blue). The kids can wear any appropriate bottoms they choose. There are logo hoodies that are the only approved jackets to wear in class. We have never found the need for one. I would say we spent about $60 per year on uniform items from the school. The CLO at the Embassy hosts a uniform swap each year as well. Hot lunch is available for purchase but is pricey (elementary is $5.20). The classroom parents usually collect about $12 for the year to cover event fees and gift for the teacher.

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Academics & Resources:

1. What personal or academic counseling resources are available at this school? Is there a dedicated college counselor at the school? Is he/she familiar with universities worldwide?

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2. Is there before and/or after-school daycare available? What are the costs?

There are ASA (after school activities). Do NOT count on these to defray care costs i.e. they are not available from day 1 to the last day of school. The options are pretty limited and you'd be lucky for your student to find 1 activity 1 day per week they want to do. There is really no chance of finding something that runs 5 days/week. There is a separate ASA bus that takes them home if they do participate.

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3. Does the school have a library? How large is it? How updated are the books? Can students borrow books to read at home?

Yes and a pretty fantastic one! My student loves going to the library. He checks out books at his leisure and does bring them home.

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4. What are the technology requirements for students? Do they need their own laptops/ipads? How is technology integrated into the classroom and homework?

For elementary they have classroom iPads to use at school. Some teachers do assign homework that requires technology but we have chosen to abstain. The teachers have been supportive of our personal policy of no electronics use at home during the week.

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5. How are information technology resources at the school. Are they up-to-date? Is there a computer lab?

Yes the technology use and curriculum is up-to-date. The kids are even learning to do some "coding" which they seem to enjoy.

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6. Describe the physical education resources at the school. Is there a gym? A swimming pool? Are there playing fields or tennis courts available?

We were happy to see a robust PE program at the school. As previously mentioned they have PE every other day and do a large variety of activities. There is usually a swimming portion for 5 weeks so a pair of goggles and swimwear will be needed. The swimming pool is very nice and up to competitive standards.

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7. What is the approximate teacher-to-student ratio in the grades that your child attended?

On average 18-20 students for 1 teacher

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8. Are Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses available in upper grades? If this is an IB school, is the full diploma required of all students?

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9. 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?

I feel that the curriculum is appropriate and challenging. I think the teachers do a great job of meeting the "check the box" standards required by the American system and integrating other methods and material they have learned along the way.

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10. Is the amount and type of homework generally appropriate for the age and grade of the students?

I do believe so. For grades 3-4 it's been about 25 minutes with 10-15 of that reading.

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11. What fine arts electives are available (music, drama, visual arts)?

All of the above

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12. Are the teachers at the school required to speak English as a first language--or at least fluently?

Yes

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13. What services are available for gifted/advanced students at the school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.

None that I am aware of. You'd have to take advantage of the DOS stipend available if you think your child is gifted.

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14. What services are available for students with learning disabilities at this school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.

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15. What services are available for students with physical disabilities at this school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.

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16. What services are provided for speakers of English as a second language at this school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.

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17. 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?

The ASAs mentioned above for elementary. There is also a learn to swim program and swim "team" (non competitive). For MS and HS there seems to be a decent program. I know they travel regionally as well.

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Social & Emotional Well-Being:

1. Do expatriate students socialize with local students at the school? Are both groups successfully integrated into the school culture?

I feel they are. This is truly an international school with an international population. Like many other schools in the world the local population does NOT dominate, which we have found to be a blessing. The majority "third-country nationals" literally hail from every single corner of the globe. Check the school website for more info.

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2. 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.

None that I am aware of. There have been some minor "bullying" issues on the bus (keep in mind this is the bus dedicated to US Embassy families - so an insular problem we as a community need to manage).

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Overall Impressions:

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?

A+. Absolutely! Wish we could pick this school up and take it with us to our next post.

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2. Please tell us anything else you think prospective parents and students should know about this school. Thanks for your contribution!

TAISM has been such a fantastic experience for us! It definitely set the bar high for future bidding considerations. Muscat is not the most exciting post in the world but if you want a safe family environment with a great school then this is the place to be.

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Muscat, Oman 04/06/14

The American International School of Muscat

School Website

http://www.taism.com


Background Information:

1. Are you the parent of a child(ren) attending this school? A teacher at the school? Or both?

Parent.

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2. What grade or grades do/did your children attend at the school? During what year(s) did they attend the school?

First and second grade.

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3. During what years were you affiliated with this school?

2010-2012.

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4. What was your reason for living in the city where the school is located (e.g., government, military, corporate, NGO, retired)?

I worked at the U.S. Embassy.

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5. Are other schools available to expatriates in this city? Why did you choose this particular school?

The vast majority of Embassy families sent their kids here. There was another school, the American British Academy, that also had a few embassy kids, but we were arriving right before school started and I didn't have time to do much looking beforehand.

