Colombo, Sri Lanka Report of what it's like to live there - 01/09/24

Personal Experiences from Colombo, Sri Lanka

Colombo, Sri Lanka 01/09/24

Background Information:

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

I am a parent of multiple children.

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2. What grade or grades do/did your children attend at the school? During what year(s) did they attend the school?

2022-2024. I had one kid in primary and 2 kids in middle years.

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3. What years did you live here?

2022-2024

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4. What was your reason for living in the city where the school is located (e.g., government, military, corporate, NGO, retired)?

Government

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

Yes. There are several other schools available. I chose this school because I was led to believe it was the only option. They have an amazing social media person who made the school look amazing.

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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?

The procedures are clearly stated, however, the application is not user-friendly.

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

In my opinion, poor. The school has student ambassadors who are supposed to reach out to new students in the summer. The school failed to give one of my kids an ambassador.

The orientation was confusing. They expect 1 parent with each child but I have 3 kids so this was impossible for me. It was confusing where we were supposed to be and when. Not enough time was allotted to buy PE kits before the next session. An elementary student gave us our tour. While cute, the student could not answer questions and spoke quietly so it was hard to hear.

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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?

In my opinion, poor. There is a lack of communication about student progress. By mid-October, my child didn't have a single grade in the grade book. My elementary student reported doing poorly on some assignments. I reached out to the teacher to see what they were working on so I could support learning at home. I was told my kid was 'doing fine' and to look in the Seesaw app to see what they were doing. This app is not user-friendly and parents can only see work after the teacher grades and allows it. I found that this was not done promptly.

The school does put out a weekly newsletter that has some useful information in it. However, short notice is often provided for parent meetings or classroom exhibitions. Notice was frequently 48 hours or less making it difficult for working parents.

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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?

Grades 5 and up are required to bring their own computer. The requirements for the computer are pretty high - a Chromebook won't do.

A uniform for PE is required but there isn't a school uniform (this is inexpensive).

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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?

There is a primary, middle school, and high school counselor. The counselor seemed to be familiar with universities worldwide.

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

There isn't childcare available. They do offer after-school activities most days. There is no fee for the afterschool activities.

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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?

The school has a primary and secondary library. Books can be checked out to read at home. The selection seemed pretty current.

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4. What are the technology requirements for students? Do they need their own laptops/ipads? How is technology integrated into the classroom and homework?

Grades 5 and up need their own computers. The requirement is pretty high and a Chromebook won't work. My kids had Macs.

Grades 4 and below - technology was provided in the classroom and did not go home with students.

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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?

The school has an open-air gym, a swimming pool, and a field. The field is in poor condition and very uneven.

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

My primary kid had 22 students with 1 teacher and an assistant. My secondary students had 10-15 kids/teacher.

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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?

The school is IB. A full diploma IB is not required but is encouraged.

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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?

The school is stronger in language. There seems to be more of a focus on English and World Language classes and creativity. The school's math and science programs do not seem to be as strong, in my opinion. There doesn't seem to be a lot of differentiation in math classes. My older kids have been in advanced math and did not get the same level of challenge. Two kids left OSC after a year and they had significant gaps in math. I spoke to the primary counselor about my youngest's math achievement (low average on MAPS) and was told many kids in this grade are scoring closer to the 10% so they weren't concerned.

After our first year, many math and science teachers left the school. Due to low enrollment, they could not replace all of the teachers. Therefore, some teachers are teaching out of their content area. For example, a social studies teacher is teaching math. An administrator with a background in English is teaching design.

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

There is minimal homework.

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

Music, drama, and visual arts are all available. Limited instrumental music is available as an after-school activity, some for a fee.

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

Yes.

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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.

There or no gifted services available.

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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 a learning support teacher for primary and one for secondary. I would say the support is very limited and meant for kids with very minor disabilities. My child received some support but not close to what they got in their home country.

In October, the learning support teacher asked if I had heard of dysgraphia because he believed my child had it. I found this strange as dysgraphia is one of my child's confirmed disabilities and was supposed to be receiving services for it. I can only assume that this means my child was not receiving those services.

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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.

The school is not equipped for students with physical disabilities. There are many stairs and hills and no elevators.

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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.

ESL is available. We didn't need this service.

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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?

They have rotating after-school activities by the quarter. The school participates in SAISA sports. Sports include swimming, basketball, track and field, football (soccer), volleyball, and badminton.

Clubs include but are not limited to: swimming, oriental dance, D & D, rock wall climbing, art

Secondary kids are required to do at least 1 semester of service after school on Thursdays.

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Social & Emotional Well-Being:

1. What is the climate for children with special needs? Is there a general attitude of inclusion for children with special needs?

The school says it will accept kids with mild to moderate needs. I feel that it is better for only kids with mild needs.

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2. 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?

The school is accepting of LGBT+ but to my knowledge, there aren't any resources available.

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

Expat kids interact with locals who have been at the school for a long time. There does seem to be a separation between Sri Lankan and Indian students and the rest of the student body.

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4. 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.

Yes. The school talks a lot about inclusion but this was not our experience and in 1-1 conversations with administration, teachers, and counselors they all acknowledge the severity of some cliques and and a lack of inclusivity. Two of my 3 children, experienced bullying and/or social isolation. The school expressed support and concern but did not appear to implement change. I was told the team would meet to discuss my concerns, but there was no follow-up. My oldest child was left sitting at a table by themselves while 8 of the same gender students crowded around a table meant for 4. After the meeting, my child said 2 teachers tried to implement assigned seats. In one class, the kids refused to move and the teacher gave up and taught the lesson. In the other, the kids moved but returned to their previous seats the next class and the teacher said nothing. My children left after a year and required counseling to address their experiences during which I learned some of the harmful things they were told by their peers.

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5. What is the climate for students who identify as ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious minorities at this school? Are there resources they can draw upon? Have your children had any experiences in this area?

We are a mixed Christian/Jewish house. There have been some anti-Semitic comments since October. The school acknowledges many holidays but did not wish Happy Hannukah to families.

Both of my older kids have reported that some racist comments have been made towards their classmates from India.

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6. What can you say about diversity among the faculty and staff at the school and their experience in supporting minority students?

The staff is diverse.

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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?

D. I would not choose this school again. There are other options and I wish I had looked into them.

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2. Please describe some of your child's/children's highlights and challenges during their time at this school.

A week without walls and SAISA were highlights.

Inclusivity and acceptance were big challenges.

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