The ABA Story
ABA Oman International School (formerly ABA – an IB World School and The American-British Academy) is known locally and internationally as a well-established International Baccalaureate (IB) school and as a great place for students of all backgrounds to live and learn together.
The motivation for starting the school arose early in 1987, following the announcement of the forthcoming closure of the secondary department of Muscat English Speaking School. A Parent Teachers Association (PTA) Action Group led the way forward with initial sponsorship from the American Embassy. Initially, all interested parties agreed that the curriculum would have to satisfy both American and British systems and enable students to successfully transfer back to the educational systems of their home countries. The eventual program of studies offered an American-style high school diploma, based on a traditional credit system, in tandem with the University of Cambridge’s International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) at Grades Nine and Ten as well as the International Baccalaureate Diploma (IBDP) in the final two years of High School. The Elementary and Middle School curricula were internally developed based on the best practices of both American and British pedagogy.
The purpose of ABA changed over the years, as a multinational student population became more prevalent. The imported curricula from the USA and the UK became an awkward fit for a school, which emphasized its international ethos. In 1998 the American Embassy’s request that ABA drop its offering of IGCSE and IB and replace it with the American College Board’s offering of Advanced Placement (AP) placed ABA in a quandary. The school had moved from its infancy stage to ‘adolescence’. ABA Board of Directors made the decision to maintain the school’s international offering of the IGCSE and the IB. The consequence of this decision in 1999 was a move from the diplomatic cover offered by the American Embassy to the British Embassy.
The need to move beyond the use of ‘internationalism’ as merely cosmetic to attract more students to ABA led the administration and faculty to find a new identity as a proper international school by creating an educational program genuinely different from that available at the British School Muscat and the newly opened American International School of Muscat. With a student body representing 50 nationalities, ABA was strongly committed to bringing an international and multi-cultural perspective into all aspects of our students’ school life. Recognizing also, that we are a cultural and community center for expatriates in Muscat, work began on helping families make the transition to life in Oman with social gatherings and informational coffee mornings.
In September 1998 ABA began review of the IB Primary Years Programme (ages 3 – 11) and the IB Middle Years Programme (ages 11 – 16) and the appropriateness of both programmes for ABA student body. After five years of investigating, synthesizing information, applying and finally implementing both programs, ABA finally completed its introduction of a curriculum 3 – 18, all now under the aegis of the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) designed for use in internationally-minded schools throughout the world. In addition, ABA led the international community in the integration of the IGCSE within the IBMYP framework. Working in collaboration with practitioners from Munich International School (MIS) and the University of Cambridge, ABA successfully demonstrated that education reform within the IBMYP is possible. In April 2004, the University of Cambridge and the International Baccalaureate Organization co-sponsored an International Symposium on the integrated IBMYP/IGCSE curriculum here in Muscat. ABA and MIS organized the Symposium for like-minded schools around the world.
In 2004, ABA became the first IB World School in the Gulf region, authorized to offer the IB Primary Years Program, IB Middle Years Program and the IB Diploma.
During this critical period of growth and the establishment of a school with a strong reputation, ABA was led by Mona Nashman-Smith MBE. Her vision for the school was significant. After stepping down in 2014, her contributions over many years were not only recognized in school but by Her Majesty the Queen who awarded her an MBE in 2016.
After a busy interim transition year when ABA was headed by Tricia Herbert, Simon Taylor assumed the position of Superintendent in 2015. The school underwent a review of its Mission, Vision and Values, a process that validated the current statements and set the ground for further development. Building on a strong community spirit among parents and staff, ABA has continued to enhance communication and transparency in our work. In all curriculum work, the focus has been on consolidating the three IB programmes and improving further the quality of teaching and learning. The introduction of systems to support planning, tracking, and reporting has further helped communication and understanding. The development of sports and the arts as well as the introduction of technology throughout the school also mark this period.
The greater reflection on practice both in the classroom, on support services and the school has been key in recent years, in particular as part of the recent CIS/MSA accreditation process and the IB evaluation. The strengths of the school and the areas in need of strengthening identified by the staff were echoed by the visiting team. ABA knows itself quite well and knows what it needs to do.
Of all the projects in recent years, one is notable for the potential it offers – the development of a new ABA campus at Al Irfan - Airport heights. The ABA Board undertook a study and made the decision to develop a new campus. Inspiring learning, study and meeting spaces, extensive sports and arts opportunities, landscaped grounds and technologically advanced facilities characterise the design that will be home for the new ABA campus.
In 2019, Dr. Susan R. Groesbeck provided interim leadership for the 1000 students at ABA at a difficult time in Oman’s history when the country saw the passing of his Majesty Sultan Qaboos and the world suffered through the COVID-19 pandemic. During Summer 2020, Craig Williamson took over the Head of School position and will see the transition to the new campus through to fruition.