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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?

No issues - the staff was professional, responsive, and helpful.

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2. How would you rate the school's support and welcome/integration of new students and their families, and why?

No issues here.

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Administration & School Procedures:

1. Describe the general climate of the grade level that you teach or your child attends:

This school is the Cadillac of International schools. It's incredibly well-funded and professional. My son was in a class with about 20 kids, a teacher, and an assistant.

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2. For the following attributes, down to the next blank box, grade your experience at the school on a scale of A (excellent) to F (unacceptable/terrible) and provide comments:<br><br>Overall fair and equitable treatment of all students and families:

Wonderful. The school was made up of a good mix of expat families from all over the globe and everyone was treated fairly.

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3. How is the overall communication between teachers and parents, and the administration and parents? How is communication facilitated?

Fantastic. The teacher had a blog with photos and descriptions of what the kids were doing, it was also very helpful to send to the grandparents so they were aware of what the kids were doing.

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4. Services for gifted students who need academic challenge and students with learning difficulties:

They have full-time counselors and special support staff at all grade levels.

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5. Availability and variety of after-school activities for various ages:

Too many to name - AND, they offer late buses at no extra charge so your child can get home after they are done.

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6. Maintenance of appropriately high standards for all students:

No issues. This school is excellent in every respect.

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7. Homework assigned (quality, quantity):

No issues, it was just right.

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8. Administration-parent communication:

Very responsive.

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9. Teacher-student communication:

No issues, very approachable and helpful.

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10. Academics, answer the following questions "yes" or "no" with an explanation if appropriate:<br><br>Are there any classes or subjects where students are not appropriately challenged?

No.

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11. Does your child receive any special-needs assistance or instruction at this school? If yes, what types? Who provides services and where:

He did, and they were very helpful. He received pull out support once or twice per week and it was always very clear what was being done with him during this time.

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12. Do you believe the special-needs assistance is appropriate and fills your needs? Explain:

Yes, the staff at this school know what they are doing.

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13. Does the school offer a wide variety of elective or non-core classes such as art, music, and drama?

At the lower grades, the kids could take a world language, art, and music.

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14. Please describe any classes or programs that you believe are missing:

None.

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15. Are there academic requirements such as trips or other activities that cost money in addition to school fees?

No.

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16. What activities do you feel are missing?

None.

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17. Have your children participated in the activities offered? If no, please indicate why:

Yes, and they took advantage of the late bus home.

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18. Does the school provide appropriate assistance to new students?

Yes, absolutely.

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19. Please describe any problem areas or challenges in social interaction at the school:

None at all.

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Academics & Resources:

1. What personal or academic counseling resources are available at this school? Is there a dedicated college counselor at the school? Is he/she familiar with universities worldwide?

The elementary school counselor was a wonderful guy and my son spoke of him often after we left.

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2. Does the school have a library? How large is it? How updated are the books? Can students borrow books to read at home?

An amazing library.

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3. How are information technology resources at the school. Are they up-to-date? Is there a computer lab?

Their computer lab is outstanding and my elementary school-aged child received IT instruction regularly.

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4. Describe the physical education resources at the school. Is there a gym? A swimming pool? Are there playing fields or tennis courts available?

Great - they have a beautiful pool and all children benefit from free swimming lessons on the weekends.

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5. What is the approximate teacher-to-student ratio in the grades that your child attended?

20 to 1 or so, but with an assistant.

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6. Are Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses available in upper grades? If this is an IB school, is the full diploma required of all students?

Yes, at the higher levels.

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7. Is the amount and type of homework generally appropriate for the age and grade of the students?

Yes.

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8. What fine arts electives are available (music, drama, visual arts)?

Amazing! Check out the website and see their state of the art theater - the school was created with the support and blessing of His Majesty, the Sultan of Oman, who is himself an avid music lover, so it's no surprise that music and the arts are so heavily stressed here.

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9. Are the teachers at the school required to speak English as a first language--or at least fluently?

Yes.

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10. What services are available for gifted/advanced students at the school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.

No.

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11. 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?

Yes, absolutely.

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Social & Emotional Well-Being:

1. Do expatriate students socialize with local students at the school? Are both groups successfully integrated into the school culture?

Not really. The school has such an international component, it doesn't really have any contact with other schools. Kids in the older grades compete against other international schools in sports, but I don't think that is what this question is referring to. I believe that the only way an Omani child could attend this school is if one parent was non-Omani, so the majority of kids were expats.

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2. 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.

No.

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Overall Impressions:

1. What is the greatest strength of this school?

Now that I have left Oman I can see just how awesome this school was. It might be one of the best schools he will ever attend. It's large, well funded, and attracts top notch teachers.

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2. Greatest challenge?

None, really.

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3. Would you choose this school again? Why?

Someday my dream is to go back so my kids can graduate from high school here.

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