Bogota, Colombia Report of what it's like to live there - 05/16/12
Personal Experiences from Bogota, Colombia
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?
3. During what years were you affiliated with this school?
2010, 2011, 2012
4. What was your reason for living in the city where the school is located (e.g., government, military, corporate, NGO, retired)?
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?
C.Not transparent to us at all, but they accepted our kids for whatever reason ($$).
2. How would you rate the school's support and welcome/integration of new students and their families, and why?
D.We came in mid-semester, and this might have had something to do with the complete lack of effort to integrate or inform any of us.The school was completely disorganized in terms of assigning classes to our daughters, providing them any introduction to students or the campus (my husband and I got a tour, but the girls did not), having any sort of info available for us on how to access the computer system, where to go for help, how to contact any other families, etc.Absolutely no orientation whatsoever.I'm certain they got tired of hearing from me.
Administration & School Procedures:
1. Describe the general climate of the grade level that you teach or your child attends:
Students in the high school are generally friendly if your "outsider" child does not try to break into the long-established social order.Majority of students show a very lackadaisical attitude toward attendance, dress code, homework, etc., but there are a group of students who are quite intense & competitive as well.
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:
C.In the only specific instance of disciplinary action with which we were involved, the school came down very hard on our child (to the point of affecting her future post-CNG) and, in my opinion, not with her best interests at heart.There was no flexibility shown.However, extreme flexibility exists in regard to local families (this based on both knowledge of specific instances and students' general observations/interpretations). As well, it's very evident from Annual General Meetings that you are a foreigner attending a US-style Colombian school (it is not an "American" school, it is a Colombian school with a US curriculum and teachers/admin).This is fine with us; we like this combination -- but you should not expect to have an influential voice in any decisionmaking with regard to the school, or have any influence or be treated as someone the administration is trying to keep satisfied or pleased.You are a visitor in the school.
3. How is the overall communication between teachers and parents, and the administration and parents? How is communication facilitated?
C. None, but usually none needed.The few times I would have liked to have been notified, I ended up contacting the teacher rather than the other way around.
4. Services for gifted students who need academic challenge and students with learning difficulties:
D.Looks good on paper.I would be EXTREMELY wary of sending your academically-minded child to this school; while s/he may be challenged/stimulated in certain classes, the school is very poor in guiding (both teachers and admin) students to challenging US universities.Your child will be on his/her OWN in this regard, despite services which make it appear this school knows what it's doing in this regard.Be wary of stats they show you about students accepted to "Ivy Plus" schools.They are very proud of this stat but I highly suspect it is one or two children accepted at multiple schools; in both 2011 and 2012 most of the "honor student" kids my children hung out with were not accepted at these schools, although many of them got into "good" schools that CNG consistently suggests in its literature are "second tier".
5. Availability and variety of after-school activities for various ages:
A.Good, and students are able to participate in more than one activity (unlike the school we left in the States, where they were supposed to focus & become expert in one sport or art).
6. Maintenance of appropriately high standards for all students:
F.Very poor.Foreigners (we) have been held to extremely high standards and actually have had a minor disciplinary incident treated as a very major one.Local friends whose children are in the school have been shocked by the extent of this punishment, saying worse behavior by their children goes unremarked upon (or "uncaught").
7. Homework assigned (quality, quantity):
B.Plenty if in AP courses; my daughters have considered some useful and some busywork.
8. Administration-parent communication:
D.Admin is available, very nice to talk with, but absolutely unbending with regard to requests, complaints, or suggestions, even in cases where they have admitted a problem exists.So the communication is open, but the results are nil.
9. Teacher-student communication:
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?
Yes. AP Calc was abysmal for both my daughters, but CNG has since changed the teacher.
11. Does your child receive any special-needs assistance or instruction at this school? If yes, what types? Who provides services and where:
12. Do you believe the special-needs assistance is appropriate and fills your needs? Explain:
13. Does the gifted and talented program meet the needs of students? Please explain:
As far as I know, there is no additional "gifted" program, other than AP courses and a few extracurricular activities.Students can participate in, for example, Model UN or Math Olympics -- but they need to find out about the qualifying exams for this latter activity on their own and make sure they have nothing scheduled during this time if MO is something they'd like to do.
14. Does the school offer a wide variety of elective or non-core classes such as art, music, and drama?
15. Please describe any classes or programs that you believe are missing:
I have heard there is limited opportunity for kids playing orchestra instruments.There is no high school orchestra or choir.
16. Are there academic requirements such as trips or other activities that cost money in addition to school fees?
Yes, each yearly class trip (considered part of the curriculum) has a cost, AP courses cost extra (despite the College Board insisting that there should be no additional expense to the school offering an AP course).
17. What activities do you feel are missing?
None that we needed.
18. Have your children participated in the activities offered? If no, please indicate why:
19. Does the school provide appropriate assistance to new students?
Not if you arrive mid-year.I cannot speak to fall-entry activities, as we were never included in any (I don't know if they exist).Please see comments on "support of new students/families", above.
