Mandalay, Myanmar Report of what it's like to live there - 01/27/17

Personal Experiences from Mandalay, Myanmar

Mandalay, Myanmar 01/27/17

Background Information:

1. Are you the parent of a child(ren) attending this school? A teacher at the school? Or both?

I'm a teacher.

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2. Are other schools available to expatriates in this city? Why did you choose this particular school?

There are some other schools that are international schools, but all international schools in this city serve mainly locals, since there are very few expats with children. I would say this school is the best option for expat children who aren't Muslim or Turkish (Horizon International School caters more to those families).

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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?

There are very few admissions standards. The biggest standard is can you pay.

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2. How would you rate the school's support and welcome/integration of new students and their families, and why?

It varies. One expat family was very firmly not welcome into the school's Montessori PK-KG program, but another family has been warmly welcomed into elementary. We've had two secondary exchange students who have been welcomed by staff and seem to be included by the local students.

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Administration & School Procedures:

1. How is the overall communication between teachers and parents, and the administration and parents? How is communication facilitated?

Teachers and local parents communicate through the local assistant teacher who speaks the local language, unless parents speak English. Most teachers are good about communicating with parents and are available for quarterly meetings for every student. The administration communicates with parents through English/Myanmar letters sent home via students whenever necessary (according to administration). Parents are able to request meetings with various administrators through reception or their child's teacher if they feel a need. All meetings with parents who don't speak English are conducted with a Myanmar translator present.

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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?

Yes. Uniforms, textbooks, and school supplies must be purchased. Field trips must be paid for by the students. I am not sure of the cost of uniforms, but textbooks, even in elementary, can run $500 or more per student.

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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?

Our school counselor left in December, so we have no counselor for the remainder of the school year. The administration has made clear they will not replace the counselor this year.

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2. Is there before and/or after-school daycare available? What are the costs?

No, there is no before or after school daycare available.

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3. Does the school have a library? How large is it? How updated are the books? Can students borrow books to read at home?

There is a library that has over 12,000 volumes, mostly in English but also in other languages. The books range from brand new, age-appropriate books found in the US, to old, sometimes obsolete, texts that must have been purchased from an estate sale. New books are purchased throughout the year; some are great for the students, and some are put in the adult section and cannot be used by the students. All students may use their ID cards to check out up to three books at once for one week at a time.

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4. How are information technology resources at the school. Are they up-to-date? Is there a computer lab?

We have two computer labs; one for ICT classes, and one for teachers to bring their classes for research, etc. The second lab is shared by all classes, from PK-12, around 860 students. It has around 30 computers. The computers are new (the school is not yet 6 years old). There are fake Smart Boards in the classrooms, along with a desktop computer for the teacher. The library has 5 or 6 computers that secondary students may use before and after school, and other students may use during the day with supervision from their teachers.

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5. 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 gymnasium that doubles as a school meeting area with a stage. There are industrial size fans, but because it is concrete and partially open-air, temperatures can be exceedingly hot between March and September/October. There is a salt swimming pool (students have swimming as part of PE in Quarters 1 and 4). There is a single soccer field and there are two volleyball nets currently up (but not proper courts).

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6. What is the approximate teacher-to-student ratio in the grades that your child attended?

In Montessori there are two co-leads and two assistant teachers per class, with each class at about 25 students, so 1:6-7. In elementary there is a foreign lead teacher and a local assistant teacher in each classroom. Classes are 21-25 students each, so about 1:11-13. It varies greatly in secondary, since there are classes of 6-25 students.

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7. 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?

No, advanced classes are not available.

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8. 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?

Most students are local and not native English speakers, so the curriculum, Common Core for language arts and math, is generally challenging for them. Social studies and science are also challenging for most students because of the language component.

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9. Is the amount and type of homework generally appropriate for the age and grade of the students?

I believe it is appropriate. However, many local students attend extra schools, such as Chinese school or religious school, and have extra tutoring at home. They can get overwhelmed due to being in school or tutoring for 10-12 hours a day.

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10. What fine arts electives are available (music, drama, visual arts)?

Music and art are offered as electives for high school students, but it is mixed age classes and there is only one teacher for art, and one for music, who must teacher PK-12.

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11. Are the teachers at the school required to speak English as a first language--or at least fluently?

Foreign teachers are mostly native speakers, though some are fluent but not native speakers. Local assistant teachers have a wide range of English ability.

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12. What services are available for gifted/advanced students at the school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.


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13. What services are available for students with learning disabilities at this school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.

There is an ESL class available for grades 1-8, and there is now a pull out/push in teacher for elementary. However, there are no services specifically for those students with learning disabilities. There are no certified special education teachers or any specialists to diagnose learning disabilities. The school generally won't take students with learning disabilities, although student with very mild disabilities may be admitted.

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14. What services are available for students with physical disabilities at this school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.

There is an elevator in the main building. I don't believe there are any students with physical disabilities at this school.

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15. What services are provided for speakers of English as a second language at this school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.

There is an ESL class for 30 minutes per day for students who are struggling with English in grades 1-8. Around 99% of students speak English as a second or third language, so all students are mainstreamed.

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16. 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?

There are clubs and sports run by teachers after school, available for students K-12. Basketball, soccer, badminton, and table tennis are the competitive sports offered. Water polo is offered as an activity for elementary students. Other clubs include hiking, games, acting, friendship bracelets, art, environment, scholastic competition, and much more. Yearbook, newspaper, and literary magazine are not offered consistently or at all in some cases.

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Social & Emotional Well-Being:

1. Do expatriate students socialize with local students at the school? Are both groups successfully integrated into the school culture?

We have extremely few expat students, so they do socialize with locals. We have 98 or 99% local students.

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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.

I haven't seen much bullying. There is some exclusionary behavior with speaking in Chinese or Myanmar, which not all students can understand.

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Overall Impressions:

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?

For working here, D or F. For sending your expat children here, B or C for Montessori or elementary, C or D for secondary (due to very few, if any, electives, and no advanced classes).

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2. Please tell us anything else you think prospective parents and students should know about this school. Thanks for your contribution!

There is really high teacher turnover in foreign teachers (I think 50% or so are leaving at the end of this year), and there is a lot of turnover in local teachers, as well. The main administration is a husband-wife team (Head of School and Head of Montessori), who are very much "my way or the highway." We are frequently without division administrators (last year without elementary from October, this year without secondary from January). This is a for-profit school owned by a local Chinese family.

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