Muscat – the Gulf’s ‘jewel in the crown’

Often described as the Gulf’s ‘jewel in the crown’, Muscat – capital of Oman – offers an easy drive to Dubai, and a gateway to India, Sri Lanka and the Far East. Eteach caught up with Danny Harrison, Principal of Muscat’s ABQ international school, which is currently advertising various teaching positions, to learn more about his school, the city, and the reality of living and teaching in Oman.

Could you tell us a little about ABQ school?

ABQ is a private international school serving mainly Omani students. The school is over 20 years old, and is one of two schools owned by Al Omania Education services, part of the Iskan Investment Group.

Could you introduce us to the city of Muscat?

Muscat is the capital of Oman. It is an easy drive to Dubai, and a good gateway to India, Sri Lanka and the far East. Muscat is clean, boasts wonderful landscaped parks, roundabouts and roadsides, plenty of cafés, restaurants and quality resorts and hotels.

What’s it like as a city to live and work in for UK teachers?

Muscat is often referred to as ‘The jewel in the crown’ of Gulf countries. It is safe, easy to get around, the glitz of Dubai is only a four-hour drive away, yet the local nightlife, shopping, camping, and general amenities satisfy most needs.

Could you tell us a little about the area where the school is, and your facilities?

The school is centrally located in Bowshar, and is easy to access from most areas. Facilities are modest and functional. A swimming pool and artificial grass ¾ size football pitch are available, and seated and shaded areas are located around the school. Good quality science and IT labs, cafeteria and gathering spaces are available.

Tell us about the syllabus you teach, and the results students achieve.

We teach the main components of the curriculum of England and Wales, together with Arabic requirements of the MOE. At Grade 10 (Year 11) we offer IGCSE’s, and after this most students follow the Omani Thanweya programme, with a few doing A-levels. Results vary, with some achieving excellent grades.

What opportunities exist for UK teachers – and others working in education – to live and work in education in Oman generally?

There are a number of schools, ranging from top of the range (British School, American School), to a plethora of shonky schools which call themselves ‘international’, but in all reality they are just private schools in villas with very dodgy organisation. Salaries can range widely. There are four or five top Omani Private schools, of which ABQ is one.

And to work at your school

At ABQ our business model does not support a full staff of UK qualified (or equivalent) teachers. We have a profile which will support a core of UK teachers, with other less expensive teachers being drawn from other countries (Africa, India, Arabia). UK teachers then are expected to be role models and leaders for the other staff.

What would the major appeal be for someone coming from the UK?

It provides an entry into the international market in a safe and exciting location; an opportunity to work with a wide range of nationalities can be superb professional development.

And what are some of the drawbacks, compared with living and working in the UK?

Teachers will be working with a diverse range of colleagues, many of whom will not have the pedagogy, methodology and experience that is expected in UK schools. As a result, the UK teachers may feel they are being let down by colleagues from time to time. Public holidays called at short notice, MOE regulations, misunderstandings due to translation and cultural differences can all be frustrating.

What kind of candidates are you looking for, and how would the interview process take place?

We prefer candidates who can teach a variety of subjects if necessary. Interviews are almost always done by telephone. The school probably best suits young teachers ready for an adventure, and who can commit to at least two years. It is a good stepping-stone onto the international teaching circuit. Teachers need to be robust and not be daunted by finding accommodation, arranging transport etc.

What support do you offer new teachers?

We of course do what we can to help people settle in. We match them with established teachers and try to ensure that their social needs are met. At the start of the year we run a full week induction programme for all staff. We are not well positioned to mentor beginner teachers. MOE rules here require that all appointees have a minimum of two years teaching experience.

Are there any particular cultural and social aspects that Brits might want to know about before applying?

Our school is in a development phase. We do not have all the ‘bells and whistles’ that some others might have. The majority of students are learning in a second language and teachers need to be understanding and patient. Behaviour can be challenging, and teachers need to be good classroom managers. The majority of students are Islamic, and both they and their families will expect teachers to respect this. UK teachers can find local MOE guidelines quite different to what they are used to, and need to accept that they are working under different rules, standards and conditions.

Thanks very much for taking part.

ABQ school is currently advertising various vacancies with application closing dates in early November 2012, for a January or September 2013 start. Click here to view vacancies, or join this school’s Talent Pool from the same link, and be kept informed of future vacancies

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