Pristina, Kosovo Report of what it's like to live there - 04/01/14
Personal Experiences from Pristina, Kosovo
1. Are you the parent of a child(ren) attending this school? A teacher at the school? Or both?
I am a parent.
2. What grade or grades do/did your children attend at the school? During what year(s) did they attend the school?
My son goes to 6th grade. (Prishtina High School is, despite the name, a middle and high school, grades 6-12.)
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)?
My husband works as a contractor for USAID.
5. Are other schools available to expatriates in this city? Why did you choose this particular school?
We compared this school with the only other option, American School of Kosova. After talking with parents, and reading reviews on the local newsgroup, as well as visiting both schools, we decided for PHS. It's a safe place outside the city with a new campus, a beautiful cafeteria, a new gym, very little traffic and good air.
Admissions & Welcome:
1. How would you rate the school's support and welcome/integration of new students and their families, and why?
A - The staff and the teachers are welcoming and warm. If you need help, you just need to ask.
Administration & School Procedures:
1. Describe the general climate of the grade level that you teach or your child attends:
My son seems very happy in his class. His classmates are very pleasant and I whenever I'm there, I'm struck by the friendliness of everybody. Of course, this is Kosovo, where friendliness is a basic character trait! His teacher is open and caring which is very important to us.
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:
3. How is the overall communication between teachers and parents, and the administration and parents? How is communication facilitated?
Excellent. The teachers always have time or make time and I rarely have to wait more than a day for an email reply. FTF meetings are also always possible.
4. Services for gifted students who need academic challenge and students with learning difficulties:
I am not aware of any such programs.
5. Availability and variety of after-school activities for various ages:
No after-school activities are available.
6. Maintenance of appropriately high standards for all students:
Prishtina High School is primarily a school for Albanian students, so the level of instruction is somewhat lower than in the US, at least in the sixth grade. The curriculum is based on the U.S. common core and the standards of Ohio.
7. Homework assigned (quality, quantity):
We are coming from Germany where we had (much!) more homework both in quantity and in quality. My son likes this change. I'm not sure how this would compare to the U.S. He has about half an hour of homework, mostly worksheets.
8. Administration-parent communication:
Excellent. Fast and efficient, and very friendly.
9. 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?
U.S. students will not feel as challenged in LA, especially in the lower grades.
10. Does your child receive any special-needs assistance or instruction at this school? If yes, what types? Who provides services and where:
I am not aware of such services or assistance. It's a small school, so any needs that are not too far outside the norm will be addressed on a personal basis. The school is not wheelchair accessible.
11. Does the school offer a wide variety of elective or non-core classes such as art, music, and drama?
Art, music, drama, and Albanian are part of a subject called "enrichment" which is taught in the afternoons. I don't think there are any electives, at least not in middle school.
12. Please describe any classes or programs that you believe are missing:
I would like to see another language offered besides Albanian. Many of the expat kids will move to schools in other countries where they will need a second language. We have to supplement at home. (This is based, I believe, in the fact that the school gears towards Albanian kids for whom English is already a second language.)
13. Are there academic requirements such as trips or other activities that cost money in addition to school fees?
No, any field trips that cost money are voluntary.
14. What activities do you feel are missing?
After-school activities would be nice. Choir, musical instruments, some sports like basketball, maybe.
15. Does the school provide appropriate assistance to new students?
Not formally but the school is small and any help you need will be gladly given.
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 is no formal counseling but the teacher-student ratio is low and the school is small. Any problems are dealt with on a personal basis.
2. Does the school have a library? How large is it? How updated are the books? Can students borrow books to read at home?
The library is fantastic. It's a big room in the attic with over 15,000 titles. I think it is the biggest English library in Kosovo.
3. How are information technology resources at the school. Are they up-to-date? Is there a computer lab?
There is a new computer lab and the IT department is very good. Modern technologies are incorporated into the lessons. Math, for example, uses a mixture of Khan Academy and worksheets. Videos and whiteboards are also in use.
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 - There is an hour of PE every afternoon which I thoroughly approve. There are no swimming lessons.
5. What is the approximate teacher-to-student ratio in the grades that your child attended?
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?
There is no IB and I'm not sure about AP. Math is a self-paced program (using Khan Academy and worksheets), so you can get ahead of the rest of the class quite easily if you are good at math.
There are dual credit courses for high school students through Bethany College in Lindsborg, KS (USA).
7. Is the amount and type of homework generally appropriate for the age and grade of the students?
I think it could be more homework and also a bit more challenging. It's mostly worksheets.
8. What fine arts electives are available (music, drama, visual arts)?
There are no electives in the middle school. I'm not sure about the high school.
9. Are the teachers at the school required to speak English as a first language--or at least fluently?
All teachers are native speakers, and all TA's and staff speak fluent English.
10. What services are available for gifted/advanced students at the school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.
I am not aware of such services.
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?
I don't know about others but my child has two local best friends whom he meets outside of school. There aren't enough expats in this school to be able to form a clique (which is a positive in my eyes). My son is the only expat in his class.
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.
Not that I'm aware. My son sometimes complains that his classmates mainly speak Albanian among themselves but that is quite normal.
1. What is the greatest strength of this school?
The greatest strength of this school is the dedicated teachers and staff. Everybody is very engaged and enthusiastic about working at PHS. This creates a very warm climate at the school.
2. Greatest challenge?
The greatest challenge would be the missing IB and the fact that there is a high turnover in teachers. This school was founded by missionaries who wanted to provide a first world education to locals. The teachers are all working on a voluntary basis - they don't get a salary, so they have to find a sponsor. For that reason, many teachers only stay for a year or two.
(You won't be encountering that missionary character at the school at all. When I heard about this, I was very surprised. The school is secular in all things that matter.)
3. Would you choose this school again? Why?
We would choose this school again for its climate of openness, friendliness, and safety. Everybody is very approachable and any problems are solved quickly. I also like that the school is in an area with good air quality which is important in Pristina. Our son is happy there.