Vientiane, Laos Real School Experiences

Personal Experiences from Vientiane, Laos

Vientiane, Laos 10/11/17

Vientiane International SChool

School Website

http://www.vislao.com/


Background Information:

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

I was a parent (2014 to 2017) and a teacher for one year.

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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?

My kids attended secondary school (grades 7 to 10).

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

There are other schools (see http://jclao.com/english-schools-in-vientiane/ ) but this is the only IB school in Laos at the moment. The other schools follow the Cambridge Curriculum. There is also a good French school and a home school co-op for Americans who are not satisfied with VIS.

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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 admission officers change quite often and the policies on the website are not always followed. The primary school is always very full and some people complain. VIS states that they are inclusive and I had the impression that they take every child when they have space but they will not follow up or not support children very well if they have dyslexia or dyscalculia or ADHD. They mention a learning support team on their website but there are only two people employed for primary and secondary school who are called special education coordinators.

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

The director believes that since VIS is a small school there is no need to help families with transition, in my opinion.

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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 secondary school there is a rule about 'independent students' and the principal and teachers will tell you straight away that they will only communicate with students and not with parents. Teachers will only communicate with parents directly if there is a serious problem.

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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?

The school fees are higher than at the Tier 1 Schools in Bangkok. You can rent an iPad for USD600 per semester but it is better to buy one for your children.

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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?

Counseling is not adequate in my opinion. There is a full-time and a part-time counselor for secondary but both are not experienced in giving advice with regards to academic careers. My child was bullied badly and neither the counselor nor the school professionally supported my child.

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

Yes, there is a library with a very nice supportive team and parents can also borrow books. I don't know how updated the collection is.

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

No computer lab and the design lab is too small. The physics lab is not well equipped. There is not much inquiry-based learning, more old fashioned theoretical teaching given the poor equipment in science and design labs.

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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?

They get a laptop but for an Apple, you need to pay extra.

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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?

It is okay. There is a small pool and a gym.

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

Sometimes very small classes like 1:15 but last year one English class in grade 7 had 30 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?

There are only IB classes in upper school which students have to attend even if they don't do a full IB diploma.

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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?

Although the school states that they "differentiate," teachers who are capable to teach in that manner are rare at VIS. Most of them teach only to the mainstream. The school markets a "mother tongue" program but most of the tutors don't have a teaching experience in that area. Math is another big problem in primary and secondary school which leads students to be ill-prepared for IB.

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

There are assessments which are assigned for a couple of weeks which is in line with the curriculum - MYP. However, in my experience, many teachers are not trained well in the curriculum especially the "reflection" component. Teachers assign tons of reflection papers without any connection to the work students had done before.

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

In VIS electives don't really exist because PE, design and fine arts subjects are valued the same as math, English and science. Although this is nice, the school does not focus enough on core English and mathematics classes so some students are not well prepared for the IB or struggle when they move back to their home country.

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

They are supposed to speak English fluently but mother tongue tutors do not need to speak English well.

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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.

My child always struggled in mathematics and the teacher only started to care after she failed. When she was diagnosed with dyscalculia, the math teacher deleted her name in the math standard class on managebac as if she did not exist anymore.

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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.

I have never seen students with physical disabilities. There are 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.

VIS provides intense English support until middle school. In high school there is no extra support which is a problem.

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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 MRISA tournaments every term in basketball, volleyball and soccer and the team travels in the region. There is also a swim team (but no water polo). And, they had an art exchange with other schools in the region.

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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?

Not at all. Respect for the Lao culture was only written on their papers. VIS had class trips to villages in Laos and the children were even not taught how to greet in the local language. In school, the Lao group does usually not interact with the expat kids. VIS does not offer Lao as foreign language.

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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.

VIS does not have an anti-bullying policy in place--only a shaky definition in the student handbook. My daughter was badly bullied. The first incident was reported to the school counselor who assured follow-up but that never happened and the bullying continued.

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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?

Fail. No, I would never ever move to Laos with high school kids. Both of my children hate VIS and one of them really loved school before.

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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!

VIS is really one of the worst example how badly a good curriculum could be organized. In our time it was really a management disaster but of course, administrators come and go so change might be possible soon.

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Vientiane, Laos 01/21/16

Vientiane International School

School Website

http://vislao.com


Background Information:

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

Parent

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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?

1st and 3rd

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3. During what years were you affiliated with this school?

2014-1016

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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)?

My husband is AD Navy. I am an EFM who works at the Embassy.

