International School of Islamabad: Creating a New Path towards Success and Excellence

The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character-that is the goal of true education”.

                                                                                      – Martin Luther King, Jr.

There’s no denying the fact that education gives us wisdom and vision for the better enrichment of life. With a vision to inspire open collaboration to create a student-centered, inquiry-based learning environment that cultivates enthusiastic and global-minded individuals, the International School of Islamabad (ISOI) was founded in 1965. Located on a campus spanning more than 23 acres on the outskirts of Islamabad, Pakistan, ISOI is a coeducational, college preparatory day school.

Accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, ISOI had the privilege of serving the Diplomatic and expatriate community for over 50 years. ISOI offers a world-class education to primary students through high school graduation.

ISOI has a long history of innovation and leadership among international schools. ISOI initiated the NESA Virtual School project, which has now become the World Virtual School. The School was among participating schools in the NESA regions for a three-year pilot conducted by NWEA. NWEA® is a research-based, not-for-profit organization that supports students and educators worldwide by creating assessment solutions that precisely measure growth and proficiency for MAP (Measure of Academic Progress).

Advanced Pedagogy and Curriculum

The Elementary School offers the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program (IB PYP) and the Secondary School offers the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IB DP). ISOI also offers an American based diploma program. These programs together allow ISOI to individually address the needs of the students.

Students at ISOI are offered three graduation options:

Full IB Diploma: This course offers six IB academic courses. It also prepares the students for CAS, the Extended Essay and Theory of Knowledge. The successful students earn two credentials – the ISOI diploma and the IB diploma.

IB Subject: The IB Subject students select certain courses in which to earn IB certificates. The students are also participating in CAS, an ISOI graduation requirement. The students earn the ISOI diploma and certificates in the IB courses they have selected.

ISOI Diploma: Students follow the IB curriculum in the same classes as IB candidates or classes unique to ISOI. Successful students are offered the ISOI diploma.

Final exams include the IBDP exams and/or semester exams for high school students. ISOI has been accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools since 1979. ISOI became an authorized IB World School in 2012.

Invigorating Students’ Life with Rich Infrastructure and Facilities

The rich campus spreading 23+ acres on the outskirts of Islamabad includes playing fields, a 25- meter swimming pool, tennis courts, an indoor gymnasium, a climbing wall, 2 computer labs, as well as a performing arts center and cafeteria. Students in grades 9 through 12 participate in SAISA, which is a regional sports organization comprised of 11 different schools in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Jordan, Oman, India, Bangladesh, and Nepal. Students in grades 6 through 8 participate in SAISA West. Students also participate in leadership councils, Model United Nations and Festival of Choirs held in Muscat Oman. The school also has various after school clubs, cricket, intramural sports, and theater in addition to the SAISA and SAISA West sports.

The Prestigious Leadership

Rose C. Puffer, the Superintendent of ISOI has recently been recognized as the AAIE (Association for the Advancement of International Education) 2019 Superintendent of the year. A lifelong educator and learner, Rose has worked in a variety of roles such as teacher, coordinator, principal, and superintendent in Peru, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan. She has been working in ISOI since 2005 as the Superintendent.

In addition to her work at ISOI, Rose is also active in a variety of leadership initiatives such as serving as the President of the NESA (Near East Asia Council of Overseas Schools) board and regularly mentoring young school administrators.

Challenges down the Road

The biggest challenge in maintaining ISOI’s reputation for educational excellence was to orchestrate a paradigm shift from what used to be a large school to a small school. “Convincing people to live in the present and to look forward to a new future is especially difficult with the Taliban challenging the safety of the school’s existence. Recreating a culture of a small school, while on a large campus, continues to be a work in progress”, explains Rose.

Safety Measures and Precautions

Growing security challenges have compelled the school authority to take extraordinary safety measures. With 28 years of service to ISOI, Rose has witnessed and experienced the ups and downs the school went through.

I watched enrollment reach 660 in the mid-nineties; however, it plummeted to 100-150, again reaching about 400 in 2008. Then the Taliban bombed the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad. At that point, even the UN made Pakistan a non-family post, and the school’s population plummeted once again. Ten years later, the population is “up” to 275 students. Maintaining a 23-acre campus with a small population would be a challenge under any circumstances. With $2500 of each student’s tuition funding soft security costs and with 210 employees on the payroll, the financial issues compete with security issues in maintaining the school and its high reputation”, Rose expresses.

ISOI must be a very hard target since we are located on the outskirts of the city and since the school is known as “the American School”. With the embassies housed in a heavily protected diplomatic enclave, our school  remains a high profile target. Two commando teams, including a sniper on the roof and roving rapid response units, help the school maintain its image as an educational fortress”, she adds.

Excellent Career Opportunities and Exposures

An abundance of opportunities waits for ISOI students. They have opportunities to pursue their higher education from prestigious universities around the world. Queen’s University, University of Ottawa, University of Toronto, University of Waterloo, York University, Buckingham University, King’s College London, University of Warwick, New York University, George Washington University are the institutes to name a few.

The students of ISOI also get acceptances from universities such as Vassar, Georgetown University, Carleton University, McGill University, McMasters University, Ryerson University, Kingston University, London South Bank University, Middlesex University, Nottingham Trent, SOAS University, University of Bath, University of Exeter, Northeastern University, Parsons School of Design, and Sarah Lawrence College.

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