20. Please describe any problem areas or challenges in social interaction at the school:
If your students are in any way insecure, this is DEFINiTELY not the school in Bogotá for them.They need to be 100% convinced of who they are and that they are okay as they are before jumping in to this social environment.Their confidence will take a knock even so, but if they are strong, independent, and confident in who they are as an individual they should come out the other end having had a really interesting and broadening experience.If, however, they are the more typical teen and have some insecurities, the social scene at CNG will magnify those and social exclusion or even ostracism by the majority of the class is likely.
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?
F.This is one of CNG's weakest links.If you choose to enroll your children here, be ON TOP of every aspect of their academic situation, needs for the future, placement, grading, etc.Do your own research about what your child will or might need to return to school (high school or university) in the States or elsewhere; the counselors here ARE NOT INFORMED, though they are happy to tell you everything is fine.
2. Does the school have a library? How large is it? How updated are the books? Can students borrow books to read at home?
3. How are information technology resources at the school. Are they up-to-date? Is there a computer lab?
F.Horrible.In transition; should have a more useable version in 2013?
4. Describe the physical education resources at the school. Is there a gym? A swimming pool? Are there playing fields or tennis courts available?
B.Fine.P.E. teachers (and, far worse, several teachers of academic subjects) do not understand the grading scale.
5. What is the approximate teacher-to-student ratio in the grades that your child attended?
In my daughters' classes:from 1:20 to 1:7.
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?
A.Several APs available. Teachers' abilities vary but CNG seems to be making changes and trying to place teachers well-qualified to teach APs.
7. Is the amount and type of homework generally appropriate for the age and grade of the students?
For the most part.
8. What fine arts electives are available (music, drama, visual arts)?
B.All that our children wanted to pursue was available.Several other parents wish additional areas were available (eg., choir, orchestra).
9. Are the teachers at the school required to speak English as a first language--or at least fluently?
Yes for most subjects.
10. What services are available for gifted/advanced students at the school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.
Yes.AP courses.She is on her own for additional stimulation.The school has no idea she is "gifted" (despite paperwork submitted from previous school and various test scores -- which I have to presume, based on various conversations, never made it from admissions to HS counseling to informing teachers).I figured it would come out on its own (some individual teachers have remarked on it) but in terms of providing additional challenge or support, zip.As well, if your student is entering mid-high-school, if you don't holler about how bright s/he is, s/he will lose at least one year of academic material by being put in whatever classes are available & need to be filled (if our experience is anything to go by).
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?
Social & Emotional Well-Being:
1. Do expatriate students socialize with local students at the school? Are both groups successfully integrated into the school culture?
Yes, with limits (see below).
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.
Yes, being excluded, but I think this is to be expected a school with 90% local students (though their stats say differently, a high percentage of their "US" citizens are dual citizens and have extended family & friends in Colombia; many have grown up here.In my daughter's class of 120 students, as far as I know, there is one other North American and 3 South Koreans and that's it for foreigners (possibly some students from Mexico or S. Am. countries of which I'm unaware).Which is fine -- it gives you a "local" experience and is great for her Spanish (the social language is almost entirely Spanish).However, these kids have been together mostly since K4, have well-established social cliques, and you shouldn't expect your child to break into those and be fully accepted (even if they make a big splash initially as "the new kid").There is a sizable group of locals (maybe 15% of the class) which is open to including newcomers.
1. What is the greatest strength of this school?
Exposes confident foreign students to local culture in an accessible way.
2. Greatest challenge?
Currently, teachers don't know how to consistently interpret the "4.0 grading scale" implemented 3 years ago.The admin is aware of the problem and is supposedly working with teachers to fix it, but if 2 or 3 of your students' teachers choose to interpret a 3.2 as a "great" grade for a top student, your child's college apps are screwed.Despite having had an interesting and broadening experience, my daughters' transcripts (considered "good" by The Powers That Be at CNG) have prevented them from applying to some honors programs at universities, excluded them from merit-based financial aid, etc.
3. Would you choose this school again? Why?
No.Although it has given our daughters a chance to learn Spanish, to meet some great people, and to explore several extracurricular activities, it had a permanent negative effect on their high school transcripts.The administration proved to be unbending on all areas of concern which we brought to its attention (but all members of it were very welcoming of any help or volunteering we were willing to provide)."Comments and suggestions welcomed, but none will be acted upon." seems to be the credo.It is definitely a one-way street with regard to problems at this school, at least if you are a foreigner.We clearly are not their target market/audience and they do not need to accommodate us.I don't think of myself as unreasonable in my expectations of an "American" high school; CNG surprised me repeatedly in its failure to understand what I thought would be clear to professionals at a US-style high school.My concerns were brushed aside as "It will all be fine" -- and as it bore out, it all was not fine.My kids had excellent SAT/ACT scores and I am convinced this is what got them into at least some colleges -- their transcripts from CNG were surely a millstone and continue to be with regard to applying for additional programs or merit aid at their universities.I believe there is at least one other high school in Bogotá (and likely several) which can provide similar opportunities for learning and interaction but which better understand these administrative issues and at least one of which provides a much less intimidating social environment.