Interview With Bruce Ashton, Head of School, International Preparatory School, Mauritius

What were your first impressions of Mauritius?

I was really surprised by what I saw when I first arrived. Mauritius is modern and progressive in so many ways, but there are also many reminders of the past. There are lots of museums which tell the stories of how indentured workers first came to work here on the sugar cane plantations. You can still see the buildings where the sugar cane was processed.What do you enjoy most about living in the country?

Being able to live in such a naturally beautiful place! The island is known as the ‘Pearl of the Indian Ocean’. There are lots of tourists, but once you get off the main highways you gain a better appreciation of what everyday life is like. In the North of the island beautiful beaches abound while in the South the former volcanic cones provide a rich tropical forest in which to hike and explore.

What has been your best experience so far?

That’s easy – when my family arrived after a month of us being apart! I’m so pleased that they have fallen in love with the country and its people.

How easy was it to adjust to living in Mauritius?

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Adjusting has been fairly easy as the population is well versed in English. English is actually the national language, although French and Creole are probably more commonly spoken.

Typical life in Mauritius!

Mauritius is similar to my home country, New Zealand, in many ways. Both are small islands, members of the British Commonwealth, and are isolated in the middle of very expansive oceans. Mauritius definitely has the upper hand weather wise! Most days have been very sunny and warm.

What helps you to feel at home in such a unique location?

I feel at home as soon as I know where the nearest supermarket is located! It’s reassuring to find that our local supermarkets here carry everything you would find in a North American or UK supermarket.

My wife Heidi on Grande Baie beach in Mauritius

Another initial concern of mine was whether there would be good internet connection at my accommodation – I’m sure other international teachers can relate to this concern! I was pleased to find that our home came with a fibre optic wireless internet set up that keeps my family very happy.

How does the International Preparatory School (IPS) differ from previous schools you've led?

There’s more of an international community here. Many of the staff are local, but have studied and worked in France or the UK. They’ve returned to Mauritius to be closer to family and working at IPS provides them with the best of both worlds – they can be at home and teach at an international school.

Children at the International Preparatory School, Mauritius

We also have a wide and varied student population. Students come from Canada, UK, France, Spain, India, Poland and South Africa to mention a few.

How easy was it to settle into your new job and will it be a challenging role for you?

Both the board and senior staff I work with have been exceedingly helpful in orienting me to the new position and country.

It will definitely be a challenging role! For a start, I’m working with a different curriculum. Previously I worked with, and administered, the IBPYP (International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme) curriculum, but here we use a curriculum which is enquiry based. The school is very forward thinking.

I seek to be a service style leader who works with faculty to help improve student learning. Our school strategy plan aims to increase teacher understanding of better instruction and to increase student achievement, both of which go hand in hand. It will be a challenge in that I will need to move the paradigm of some staff to gain a better understanding of how students learn best through an enquiry approach.

What do you hope to gain professionally from this experience?

I hope my time here will help me to become a better Head of School, to learn how to work effectively with the Board, and to learn how best to manage a CIS (Council of International Schools) accreditation.

What is your advice for other leaders and teachers considering teaching internationally?

Do your homework! Ask as many questions as you can to be sure you’re making the right move for everyone in your family. Trust your gut instinct. If the school doesn’t feel like it’s the right fit, it’s probably not going to be, in which case don’t be afraid to look for something else!

Bruce Ashton found his job at IPS school in Mauritius through Teachers International Consultancy (TIC). TIC specialises in providing personalised, professional teacher and leadership recruitment for international schools. All support for candidates is free of charge. For more information and to get more advice about teaching overseas visit www.ticrecruitment.com


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