San Salvador, El Salvador Report of what it's like to live there - 05/03/18
Personal Experiences from San Salvador, El Salvador
1. Are you the parent of a child(ren) attending this school? A teacher at the school? Or both?
Parent of 3 kids at the school.
2. What grade or grades do/did your children attend at the school? During what year(s) did they attend the school?
They are now in 7th/9th/11th and we are in our second year here or a 3-year tour.
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, there's an American school. French and German school as well as some other Bilingual options. We chose the British school because we felt it was more diverse and definitely more hands-on as they use an international primary curriculum for younger grades and an IGSCE and IB program for older kids. They look at the student as a whole and teach them to be global students. They encourage students to be (ROCs) Responsible, outstanding citizens. We felt it was more academic but also just really liked the attention to each student we received from the headmaster and the teachers when we arrived and toured the school. They were very accommodating when we transferred over in the middle of the 2-year IGSCE program. We also like that kids as young as 8th grade can pick electives they like such as drama and music etc. It seems more student-friendly for kids who like to learn in various ways. More hands-on.
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?
Yes. The website is extensive but if you email the admissions woman, Estefania you will get great help. Most kids have to do some testing depending on where they are coming from and their past schooling.
2. How would you rate the school's support and welcome/integration of new students and their families, and why?
Very good. We went ahead of time to check out schools and ABC was very accommodating arranging meetings with various teachers etc (by far compared to other schools we looked at) when we flew in for a day of touring and appointments. Later when we joined the school, we again met and toured with the whole family and everyone including the principal was super nice and attentive. Made us feel like we were welcome at the school and they would help make it a good fit. During the first week there were Welcome meetings for newcomers to the school and to each grade every year. If you are not a good Spanish speaker, they will provide meetings in English as well or sometimes with translation.
Administration & School Procedures:
1. How is the overall communication between teachers and parents, and the administration and parents? How is communication facilitated?
A lot of communication for the older kids is directly between teachers and kids online nowadays. But anything we parents need to know is usually emailed to us from the admin offices. I also check with my kids daily to see if i am missing anything. And I will email the admin offices or a teacher in a minute if I want answers about something and usually get a quick pleasant reply. The embassy parents often whats app if we have a question too. Each grade has a 'den mother' who emails stuff (nonstop) so that's a good way to work on your Spanish and get info. Although I have replied in English as many moms speak English too.
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?
Yes, almost all schools require uniforms and ABC is no different. 9th graders and up need laptops most days. Musical instruments can be borrowed but to practice, it's best if you have your own. There is quite an active orchestra and performing arts program. There were a couple big field trips -international - offered to older kids and two of ours went to Europe with their history class...which was pricey but we felt a great learning experience. Many did not go so it was not a big deal. Other class trips are usually free or nominal.
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?
Teachers and Heads of Year are usually very receptive to helping students when there is a need. You have to reach out to them and encourage your student to do the same. There are college counselors and we are getting ready to meet with our personal counselor soon for my 11th grader. There's also a couple of teachers who are in charge of setting up PSATs and SATs and college seminars.
2. Is there before and/or after-school daycare available? What are the costs?
Don't know of any 'daycare' per se but lots of after school activities for most grades.
3. Does the school have a library? How large is it? How updated are the books? Can students borrow books to read at home?
Yes, nice library and updated books and they just had Book week last week with authors and book sales and costumes for favorite characters etc. Kids can borrow and are encouraged to read and there are awards for good readers.
4. How are information technology resources at the school. Are they up-to-date? Is there a computer lab?
Looks to be a very updated computer lab and new science and technology labs being redesigned this summer.
5. What are the technology requirements for students? Do they need their own laptops/ipads? How is technology integrated into the classroom and homework?
Lots of kids have laptops in middle and high school and use them during school and from 7th grade up. Some teachers provide homework online and in google docs.
6. Describe the physical education resources at the school. Is there a gym? A swimming pool? Are there playing fields or tennis courts available?
Gym, nice big pool, playing fields, basketball courts etc. They offer golf off-site and also scuba.
7. What is the approximate teacher-to-student ratio in the grades that your child attended?
Maybe 15-20 in a class? Some less. Some classes like 'gringo Spanish' have like 5 or 6.
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?
IB is offered and is highly respected and students must complete the diploma if they are here for 11th and 12th grade. My kid is doing that now. Tough but impressive for college applications.
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?
Students are challenged from what we have seen and heard. It is known as the more academic school in the area. Kids can be moved up or down depending on their level in Math and English. No problem. There are several 'sets' or levels for all types of students.
10. Is the amount and type of homework generally appropriate for the age and grade of the students?
My kids don't geta ton of homework. Only when they have project or before an exam do they seem to have to hit the books hard. Or work on the weekend. Most of the time it's just an hour of something. (IB students have more)
11. What fine arts electives are available (music, drama, visual arts)?
Lots of music, orchestra, rockband, choir, " 11th grade dance performance called the 'circus' drama/musical shows, digital video contests etc.
12. Are the teachers at the school required to speak English as a first language--or at least fluently?
Most teachers speak English and the kids have mostly British teachers. There are a couple of teachers who don't and it can be challenging at times for some but an interpreter can be arranged if it's an issue.
13. What services are available for gifted/advanced students at the school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.
Not sure and have been meaning to ask about it but the curriculum is challenging for all my kids so I haven't been worried.
14. What services are available for students with learning disabilities at this school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.
I don't know a lot about this but I know it has improved over the years. There are counselors for kids with disabilities and various levels of instruction. I would inquire directly with ABC and not listen to what others may have heard. The school tends to offer a lot of attention to students' needs so I would guess there are services in place.
15. What services are available for students with physical disabilities at this school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.
I think most of the school is handicapped accesible.
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.
Most kids at the school are Salvadoran and English is their second language so there are English classes available and tutoring.
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?
Lots of offerings, swimming, soccer, basketball, track, music, drama, film and animation and several academic clubs, Orchestra/lessons, etc. My kids have done a bit of it all.
Social & Emotional Well-Being:
1. Do expatriate students socialize with local students at the school? Are both groups successfully integrated into the school culture?
My three kids have different levels of socialization with local kids. My middle kid has tons of Salvadoran friends. His Spanish is now the best! Even though, they all speak English well. My eldest has gotten his groove this second year and has many friends both Americans and Salvadorans at the school. My youngest (12) has mostly gringo friends but a few Salvadoran friends. But he is the shyest. His Spanish is pretty good now too.
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.
We haven't seen any bullying at the school. On the soccer field, like in other Latin American countries, the competition is fierce and not particularly welcoming at the older ages so if your kid wants to play soccer he just has to go for it. The kids are very good. Other than that ,there have been no issues. We know other gringos who have lots of local friends of all ages and sexes so it depends on your kid.
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?
A-. Would def choose it again.
2. Please tell us anything else you think prospective parents and students should know about this school. Thanks for your contribution!
We would encourage new parents to check out all schools And not go immediately to the American school because they think they know the American system or where their sponsors' kids go or whatever. Every school in every country is different so it's important to check them all out. And I would say not to be afraid of the British system. It's really an international system and encourages a global student. We have met a few families at the embassy who have actually changed schools after assuming they would be most comfortable at the American school but learned later they weren't and others who said they wish they had switched after they saw what ABC had to offer (more hands-on, performing arts programs, IB etc) and its way with its students and its values.