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

We chose VIS because our sponsor told us that most families chose VIS for their education needs.

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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?

Admissions are done at the admin level. I do not know the process.

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

The school has expats, embassy children from all over the world, locals and some kids from NGOs. This school is very familiar with children who move frequently and have built in accommodating ways to help kids adapt to new settings.

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Administration & School Procedures:

1. Describe the general climate of the grade level that you teach or your child attends:

My kids were in Prep (kindergarten) and 2nd when we arrived. Same general set-up for 1st and 3rd grade. Both of the classrooms were set up in a similar manner. There are two separate Prep classes but they are separated by a teacher work area between the rooms. The children are frequently placed in groups that are not limited to kids in their own home classroom. There is a lot of fluid movement between the rooms. Kids do a lot of hands-on activites. There is a huge focus on letting the child learn in her own way. Multiple modes of learning are reinforced so all the kids can get the information needed to complete tasks. There is no "one" right way to do things. The kids have lots of time to explore their environments, lots of outdoor play and activities and the campus is filled with laughter and fun. The library was renovated before school started back in 2014. If your child has some learning disabilities, they do have some programs for that. Not too sure what it entails, but they do have learning coaches and specialists. My kids have always enjoyed the open learning environment.

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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:

It's a huge multi-national school. Primarily the students are from Australia. There are kids from all over the world. The first year, my kids were the only Americans in the room. This year there are 2 others in the room with them. The school is diversified, which requires the kids to work with others in a new and open-minded kind of way.

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

Plenty of info from the class to the parent. Most is done via email but there are 2 parent-teacher meetings during the year. Teachers are always open to dialogue.

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4. 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?

lunch program is extra. The cost is reasonable. High schoolers might have to pay for things, but I am unaware of what that would be. They are issued lap tops, I think.

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5. Services for gifted students who need academic challenge and students with learning difficulties:

There are programs for those with learning disabilities. I would say that severely learning disabled children would not do best coming to Laos. Those who are gifted might also find some challenges. One family had some problems with keeping their gifted student challenged academically, so they pulled their child out for the 2nd year and chose to home school. I have never seen any kids with moderate or severe disabilities on campus. They may attend school and I just haven't been exposed to them.

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6. Availability and variety of after-school activities for various ages:

There are lots of activites to choose from for Elementary, Middle and High School. Drama, coding, math, karate, swimming, soccer, badminton, tennis......the list is too long to list. Some are free activities and some have fees. All Embassy kids (prep and up) ride the bus included in tuition fees. There is an after school bus that brings kids home one hour later than the normal dismissal time.

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7. Maintenance of appropriately high standards for all students:

I think VIS does a great job at keeping the kids stimulated and giving them many avenues to learn. Not all kids learn the same, and I think this school makes every effort to keep kids engaged. I will say that in Elementary there is not a huge focus on checking the children's homework. If your kid isn't motivated to do homework, you better check that they are doing it.

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8. Homework assigned (quality, quantity):

Homework is not overwhelming in the Elementary grades. You must stick with them because the focus of the teachers does not appear to be reprimanding kids for not doing homework.

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9. Administration-parent communication:

There are weekly emails from the school from the newsletter.

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10. Teacher-student communication:

Teachers engage with kids on a one on one level. The kids have positive interations with the teachers at VIS. Teachers aren't burned out. They seem to really like their jobs.

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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?

not in my opinion

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12. Does your child receive any special-needs assistance or instruction at this school? If yes, what types? Who provides services and where:

no

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13. Does the school offer a wide variety of elective or non-core classes such as art, music, and drama?

yes, see above

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14. Please describe any classes or programs that you believe are missing:

I think classes are well represented.

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15. Are there academic requirements such as trips or other activities that cost money in addition to school fees?

All fees are covered for the school. Field trips are a small charge. Middle and High school kids do a program outside of the school for a week. There is probably a fee, but it's got to be reasonably priced.

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16. Have your children participated in the activities offered? If no, please indicate why:

yes

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17. Does the school provide appropriate assistance to new students?

yes

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18. Please describe any problem areas or challenges in social interaction at the school:

none that I have noticed.

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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 are counselors for the middle and high school levels. There are other support staff programs that can be used with the younger ones.

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

Great little library. My kids love going.

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

Computers are everywhere. Lots of opportunites for coding, programming, doing digital creations.

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4. Describe the physical education resources at the school. Is there a gym? A swimming pool? Are there playing fields or tennis courts available?

