Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan Report of what it's like to live there - 09/28/22
Personal Experiences from Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
QSI International School of Bishkek
1. Are you the parent of a child(ren) attending this school? A teacher at the school? Or both?
I'm a parent of a student 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?
3. What years did you live here?
4. What was your reason for living in the city where the school is located (e.g., government, military, corporate, NGO, retired)?
5. Are other schools available to expatriates in this city? Why did you choose this particular school?
Yes, there are several other schools with varying ratios of international to local students. QSI keeps their ratio around 60% international to 40% local. The other main international school (BIS) is more 50-50, but many of the students they say are international are also native Russian speakers, leading to less of an English language education and a lot of exclusion for students who don't speak Russian.
We chose QSI because it has a full-day option for preschool students at a much more reasonable tuition price than other schools. It's roughly half the price the other school for a very high quality education. The school has a wonderful preschool teacher from the USA that my child is totally in love with. The teacher has created a warm, consistent, and positive classroom environment, and my child is sad on weekends when it's not a school day. The curriculum for the preschool is comprehensive and will have my child well prepared for kindergarten - knowing letters, sounds, counting, and solid foundational school readiness skills.
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. You can find them on the school website, and you can email the school office. They're very responsive.
2. How would you rate the school's support and welcome/integration of new students and their families, and why?
The school is very supportive of new families. They send frequent newsletters and emails to the parents, hold back-to-school picnics, meet the teacher days, and have a campus environment that is welcoming to new families who want to get a feel for the school. They offer trial days for families thinking of attending the school so their children can feel comfortable and the parents can ensure it's the right place for their family before committing. The parent committee is friendly and open to all parents wishing to help out. When my family first started at the school, multiple parents introduced themselves to me and ensured that I felt welcome and included.
Administration & School Procedures:
1. How is the overall communication between teachers and parents, and the administration and parents? How is communication facilitated?
Communication is very open. My child's teacher emails frequently and also has a parent group on WhatsApp. She is also available at the classroom door every morning and afternoon to talk about any issues or answer questions.
The administration is very responsive. The director is new this year, but has been with the school for several years as a teacher and an academic coordinator. He answers emails right away and will even text with you if needed. He is usually at the school gates during afternoon pickup, and he knows all parents by name (and even the nannies and drivers that work for some of the families!). I'm very happy with the new director - he's working really hard to make a great school community.
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?
I'm not sure about the older classes, but for preschool, all supplies are included with the tuition. You can pay separately for the school lunch/snack program. I think we paid a small amount for a few field trips last year, but the cost was nominal.
Academics & Resources:
1. Does the school have a library? How large is it? How updated are the books? Can students borrow books to read at home?
Yes, there is a library. Students can borrow books. There is no dedicated librarian but the homeroom teachers take their classes once per week for a lesson on using the library or researching, and the students check out books at that time.
2. Describe the physical education resources at the school. Is there a gym? A swimming pool? Are there playing fields or tennis courts available?
The school has a gym and a gorgeous new sport court and playground. Kids seem joyful whenever I'm there at recess time!
3. What is the approximate teacher-to-student ratio in the grades that your child attended?
10 students to 2 full-time teachers plus another aide in the preschool.
4. 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 given several placement assessments at the start of the year (reading level, math level, and the MAP assessment, among others). Teachers communicate the results of these assessments to parents and work to find an appropriate placement level for students. If a child is excelling in math or literacy, they can be moved up to the next grade level for that subject or can work in a small group with their current teacher on the next level's curriculum. The same goes for students who need more time to develop their grade level skills.
QSI has an American-style curriculum with a mastery learning model. The curriculum and learning objectives of each unit are well laid out, and the way to achieve mastery of each objective is clear. When a student is struggling, the teacher will work with the student to ensure they master the material before moving on. Students who are advanced are able to dive deeper into the unit and show their knowledge in new ways, or are able to work with a more advanced class (for example, a third grader can be moved to the fourth grade math class if they're ready). Teachers make the daily activities appropriately rigorous and differentiate learning through the use of small groups.
5. Are the teachers at the school required to speak English as a first language--or at least fluently?
Yes, they are expected to speak English fluently. Most of the teachers seem to be native English speakers. The assistants are usually locals instead of expats, so they can support with Russian language as needed for young students new to learning in English, but they all speak English fluently and as their primary mode of communication.
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, they do. QSI encourages students to speak in English at all times to build the classroom and school community. This way, students who don't speak Russian are not excluded from the social environment on the playground.
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.
No, I have not seen any issues in this area. In speaking with parents and teachers from other grade levels, they have not experienced this either.
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 give the school an A-. I just wish the bus system was set up for kids each day. I'm otherwise completely satisfied and know that my child is getting an excellent preschool experience.
2. Please describe some of your child's/children's highlights and challenges during their time at this school.
My child has become more confident, outgoing, and brave. She absolutely loves school and learns something new every day. She'll be totally ready for kindergarten by the end of this school year.
3. Please tell us anything else you think prospective parents and students should know about this school. Thanks for your contribution!
Although it's a smaller school population-wise, it has the biggest heart. Children are happy, parents are happy, and the staff are happy. The other international school has a lot of drama, overcrowding, and communication issues. I can truly say that QSI Bishkek is drama free and full of supportive, kind, and positive people.