Rio De Janeiro, Brazil Report of what it's like to live there - 10/15/18
Personal Experiences from Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
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?
My oldest attended 7th and 8th grades. My youngest attended 5th and 6th grades .
3. What was your reason for living in the city where the school is located (e.g., government, military, corporate, NGO, retired)?
4. Are other schools available to expatriates in this city? Why did you choose this particular school?
Yes, British, German, etc. The American School is supposed to follow U.S. curriculum and is on the North American schedule, starting in August and ending in June. But since the school is basically functioning as a Brazilian school, they follow much closer to a Brazilian calendar than North American.
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?
In our experience, the admissions process was unorganized, forms were lost and we had to complete them again. We went for a scheduled tour, which they had forgotten about and scrambled to give us a last-minute tour with a secretary. I would not say that procedures are standardized or followed.
2. How would you rate the school's support and welcome/integration of new students and their families, and why?
Very weak. Our children were given a guide for their first day, since the school is approximately 80% Brazilian students, both of our kids had local student guides who were not fluent in English and did not remain with our kids for the entire day. We felt that the school counselor for upper elementary and middle school did not help to support our kids. We experienced very weak programming in the social-emotional area.
Administration & School Procedures:
1. How is the overall communication between teachers and parents, and the administration and parents? How is communication facilitated?
Teachers communicate fairly well with us on a regular basis, even with limited English teachers (of which there are quite a few). In our experience, the administration is not great at communicating with parents and often don't follow through with "next steps", etc.
2. Aside from school fees, are there required expenses such as uniforms, laptops/tablets, musical instruments, or field trips that parents are expected to cover? What are the approximate costs?
You have to pay for uniforms, laptops are mandatory, and an annual week long trip that is about $1,000 per child.
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?
There was a US College Counselor who left in June 2018 after two years. EARJ has hired a new college counselor, but I am not sure where she is from or what experience she has. We had some concerns with school counsellors as mentioned and don't send our kids to them for support.
2. Is there before and/or after-school daycare available? What are the costs?
As far as I can tell, there is no before or after school care. In my opinion, this is likely due to the unrest at the favela that surrounds the school. My perception is that it's not safe enough at the school for any type of daycare. While the windows that face the favela are bulletproof, the school shut down for four days in September of 2017, due to extreme tensions on the campus grounds between gangs and the police.
3. Does the school have a library? How large is it? How updated are the books? Can students borrow books to read at home?
EARJ has two very small libraries. This is probably my oldest child's biggest complaint. Students are only allowed to borrow books marked as their grade level. (6th graders can only borrow 6th grade books), etc.
4. What are the technology requirements for students? Do they need their own laptops/ipads? How is technology integrated into the classroom and homework?
The students have to bring their own laptop. Homework is often only IXL online activities. I think the staff need updated training in regards to using technology in the classroom appropriately; when I check my kids' laptops at night, they have been on Netflix, Youtube, etc. during class time. So not sure how they monitor or if they do.
5. How are information technology resources at the school. Are they up-to-date? Is there a computer lab?
No computer lab.
6. Describe the physical education resources at the school. Is there a gym? A swimming pool? Are there playing fields or tennis courts available?
There is no swimming pool, nor tennis courts. There is a gym, and the soccer field is nice, but I understand it shuts down when tensions rise in the favela due to concerns that the schoolchildren could be affected. The school wisely has a "no open space" policy that they put into place when it sounds like an increase in fighting at the favela. From my count, we receive an average of 5 "no open space" policy emails per month.
7. What is the approximate teacher-to-student ratio in the grades that your child attended?
1 - 25
8. 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?
Yes, IB is available.
9. Are students generally challenged appropriately by the curriculum? Please describe any particular strengths or weaknesses in this area. Do you have any thoughts how the curriculum is applied and implemented at this school?
I would say students are not academically challenged at EARJ. My oldest currently has 100% in all of her classes but I have had other friends move kids to boarding school due to concerns about academics. Another friend who just left reported that her children are a bit behind at their new school and will need to "catch up."
10. Is the amount and type of homework generally appropriate for the age and grade of the students?
No homework in elementary and very little in middle school.
11. What fine arts electives are available (music, drama, visual arts)?
No drama classes or plays are put on at EARJ, which was a huge disappointment for my kids. There are music classes in elementary school but not in middle unless you sign up for band. In my opinion, visual arts are not an area of strength.
12. Are the teachers at the school required to speak English as a first language--or at least fluently?
EARJ has many, many local hires as main classroom teachers and in my opinion their English is not fluent enough to be an American School homeroom teacher. Most of the elective teachers have very limited English skills and the Portuguese teachers do not speak English at all.
13. What services are available for gifted/advanced students at the school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.
We have met with the school twice about this and they have stated to us that they do not have Gifted or advanced classes at this time.
14. What services are available for students with learning disabilities at this school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.
Very limited special education services. One learning specialist for all of lower school who is a local employee. We have heard from parents that there is too much demand for too few staff.
15. What services are available for students with physical disabilities at this school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.
None. The school is built on a hill and each building is a 6-story building that the kids climb every day. The layout of the school would be challenging, if not impossible for anyone with physical disabilities.
16. What services are provided for speakers of English as a second language at this school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.
17. 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?
The school has no after school activities, e.g., art or dance. There are sports, but practices seem to be canceled frequently due to the issues with the neighboring favela.
Social & Emotional Well-Being:
1. Do expatriate students socialize with local students at the school? Are both groups successfully integrated into the school culture?
Not at all.
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.
It seems that the majority of students are Brazilian who have studied together their entire lives, so they come across as indifferent to the international students.
1. What letter grade (ranging from A, excellent, to F, fail) would you assign to this school based on your overall experience? Would you choose it again?
I would assign a letter D and would not choose it again. As a matter of fact, we might curtail early from Rio due to our frustration with the school. Our children are in middle school and in our opinion, the school is not adequate for middle school or above. I would say for elementary school age children it is "acceptable", but not for older children.
2. Please tell us anything else you think prospective parents and students should know about this school. Thanks for your contribution!
Parents should be aware of the location of this school and the real issues of violence surrounding the school every day. There is only one road up to the school and one road down (same winding road). You pass the favela entrances along the way and there are police and soldiers at every entrance. We were not aware that the school was located in an area we do not feel is safe, and I would have appreciated knowing this before we bid on Rio.