Monrovia, Liberia Report of what it's like to live there - 12/19/13
Personal Experiences from Monrovia, Liberia
American International School of Monrovia
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?
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)?
5. Are other schools available to expatriates in this city? Why did you choose this particular school?
It is the only Americal school here.
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?
2. How would you rate the school's support and welcome/integration of new students and their families, and why?
Little to no communication from the teachers. I have initiated contact via email with all of them and only regularly hear from one. The principal has been very responsive, but not the teachers. Orientation and PTA meetings have been held most often during business hours, so if you work, you can't attend.
Administration & School Procedures:
1. Describe the general climate of the grade level that you teach or your child attends:
Dismal and small. Initially when we inquired we were told there would be 7-8 freshman in the first year freshman class. In reaity, there were three including our child. The other two were Liberian-Americans and one has left for the year and won't be returning.
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?
POOR! Music teacher is the exception.
4. Services for gifted students who need academic challenge and students with learning difficulties:
None unless you are agressive and happy with online options and lots of supplemental work at home.
5. Availability and variety of after-school activities for various ages:
Lots for the younger set.
6. Maintenance of appropriately high standards for all students:
Hard to comment. Our older student complains about lack of discipline, lots of talking in class, and disruptions being tolerated.
7. Homework assigned (quality, quantity):
Almost none. There was some initially, mostly from the music class, which was an elective A little bit of reading and a few work sheets. Far less now than there was at the beginning of the year. I keep asking for feedback from teachers on this, but I don't get it. Again, the principal has been my best source.
8. Administration-parent communication:
Responds quickly to direct communication. Sends out regular updates.
9. Teacher-student communication:
10. 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?
11. Does your child receive any special-needs assistance or instruction at this school? If yes, what types? Who provides services and where:
No. But we did have to ask for online supplementation of his coursework, and with a few hiccups, it was provided. It's sad, though to pay private school tuition to have him sit in a room going to school on a computer. This is not the experience we were after.
12. Do you believe the special-needs assistance is appropriate and fills your needs? Explain:
13. Does the gifted and talented program meet the needs of students? Please explain:
14. Does the school offer a wide variety of elective or non-core classes such as art, music, and drama?
The basics are covered in art and music. The music teacher is new and working really hard to provide a good program.
15. Please describe any classes or programs that you believe are missing:
Real courseowrk for students in 8th grade and beyond. Physical education and sports.
16. Are there academic requirements such as trips or other activities that cost money in addition to school fees?
Not so far.
17. What activities do you feel are missing?
18. Have your children participated in the activities offered? If no, please indicate why:
No, the participants are all quite a bit younger than our student and he is not interested in the activities. He is participating in some adult pick-up sports in the city and enoying that quite a bit. We're also working with him on swimming outside of school.
19. Does the school provide appropriate assistance to new students?
When activily pursued, yes.
20. Please describe any problem areas or challenges in social interaction at the school:
No one his age or even near his age with similar interests (reading, politics, Rugby, fishing). No Americans his age or gender.
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?
One accredited counselor. She was assigned to our student when we had to make some course changes with him, but we have not heard from her.
2. Does the school have a library? How large is it? How updated are the books? Can students borrow books to read at home?
3. How are information technology resources at the school. Are they up-to-date? Is there a computer lab?
There is a computer lab but some of the teachers don't even have internet, or at least that is what I was told when I asked why one of them was not responding to my emails.
4. Describe the physical education resources at the school. Is there a gym? A swimming pool? Are there playing fields or tennis courts available?
Not formal. Nice gym, but no genuine PE program or officially organized afterschool sports. Just 'activities'. Our older child was allowed to do an 'independent study' for PE as the level of activity was middle grade school and he wanted an actualy cardiovascular and weight program. Again, the principal was very supportive of this, but we had to be actively involved.
5. What is the approximate teacher-to-student ratio in the grades that your child attended?
Varies from class to class, but generally low. There are only 125 students, most in the younger grades.
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?
7. Is the amount and type of homework generally appropriate for the age and grade of the students?
No. We supplement our student's work at home every night. He virtually has NO homework more than 3/4 of the time.
8. What fine arts electives are available (music, drama, visual arts)?
There is an Art teacher and a Music teacher with reasonable resources. No official drama program.
9. Are the teachers at the school required to speak English as a first language--or at least fluently?
Fluent, no. Passible, yes. The one email I received from the prior French teacher demonstrated that she had little command of English, which explained why our student was having trouble learning the parts of speech from her in French. She has been replaced.
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?
Basic afterschool activities like crafts, ping pong, wood working, a few things that teachers and or involved adults have offered to do.
Social & Emotional Well-Being:
1. Do expatriate students socialize with local students at the school? Are both groups successfully integrated into the school culture?
Our student does not, as he has no peer group at the school
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.
Our student has been verbally teased by a few of the 8th graders for his stand-offishness and preference to do phsysical activities on his own. He also likes a more disciplined classroom and other kids enjoy the looser environment, so he has been teased about that. Nothing, I'd say, out of the ordinary for the age group involved.
1. What is the greatest strength of this school?
The lower grades. They honestly seem to do a great job with K - 4th or so. The Christmas Pageant was a testament to this. And it was decidedly a "Christmas" Pageant.
2. Greatest challenge?
3. Would you choose this school again? Why?
No, we have actually had to think long and hard about even keeping our student here for the remainder of the year. He likes the opportunities he has outside of the school, living in a different environment, and his online work, so he has elected to stay.