Vientiane, Laos Report of what it's like to live there - 01/21/16
Personal Experiences from Vientiane, Laos
Vientiane International School
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?
1st and 3rd
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 is AD Navy. I am an EFM who works at the Embassy.
5. Are other schools available to expatriates in this city? Why did you choose this particular school?
We chose VIS because our sponsor told us that most families chose VIS for their education needs.
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?
Admissions are done at the admin level. I do not know the process.
2. How would you rate the school's support and welcome/integration of new students and their families, and why?
The school has expats, embassy children from all over the world, locals and some kids from NGOs. This school is very familiar with children who move frequently and have built in accommodating ways to help kids adapt to new settings.
Administration & School Procedures:
1. Describe the general climate of the grade level that you teach or your child attends:
My kids were in Prep (kindergarten) and 2nd when we arrived. Same general set-up for 1st and 3rd grade. Both of the classrooms were set up in a similar manner. There are two separate Prep classes but they are separated by a teacher work area between the rooms. The children are frequently placed in groups that are not limited to kids in their own home classroom. There is a lot of fluid movement between the rooms. Kids do a lot of hands-on activites. There is a huge focus on letting the child learn in her own way. Multiple modes of learning are reinforced so all the kids can get the information needed to complete tasks. There is no "one" right way to do things. The kids have lots of time to explore their environments, lots of outdoor play and activities and the campus is filled with laughter and fun. The library was renovated before school started back in 2014. If your child has some learning disabilities, they do have some programs for that. Not too sure what it entails, but they do have learning coaches and specialists. My kids have always enjoyed the open learning environment.
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:
It's a huge multi-national school. Primarily the students are from Australia. There are kids from all over the world. The first year, my kids were the only Americans in the room. This year there are 2 others in the room with them. The school is diversified, which requires the kids to work with others in a new and open-minded kind of way.
3. How is the overall communication between teachers and parents, and the administration and parents? How is communication facilitated?
Plenty of info from the class to the parent. Most is done via email but there are 2 parent-teacher meetings during the year. Teachers are always open to dialogue.
4. Services for gifted students who need academic challenge and students with learning difficulties:
There are programs for those with learning disabilities. I would say that severely learning disabled children would not do best coming to Laos. Those who are gifted might also find some challenges. One family had some problems with keeping their gifted student challenged academically, so they pulled their child out for the 2nd year and chose to home school. I have never seen any kids with moderate or severe disabilities on campus. They may attend school and I just haven't been exposed to them.
5. 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?
lunch program is extra. The cost is reasonable. High schoolers might have to pay for things, but I am unaware of what that would be. They are issued lap tops, I think.
6. Availability and variety of after-school activities for various ages:
There are lots of activites to choose from for Elementary, Middle and High School. Drama, coding, math, karate, swimming, soccer, badminton, tennis......the list is too long to list. Some are free activities and some have fees. All Embassy kids (prep and up) ride the bus included in tuition fees. There is an after school bus that brings kids home one hour later than the normal dismissal time.
7. Maintenance of appropriately high standards for all students:
I think VIS does a great job at keeping the kids stimulated and giving them many avenues to learn. Not all kids learn the same, and I think this school makes every effort to keep kids engaged. I will say that in Elementary there is not a huge focus on checking the children's homework. If your kid isn't motivated to do homework, you better check that they are doing it.
8. Homework assigned (quality, quantity):
Homework is not overwhelming in the Elementary grades. You must stick with them because the focus of the teachers does not appear to be reprimanding kids for not doing homework.
9. Administration-parent communication:
There are weekly emails from the school from the newsletter.
10. Teacher-student communication:
Teachers engage with kids on a one on one level. The kids have positive interations with the teachers at VIS. Teachers aren't burned out. They seem to really like their jobs.
11. 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?
not in my opinion
12. Does your child receive any special-needs assistance or instruction at this school? If yes, what types? Who provides services and where:
13. Does the school offer a wide variety of elective or non-core classes such as art, music, and drama?
yes, see above
14. Please describe any classes or programs that you believe are missing:
I think classes are well represented.
15. Are there academic requirements such as trips or other activities that cost money in addition to school fees?
All fees are covered for the school. Field trips are a small charge. Middle and High school kids do a program outside of the school for a week. There is probably a fee, but it's got to be reasonably priced.
16. Have your children participated in the activities offered? If no, please indicate why:
17. Does the school provide appropriate assistance to new students?
18. Please describe any problem areas or challenges in social interaction at the school:
none that I have noticed.
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 are counselors for the middle and high school levels. There are other support staff programs that can be used with the younger ones.
2. Does the school have a library? How large is it? How updated are the books? Can students borrow books to read at home?
Great little library. My kids love going.
3. How are information technology resources at the school. Are they up-to-date? Is there a computer lab?
Computers are everywhere. Lots of opportunites for coding, programming, doing digital creations.
4. Describe the physical education resources at the school. Is there a gym? A swimming pool? Are there playing fields or tennis courts available?
PE 2x per week and one of those is swimming class. They have at least 2 times a day for recess in the Elementary grades. There are plenty of activities from soccer to baskeball to the jungle gyms to the library. All are available during breaks.
5. What is the approximate teacher-to-student ratio in the grades that your child attended?
My kids had a 1-22 ratio. Not too sure what the limit is, but there are teacher's aides and there are other teachers/educators who float in and out of the rooms for support all day long.
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?
IB program is available for older kids.
7. Is the amount and type of homework generally appropriate for the age and grade of the students?
8. What fine arts electives are available (music, drama, visual arts)?
The kids have music 3 x per week. The kids put on two full shows a year for the parents. This year it involved singing and instruments. In elementary school, the kids take a foreign language. Chinese or French are offered. There is "mother tongue" for those who want their kids to have the mother tongue taught for a portion of the day.
9. Are the teachers at the school required to speak English as a first language--or at least fluently?
10. What services are available for gifted/advanced students at the school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.
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. There are birthday parties every weekend here.
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 anything like the U.S. The kids are mostly well behaved.
1. What is the greatest strength of this school?
I like the open campus feel. Parents are invited on campus at all times. There is a cafe for parents to hang out and do PTA stuff.
2. Greatest challenge?
Parking on campus. There aren't enough spots and the streets nearby are narrow.
3. Would you choose this school again? Why?
Yes. My kids love it. It's nothing like the US schools that focus too much on testing. My kids love going to school each day. :)