Lusaka, Zambia Report of what it's like to live there - 04/14/16
Personal Experiences from Lusaka, Zambia
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?
I teach secondary school (6th-12th grade at ISL).
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)?
Spouse of embassy employee
5. Are other schools available to expatriates in this city? Why did you choose this particular school?
They were hiring. :)
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?
A- ISL accepts most students as long as there is space in the grade level.
2. How would you rate the school's support and welcome/integration of new students and their families, and why?
Administration & School Procedures:
1. Describe the general climate of the grade level that you teach or your child attends:
The student body of the school is quite diverse, drawing largely from the local Indian community, with high numbers of Zambian students as well. There are a handful of European students and a few Americans here and there. The students are very polite, welcoming to new classmates, and interact easily with most of the teachers. They are the best thing about the school!
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?
C- In secondary, as is the case at many schools, the parents teachers need to contact are non-responsive.
4. Services for gifted students who need academic challenge and students with learning difficulties:
B- Not much extra challenge for gifted students. Great learning support team but some of the secondary faculty do not have the professional training to incorporate differentiated learning into their everyday teaching.
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?
6. Availability and variety of after-school activities for various ages:
A-Wide variety throughout the school year in both primary and secondary.
7. Maintenance of appropriately high standards for all students:
8. Homework assigned (quality, quantity):
As a secondary teacher, I think the school assigns too much homework. The parents are very insistent that teachers constantly assign lots of work, which in turn makes students over-stressed and without time to pursue a life outside of academics. This is a bigger problem in the IGCSE and IBDP programs.
9. Administration-parent communication:
10. Teacher-student communication:
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?
Yes, particularly in middle school.
12. Does your child receive any special-needs assistance or instruction at this school? If yes, what types? Who provides services and where:
13. Do you believe the special-needs assistance is appropriate and fills your needs? Explain:
14. Does the gifted and talented program meet the needs of students? Please explain:
15. Does the school offer a wide variety of elective or non-core classes such as art, music, and drama?
Art, music, and drama are required courses in middle school and are options for the IGCSE and IBDP programs. Unfortunately, given the pressure from parents for students to go into medicine, many students take 2-3 sciences which means they do not have room in their schedules for the arts.
16. Please describe any classes or programs that you believe are missing:
17. Are there academic requirements such as trips or other activities that cost money in addition to school fees?
18. What activities do you feel are missing?
Student-led activities. The older students need to develop better leadership skills and need to be held accountable for the success or failure of school events but almost everything is done by the teachers.
19. Have your children participated in the activities offered? If no, please indicate why:
20. Does the school provide appropriate assistance to new students?
Yes and No- the first week they are supported then after that they seem to be on their own.
21. Please describe any problem areas or challenges in social interaction at the school:
Organization- often things happen at the last minute which makes it difficult for everyone involved.
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?
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?
D- Not great, small computer labs with aging equipment. This is also exacerbated by the constant internet outages and power cuts that come with living in Zambia these days. This makes it difficult for older students to complete online research.
4. Describe the physical education resources at the school. Is there a gym? A swimming pool? Are there playing fields or tennis courts available?
A- Excellent PE department which is always putting on events including British-style house competitions each term. Swimming and soccer are the big ones!
5. What is the approximate teacher-to-student ratio in the grades that your child attended?
1:15ish, smaller IBDP classes with as low a ratio as 1:3!
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?
A- IBDP courses offered in school but if ISL does not offer a particular course, students have the opportunity to take them online.
7. Is the amount and type of homework generally appropriate for the age and grade of the students?
Primary school- unsure
Middle school- yes
IGCSE- too much
IBDP- too much
8. What fine arts electives are available (music, drama, visual arts)?
B- ISL students love to perform and show their work, so the school has built in quite a few opportunities over the course of the year: secondary production (play or musical depending on the year), art exhibitions, drama club, poetry readings, battle of the bands, IB "rock" band, new chamber orchestra, art club, and a technical club where students run the sound and lights for all of the events mentioned. The only reason I knocked it down to a B is lack of parent support for the arts in general. They will often take their kids out of rehearsal without warning for sporting events or family trips. This makes it difficult for cohesive performances.
9. Are the teachers at the school required to speak English as a first language--or at least fluently?
Yes, and they do.
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?
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.
1. What is the greatest strength of this school?
The warmth of the student body.
2. Greatest challenge?
Institutional resistance to change. This is an old school and there is a strong mentality that status quo is good and change is bad. Even when the status quo is not sustainable.
3. Would you choose this school again? Why?
If I had school-age children, I would definitely send them to the primary school thanks to the strong PYP program. However, if they were older, I would not send them to the secondary school. There is a high turn-over of secondary teachers which means the programs are not consistent. I also do not like the emphasis from the parents on the sciences and math exclusively. Our older students do not get the chance to develop social skills or take risks that are appropriate for adolescents. Much too restrictive.