Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia Real School Experiences

Personal Experiences from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia 09/19/18

International School of Ulaanbaatar

School Website

http://ISUmongolia.edu.mn


Background Information:

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

Parent of 4 kids at school (PreK, 4th, 5th, 11th)

View All Answers


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

PreK 4th 5th 11th

View All Answers


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

Here with the Us Embassy

View All Answers


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

Yes but ISU has the best reputation by far so most people who can afford it or where employer the pays tuition chose it. There are less expensive preschool options that Embassy families often opt for and are very happy with, but we like the PYP program and wanted all the kids together so chose to pay for PreK at iSU.

View All Answers


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 school was really responsive to emails from the time I first contacted them in January and even through summer holidays.

View All Answers


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

Parent group was really welcoming and the school has a very nice community feel. It’s a new facility and is amazing with pool and rockwalll and amazing building and grounds - it’s the nicest place in UB.

View All Answers


Administration & School Procedures:

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

It’s fine. They sometimes tell us the day before something happens which makes it hard for planning but they use Managebac and Storypark and Seesaw (all apps) for communication throughout the day. Every teacher has been really easy to communicate with.

View All Answers


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 for travel sports (few days in Shanghai is $700)and 6th grade up goes on this awesome week long trip in the countryside (about $700). After school activities are mostly free though.

View All Answers


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?

Yes there is a dedicated counselor familiar with universities worldwide.

View All Answers


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

Afterschool program 3 days a week.

View All Answers


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

Library is very nice and they can borrow whenever.

View All Answers


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

Good.

View All Answers


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

Kids have computers and iPads in class. I would suggest buying one for middle school and highschool kids though.

View All Answers


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

Amazing pool and aquatics program. Basketball, Volleyball and they offer tennis and soccer as well.

View All Answers


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

DP1&2 (11th and 12th) less than 10, in high evens less than 5
Other grades about 15-18 with 2 teachers

View All Answers


8. 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?

It’s an IB program - I think there is an option to get regular diploma if you come in without DP background but not sure.

View All Answers


9. 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?

Yes. Best teachers we’ve had from first impressions.

View All Answers


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

Yes.

View All Answers


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

Not as many as what we were use to at a larger IB school but you can find everything at school or in UB - especially for younger kids.

View All Answers


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

Yes all are fluent speakers. Many Mongolians work at the school which is great so they aren’t native speakers but fluent in positions where it’s necessary (admin, asst teachers, etc.)

View All Answers


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

I only have experience with learning support and it’s been amazing.

View All Answers


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

Amazing learning support “inclusion” specialist.

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


17. 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?

Animal Care Club
Rugby
Drama
Volleyball
Yoga

View All Answers


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 lots of expats and Mongolians so it depends on grade. My 11th header has a lot of Mongolian friends. Younger kids 1 or 2. A lot of the Mongolians have been together for years so they have their cliques but it’s a very friendly place and lots of friend opportunities for all kids.

View All Answers


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 that we have seen

View All Answers


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?

B+
Only faults are late communication on events happening at the school and it’s small so there aren’t as many opportunities for high schoolers (although ours is happy here!)

View All Answers


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

Love that the teachers and staff walk the kids to from busses even in 40F below to greet and send them off everyday and make sure kids are where they are suppose to be.

View All Answers


Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia 06/13/15

International School of Ulaanbaatar

School Website

http://www.isumongolia.edu.mn


Background Information:

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

Parent

View All Answers


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

5-7

View All Answers


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

2011-14

View All Answers


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

Diplomatic

View All Answers


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

Previous good experience with international schools and the desire to have an international standard education while in Mongolia

View All Answers


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 appears to be a lot of partiality to local friends and supporters.

View All Answers


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

Not systematic or organized in our experience. ISU has a policy of dealing with parents by language (Mongolian, Korean, English) which exacerbates fault lines and prevents the emergence of a proper community. For several years ISU even refused to circulate a parents' directory.

