Riga, Latvia Report of what it's like to live there - 11/01/22
Personal Experiences from Riga, Latvia
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?
Primary school (PYP), K-4
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?
We chose ISL as it is the most "international" of the options in Riga. The student body is nicely balanced between Latvian mother tongue, Russian mother tongue, and expats. It's also an IB school that takes the IB ethos very seriously, which we liked.
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, admissions were a very straightforward process. The school was communicative throughout, and none of the requirements were particularly challenging.
2. How would you rate the school's support and welcome/integration of new students and their families, and why?
Very supportive of new students. Our oldest started mid-way into the school year, but was positively welcomed by staff and students and had good friends within the first week.
Administration & School Procedures:
1. How is the overall communication between teachers and parents, and the administration and parents? How is communication facilitated?
Weekly newsletters, morning coffees, and regular interaction. COVID was difficult for this, but the school has really ramped up communication paths since then.
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?
School lunch fees and field trips are chargeable. Bus service is nice for those that live in Central Riga, some missions/companies pay this fee and others do not.
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?
Yes, there is a dedicated college counselor and students tend to get into excellent universities across Europe and in the US.
2. Is there before and/or after-school daycare available? What are the costs?
After-school activities are available, some are free and others have nominal costs for materials or instruction. For a relatively small school, ISL makes an effort to offer a wide variety of options for all grade levels.
3. 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 large for a school of its size with regular updates of new materials. Borrowing books is pretty much mandatory for primary grades for regular reading.
4. What are the technology requirements for students? Do they need their own laptops/ipads? How is technology integrated into the classroom and homework?
iPads are used for the lower grades and laptops in the upper grades. Technology is appropriately used to supplement work rather than being the focus.
5. How are information technology resources at the school. Are they up-to-date? Is there a computer lab?
6. 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 large gym, a football pitch, and basketball courts. And a massive and new playground for the younger grades.
7. What is the approximate teacher-to-student ratio in the grades that your child attended?
The ratio is usually 6:1 or so, counting the wonderful assistants. The amount of 1:1 instruction our children got was just astounding.
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?
ISL is an IB school and the only school in Latvia that offers the full IB diploma.
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?
The curriculum generally follows the US model and the IB program. It is well-designed for the student body and our kids really grew as learners.
10. Is the amount and type of homework generally appropriate for the age and grade of the students?
No homework in primary school! They are serious that for younger kids the most important thing is reading each night, and nothing more. They are very progressive in following best-practices on homework and instruction from across the world.
11. What fine arts electives are available (music, drama, visual arts)?
The usual arts offering are present. The "maker space" for the upper grades is world-class.
12. Are the teachers at the school required to speak English as a first language--or at least fluently?
English is the official language at ISL, and all teachers and students are expected to converse in English outside language classes. This has been great at preventing local cliques from forming. Teachers model this behavior amongst each other as well.
13. 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 and more than our kids had time to do. Lots of opportunities for different sports and arts activities, but also the traditional football (soccer), basketball, etc.
Social & Emotional Well-Being:
1. 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?
Latvia as a country is not progressive in this area, but ISL makes it a point that all children should be welcome and safe. They've been updating materials and focusing on inclusion to lay the foundation for an inclusive environment.
2. Do expatriate students socialize with local students at the school? Are both groups successfully integrated into the school culture?
Yes, the school is small enough that expats and locals all hang out together.
3. 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.
ISL had some challenges with this in the past, but the emphasis on English as the language for all communication has helped in this regard. The small class sizes and the lack of any single group (Latvian, Russian, expat) being in the majority means that most kids genuinely have friendships with people from everywhere.
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+ No question this would be our choice again were we to return to Latvia.