The country of Oman forms what you might call the “ball of the foot” of the Arabian Peninsula: on the southeast corner, at the entrance to the Persian Gulf, a medium-sized country compared to its neighbours. It is an absolute monarchy, and has much more modest oil reserves than others. About forty-five years ago the country embarked on a program of modernization and economic reform that has wrestled with the transition from a tribal order to a system where more modern forms of governance are gaining a foothold. Others more than expert than I can discuss the complexities, strengths and deficiencies of these decades. The country does fare better than most of its neighbours by many measures.
The orbits of SMUS and Oman have intersected in the efforts of the country to improve their education. The Takatuf Scholars, funded by oil revenue, is a program to place a handful of the country’s top students abroad for six years: two years in a top boarding school that will prepare the students for four years in the top universities in the world. The boarding schools selected for the program include recognizable names such as Gordonstoun (Scotland), Brighton College (England), Loomis Chaffee School (Connecticut, US), United World Colleges (Maastricht, Holland; Pearson, Canada; UWC-USA, New Mexico – and of course St. Michaels University School. The purpose of the program is to provide these talented and diligent Omani students with an education that will prepare them to walk on the world stage with as much confidence and skill as students from anywhere in the world.
For us, this experience has been a success. Likewise for the Takatuf organization. Next year, instead of our complement of two Omani students, we will be welcoming six. Our two students this year, Hassan and Sara, have contributed more than their share of colour and texture to SMUS life, and SMUS in return has given them a home away from home, and an academic experience both challenging and supportive – they are good scholars, great friends, and committed boarding students.
Last week the Executive Director of the Takatuf Scholars, Ms. Katy Bindon, visited SMUS. She said that SMUS was a clear choice for them for three reasons: its academic program, the recognized quality of its teachers, and the supportive and warm boarding culture. It’s always good when observers from outside our walls let us know that there is a congruence between what they see and what we aspire to build here.