View All Answers


Administration & School Procedures:

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

Confused

View All Answers


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:

F - ISU has numerous children who are offspring of the schools' own staff and teachers and who benefit disproportionately (e.g. preferred access to information, participation in school plays, events). We also found that ISU staff seem reluctant to discipline local children when needed. For example, we raised an instance of bullying/intimidation with the school staff and were told that ISU could not do anything because "the parents are political."

View All Answers


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

Dependent on the personality of the teacher; we encountered a systematic reluctance to discuss issues of any substance.

View All Answers


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

On paper seemingly OK, but in practice ISU generally sees this as a bother.

View All Answers


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?

Yes, overpriced food at the cafeteria plus laptops.

View All Answers


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

OK

View All Answers


7. Maintenance of appropriately high standards for all students:

Zero - discipline is a big problem with ISU administration and teachers alike who do not properly address issues as we personally experienced. Parents (like us) who try to raise issues are met with hostility.

View All Answers


8. Homework assigned (quality, quantity):

Far too much homework and generally assigned for the sake of it - we were never able to figure out how assignments fit in with the broader syllabus. If one had a good teacher (e.g. French) then it was quite different but it depended on the person. Many assignments were clearly issued on the spur of the moment with no thought whatsoever as to the value or purpose.

View All Answers


9. Administration-parent communication:

Egregiously bad. In our experience, the administration does not welcome feedback and is very defensive. The school also appears to focus on abstract concepts like curriculum provision or facility administration rather than on the students. Some of the higher administrators were invisible and inaccessible to us. On one instance during the semester when we asked to see the Director on an important matter, we were told he had taken a week's leave to compensate for all the time working with contractors in the summer on new facilities! I've never seen a school before where staff take leave during the semester. Administrators are frequently abroad on training courses, and we found access was really a big problem.

Regardless of the level, staff were highly defensive when it came to discussing any feedback they saw negative. When a difficult situation arose between a 7-year-old girl and her teacher, the whole class sent a delegation to complain, the response again was a brick wall with no admission of wrongdoing or assurances that deficiencies would be corrected.

View All Answers


10. Teacher-student communication:

Depends largely on the teacher, but in general the mood in ISU is one where one is expected not to ask questions or suggest anything outside of the status quo. There is a general lack of trust, and teachers have a sense of impunity - the Grade 7 maths teacher once informed his class that the only reason he went into teaching was for the long holidays! While ISU has some good teachers, many are way out of their depth, inexperienced and seemingly using the ISU job more as a reason for travel than to fulfill a mission as an educator. Seeing teachers leave the school before students at the close of semester was simply depressing.

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


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

On paper it's an OK offering.

View All Answers


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

Quantity-wise, ISU is fine and it looks impressive on the website but what is missing is the quality. I've never seen a school run with less 'heart' and with such disinterest by staff in the students.

View All Answers


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

Yes, field trips in particular.

View All Answers


17. What activities do you feel are missing?

Being in Mongolia, the school should do far far more to embrace the fact that students are living in East Asia and bring in cultural activities specific to the location, as well as sporting activities (e.g. horse riding).

View All Answers


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

Yes, some field trips. It was with a sense of unease though. On one trip we were not calmed when we heard that some students brought knives with them, for example.

View All Answers


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

No

View All Answers


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

The culture of the school is generally hostile, especially to children who are not in the 'mainstream.'

View All Answers


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?

Extremely poor with a very poor choice of counsellor, demonstrating none of the attributes one would normally require, including confidentiality.

View All Answers


2. 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 small library staffed by a full-time international staff person but like so much in ISU, the approach is more done with checklists in mind rather than with great enthusiasm. The selection of titles is uninspiring, with no provision made for the school's location, or students' interests. The library is and feels unloved, clinical, and tired.

View All Answers


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

OK

View All Answers


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

Good - we were lucky to have a motivated and professional PE teacher.

View All Answers


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

Numbers are very favourable.