PE 2x per week and one of those is swimming class. They have at least 2 times a day for recess in the Elementary grades. There are plenty of activities from soccer to baskeball to the jungle gyms to the library. All are available during breaks.

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

My kids had a 1-22 ratio. Not too sure what the limit is, but there are teacher's aides and there are other teachers/educators who float in and out of the rooms for support all day long.

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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?

IB program is available for older kids.

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

yes

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

The kids have music 3 x per week. The kids put on two full shows a year for the parents. This year it involved singing and instruments. In elementary school, the kids take a foreign language. Chinese or French are offered. There is "mother tongue" for those who want their kids to have the mother tongue taught for a portion of the day.

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

yes

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

no

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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?

yes.

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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?

yes. There are birthday parties every weekend here.

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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.

Not anything like the U.S. The kids are mostly well behaved.

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Overall Impressions:

1. What is the greatest strength of this school?

I like the open campus feel. Parents are invited on campus at all times. There is a cafe for parents to hang out and do PTA stuff.

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2. Greatest challenge?

Parking on campus. There aren't enough spots and the streets nearby are narrow.

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3. Would you choose this school again? Why?

Yes. My kids love it. It's nothing like the US schools that focus too much on testing. My kids love going to school each day. :)

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Vientiane, Laos 04/27/12

Vientiane International School

School Website

http://www.vislao.com


Background Information:

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

parent

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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?

EY and Grade 2

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3. During what years were you affiliated with this school?

2008-2013

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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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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

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

A

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Administration & School Procedures:

1. Describe the general climate of the grade level that you teach or your child attends:

great, dynamic teachers and happy student, with motivated school principal and hard working primary principal. Parents are mostly very supportive and organise a good range of fun events for the primary students over the year. As it is a small school (approx. 380 students EY-12, secondary students often help with activities for primary students.

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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:

A

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

B

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4. Services for gifted students who need academic challenge and students with learning difficulties:

C

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5. Availability and variety of after-school activities for various ages:

A

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6. Maintenance of appropriately high standards for all students:

A

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7. Homework assigned (quality, quantity):

B

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8. Administration-parent communication:

B

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9. Teacher-student communication:

A

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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?

yes, level of foreign languages is basic; however school has several mother-tongue programs (financed in addition to the school fees by parents)

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11. Does your child receive any special-needs assistance or instruction at this school? If yes, what types? Who provides services and where:

no

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12. Do you believe the special-needs assistance is appropriate and fills your needs? Explain:

no, I heard from other families that they wish more support from teachers. School lately has made some progress, but it still depends on the homeroom teacher how involved the school gets.

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13. Does the gifted and talented program meet the needs of students? Please explain:

no idea

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14. Does the school offer a wide variety of elective or non-core classes such as art, music, and drama?

the Art/Performance center is under construction and will be finished in August 2012, so improvements can be expected

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15. Please describe any classes or programs that you believe are missing:

more foreign languages

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16. Are there academic requirements such as trips or other activities that cost money in addition to school fees?

all regular ones are included in the fees, however sport, cultural exchanges within neighbouring countries is to be paid in addition

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17. What activities do you feel are missing?

none

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18. Have your children participated in the activities offered? If no, please indicate why:

Yes with great pleasure

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19. Does the school provide appropriate assistance to new students?

Yes, support for new students and parents is great. If needed due to language barriers even same language buddies are organised.

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20. Please describe any problem areas or challenges in social interaction at the school:

Some of the families are very rich and others are at school beacuse the employer pays the fees. So for activities outside school this can create some exclusion.

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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?

B

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

B

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

A

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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

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

A

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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 (full IB with PYP, MYP and DP)

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

yes

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

B

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

yes, only native English speakers or teachers with high level of English. Teacher Assistants English level is varying, but generally very good for Lao context.

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

no, no idea

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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?

Yes, great selection mainly for primary students. After school life for secondary is a bit limited.

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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?

Yes. There is often little interaction outside of school between neighbourhood kids and VIS students due to the lack of language. Improvements are done with the VIS sister school (a very poor neighbourhood school)

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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.

No

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Overall Impressions:

1. What is the greatest strength of this school?

A fabulous principal, motivated teachers and a bunch of fantastic parents who make that you feel home in Laos immediately when having kids at school.

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2. Greatest challenge?

Incredible heat and heavy rains when doing outdoor activities

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3. Would you choose this school again? Why?

Absolutely.

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