Brussels, Belgium Report of what it's like to live there - 01/04/14
Personal Experiences from Brussels, Belgium
1. Are you the parent of a child(ren) attending this school? A teacher at the school? Or both?
2. What grade or grades do/did your children attend at the school? During what year(s) did they attend the school?
Kindergarten; 2nd (also attended for 1st grade).
3. During what years were you affiliated with this school?
4. What was your reason for living in the city where the school is located (e.g., government, military, corporate, NGO, retired)?
5. Are other schools available to expatriates in this city? Why did you choose this particular school?
We had an opportunity to travel to Brussels before moving here and toured the school. We also looked at St. John's and the International Montessori School of Brussels. ISB impressed us with the separate learning center for younger children and it was closer to where we would live.
Admissions & Welcome:
1. Are the admissions and placement procedures clearly stated to prospective families, either on the school website or through other means of communication?
A-we had no problems with the application process. Most DOS dependents attend ISB so the school is familiar with the process.
2. How would you rate the school's support and welcome/integration of new students and their families, and why?
A-new families are easily welcomed into the school community. There are special meetings and seminars for new families.
Administration & School Procedures:
1. Describe the general climate of the grade level that you teach or your child attends:
The atmosphere is wonderful at ISB. The school is split into different "areas." The Early Childhood Center is PreK-2nd grade and that is where both our children are enrolled. The entire school is welcoming and we continue to be impressed with the level of communication the staff and principals have with families.
2. For the following attributes, down to the next blank box, grade your experience at the school on a scale of A (excellent) to F (unacceptable/terrible) and provide comments:<br><br>Overall fair and equitable treatment of all students and families:
A-a very diverse school, truly international and all are treated fairly. Americans are the majority, but you wouldn't know it from the way the school is administered. To us, this is a good thing.
3. How is the overall communication between teachers and parents, and the administration and parents? How is communication facilitated?
A-this depends on the individual teacher, but all have email accounts and are readily available for parents. Teachers publish a monthly newsletter and the ECC head/principal sends a weekly electronic newsletter.
4. Services for gifted students who need academic challenge and students with learning difficulties:
A-our 2nd grader was assessed to have advanced math skills so was put into an advanced class. All grade levels in the ECC do individual reading assessments and students receive individual educational plans.
5. Availability and variety of after-school activities for various ages:
A-after-school activities range from drama club to martial arts to swimming to wall climbing. Individual music lessons are provided by independent teachers who are allowed to coordinate a schedule with the student's teacher.
6. Maintenance of appropriately high standards for all students:
A-even though our children are young, they are academically challenged and expected to achieve high standards.
7. Homework assigned (quality, quantity):
A-an occasional take-home project for our older child, otherwise there is no homework for the ECC students.
8. Administration-parent communication:
A-the school head sends out appropriate electronic messages and the school also sends a weekly newsletter.
9. Teacher-student communication:
A-our two children have no problems with their teachers.
10. Academics, answer the following questions "yes" or "no" with an explanation if appropriate:<br><br>Are there any classes or subjects where students are not appropriately challenged?
11. Does your child receive any special-needs assistance or instruction at this school? If yes, what types? Who provides services and where:
12. Does the gifted and talented program meet the needs of students? Please explain:
Yes-we are amazed at what he is learning.
13. Does the school offer a wide variety of elective or non-core classes such as art, music, and drama?
14. Please describe any classes or programs that you believe are missing:
15. Are there academic requirements such as trips or other activities that cost money in addition to school fees?
Our children go on field trips and there are no additional costs for museum admissions, etc.
16. What activities do you feel are missing?
17. Have your children participated in the activities offered? If no, please indicate why:
18. Does the school provide appropriate assistance to new students?
19. Please describe any problem areas or challenges in social interaction at the school:
None that we are aware.
Academics & Resources:
1. What personal or academic counseling resources are available at this school? Is there a dedicated college counselor at the school? Is he/she familiar with universities worldwide?
A-the ECC counselor is available for students with behavioral issues and to provide tools for problem solving.
2. Does the school have a library? How large is it? How updated are the books? Can students borrow books to read at home?
A-great library and librarian. It is open to families and parents can check out books too.
3. How are information technology resources at the school. Are they up-to-date? Is there a computer lab?
A-all the classes in the ECC have PCs and iPads.
4. Describe the physical education resources at the school. Is there a gym? A swimming pool? Are there playing fields or tennis courts available?
A-our 2nd grader has PE twice per week and they work on developing physical skills as well as team building and fair play. It's not just a free-for-all play time.
5. What is the approximate teacher-to-student ratio in the grades that your child attended?
In the ECC, it's about 16-18 students per teacher. Most grades have teachers' aides as well.
6. Are Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses available in upper grades? If this is an IB school, is the full diploma required of all students?
Our previous babysitter attended ISB and took AP courses.
7. Is the amount and type of homework generally appropriate for the age and grade of the students?
8. What fine arts electives are available (music, drama, visual arts)?
In the ECC, art and music are part of the curriculum; however, we have friends with older children who speak highly of the music and drama departments.
9. Are the teachers at the school required to speak English as a first language--or at least fluently?
10. What services are available for gifted/advanced students at the school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.
Yes-as I wrote above, our son is in an advanced math class. It is taught by the ECC head.
11. What extra-curricular activities (including sports) are available at this school? Have your children participated in these activities? What activities do you feel are missing at the school?
Yes-drama, sports, music; it has everything (including American football).
Social & Emotional Well-Being:
1. Do expatriate students socialize with local students at the school? Are both groups successfully integrated into the school culture?
Expat-both our sons have made friends from all over the world.
2. Are there are any problems with exclusionary behavior, cliques, or bullying at this school? Please describe any problems your children may have experienced in this area.
The entire school is expat (very few Belgians attend ISB).
1. What is the greatest strength of this school?
The international community, the teachers and administration.
2. Greatest challenge?
3. Would you choose this school again? Why?
Without hesitation. If we could stay in Brussels, ISB would be one of the only reasons.