San Salvador, El Salvador Report of what it's like to live there - 09/07/20
Personal Experiences from San Salvador, El Salvador
Academia Britanca Cuscatleca
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?
Oldest 2nd-5th, younger kinder-2nd
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?
Escuela Americana and German and French schools, plus a few other smaller bilingual schools
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?
We submitted the paperwork before we arrived, especially since the school year had already begun. We visited both the American school and the British school (ABC). The kids spent a day at the school being tested and spending time in the classroom. Process was easy.
2. How would you rate the school's support and welcome/integration of new students and their families, and why?
The welcome was good, but we already had the support of other embassy family members at the school. I think it might have been more confusing without the embassy support.
Administration & School Procedures:
1. How is the overall communication between teachers and parents, and the administration and parents? How is communication facilitated?
Communication comes out both by emails and by WhatsApp. The school sends out weekly newsletters on Fridays. Overall, the communication is good.
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?
Uniforms are required but they are affordable. Field trips are about $5-20. There are extra trips you can pay for for upper primary schools for skiing and London trips. I don't know about secondary. Laptops not required for primary (except needed for virtual learning). Our daughter needed a recorder/flauta last year. I don't know about other musical instruments.
Academics & Resources:
1. Is there before and/or after-school daycare available? What are the costs?
There is after-school care for lower primary called el nido, about $1 per day. Crazy cheap. Plus, they have extras for sports, music and more after school for all ages.
2. Does the school have a library? How large is it? How updated are the books? Can students borrow books to read at home?
There is a library for lower primary, upper primary and secondary. They is a decent selection.
3. What are the technology requirements for students? Do they need their own laptops/ipads? How is technology integrated into the classroom and homework?
Every student has computing once a week in the lab room. I can't speak for secondary.
4. How are information technology resources at the school. Are they up-to-date? Is there a computer lab?
The school has computer technicians, particularly needed since the school is now virtual. The computer lab is for class and I think there is an extra activity after school.
5. 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 a gym (which leaks), 2 or 3 swimming pools, football field with lights, basketball court. No tennis. They have PE twice a week. The extra sports include football, basketball, dance, handball, gymnastics (for younger kids), volleyball, archery, cycling and more. They have swimming once a week as part of curriculum.
6. What is the approximate teacher-to-student ratio in the grades that your child attended?
The classes are between 20-25 students for one teacher plus an assistant. The preschool kids also have a woman who helps clean up and helps kids wash their hands, etc.
7. 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?
This is an IB school, doesn't start until secondary.
8. 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?
The school follows the British curriculum. Although we came from a British school in another country and found that this school is a little behind the other one in Europe. I hear that the secondary is challenging. For the primary, not as much for English as a first language learners. Both my children read ahead of their classmates, which is not surprising, because the class is almost all Salvadoran. I find that the Salvadoran upper primary kids are still working on their English and this creates a gap with the expats. The school does differentiate in the classrooms, meaning that they divide them into groups for maths and English to add support or push the groups as needed. I feel like my child last year was not challenged a lot with his writing.
9. Is the amount and type of homework generally appropriate for the age and grade of the students?
Yes. Primary students do not receive much homework which we find is good for the kids.
10. What fine arts electives are available (music, drama, visual arts)?
Music once a week, drama in secondary, art class once a week
11. Are the teachers at the school required to speak English as a first language--or at least fluently?
All teachers in Prepa are British, at the critical age when they begin to read. All other years have one British teacher and the rest are Salvadoran. The Salvadorans speak English well, but not perfectly. They make regular grammar errors when speaking. Since our kids speak English at home, it is not a concern for me.
12. What services are available for gifted/advanced students at the school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.
They divide the class into groups to work on topics. No specific gifted classes.
13. What services are provided for speakers of English as a second language at this school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.
The majority of the school is speakers of English as a second language. I don't know how they handle older kids who come in without English, if it's feasible. For those who don't speak Spanish, they have a separate class for them until the student's Spanish is strong enough to integrate with their class. Both my kids are integrated in their class now, not fluent but they can function.
14. 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?
Basketball, football, archery, ping pong, handball, dance, swimming and more for sports
Chorus, piano, Walk with Jesus, communion prep (not a religious school but a few Christian clubs), flauta, math club
For the little ones, painting, blocks, etc
Non sport extras could be stronger but my oldest loved the sports options.
Social & Emotional Well-Being:
1. What is the climate for children with special needs? Is there a general attitude of inclusion for children with special needs?
I haven't seen any special needs at this school.
2. What is the climate for LGBT+ kids at this school? Are there resources they can draw upon? Does there appear to be any exclusionary behavior?
Probably not good. The country and school has its Christian influence.
3. Do expatriate students socialize with local students at the school? Are both groups successfully integrated into the school culture?
It is hard for the expat kids to integrate because all the Salvadoran kids know each other from preschool, even if the expat kids speaks Spanish fluently. My kids mostly play with other expat kids.
1. Please describe some of your child's/children's highlights and challenges during their time at this school.
For the preschool kids, they have a lunch break and get to eat and then play. This typically means that they eat one thing and then go play. I found my younger child would essentially skip lunch. The preschool is Montessori-esque. Lots of play to learn and develop hand coordination. The classrooms are nice and open to the environment. They have a large area for playing. I love the British curriculum for teaching reading. The teachers a loving and care for the kids. The school is well staffed. Primary kids are not burdened with homework.
Challenges are the lack of expat community. El Salvador does not have a lot of expats which means the expat ratio at all schools is very low. It also means that most of the students are learning English all through primary school.
2. 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?
B. My kids are both happy there. They are learning and doing well although I know other families who switched schools from British to American in past year. Last year the American school got a new director and she apparently made a lot of positive changes. At this point in time, I'd look at both and decide again. Both have pluses and minuses.