View All Answers


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 is available, but the school and teachers are unprepared and the level of real interest and commitment is low. We frequently asked for details of the curriculum and syllabi, including reading lists, targets and so forth, but the school never responded.

View All Answers


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

On paper OK but in reality the quality is low. Also, when trying to sign up for piano classes, we were told for 3 years that it was always "full" so we arranged elsewhere. In a country with outstanding musical tradition, the musical standard at ISU was very low with little enthusiasm or spirit. Choices of songs were often very inappropriate (profanity, sexuality) for very young children. As with other aspects at ISU, transparency was a problem and we never received a satisfactory answer when we requested details of the music and drama programme.

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


9. 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.

View All Answers


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 - but limited.

View All Answers


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.

Yes - there is a clear split in ISU between Mongolian students, Korean students and other students, with pronounced disciplinary problems. ISU's general stance is appalling, basically to pretend that problems don't exist.

View All Answers


Overall Impressions:

1. What is the greatest strength of this school?

View All Answers


2. Greatest challenge?

View All Answers


3. Would you choose this school again? Why?

On no account - this choice really marred our stay in Mongolia. The only reason that ISU has survived so long is its monopoly position in this remote country but with new entrants they will need to change to survive. New arrivals to Mongolia would do well to look at the range of new schools now available, including the American and British Schools, or the Elite School, all of which are friendlier and understand better that schools are about children.

View All Answers


Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia 09/07/11

International School of Ulaanbaatar

School Website

http://isumongolia.edu.mn/


Background Information:

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

teacher

View All Answers


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

have taught 3rd and 5th grade

View All Answers


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

2008-2012

View All Answers


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

FSO spouse

View All Answers


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?

C

View All Answers


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

C

View All Answers


Administration & School Procedures:

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

very positive for children; still some difficulties for teachers as employees and parents in the area of communication; the school is still not consistently proactive to situations.

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


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

B

View All Answers


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

C

View All Answers


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

C

View All Answers


6. Maintenance of appropriately high standards for all students:

B

View All Answers


7. Homework assigned (quality, quantity):

B

View All Answers


8. Administration-parent communication:

C

View All Answers


9. Teacher-student communication:

A

View All Answers


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?

Some, depending on the teacher.

View All Answers


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

some students do; there is one special needs teacher for the whole (PreK-12) school. Embassy children with additional issues are referred to the regional medical officer, based in Beijing. Other expat families are urged to get diagnosed in their home countries during school holidays.

View All Answers


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

I would not recommend Mongolia for children with severe special needs; it is a developing country and does not have the resources. For example, there are no English-speaking child psychologists in the country.

View All Answers


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

Again, there is no program, per se, so if a truly gifted and talented pupil came to our school it would be up to the teachers and head of school to help that student meet his or her needs through a special education plan.

View All Answers


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

A decent variety for the size of the school; it is a small school but growing, and when a new campus is built, facilities will support additional elective/non-core classes

View All Answers


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

Choir and/or band/orchestra for high school Computer/IT classes for primary students

View All Answers


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

Everything is included in the very expensive tuition fees, except for a few optional trips such as MUN and sports tournaments in foreign countries.

View All Answers


17. What activities do you feel are missing?

More sports opportunities for primary students, such as basketball and soccer; more year-round outdoor education opportunities and volunteer opportunities for all ages

View All Answers


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

The vast majority of my students participate fully in the after school activities offered.

View All Answers


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

A new student orientation day is helpful for families arriving before the beginning of the school year, but late-comers will have to rely on their parents' companies/embassies to get them acclimated. The school has a good week-long orientation for new staff before school starts, but has spotty assistance for ongoing problems related to housing, etc.

View All Answers


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

It is a small school, so if your child does not easily make friends or seems not to "click" with the other students in his or her grade, loneliness can be a problem. The smaller secondary school is more difficult in this area; the primary grades tend to have around 20 students per level and quickly and warmly accept newcomers.

View All Answers


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?

C

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


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

C

View All Answers


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

C

View All Answers


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

A

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


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

usually

View All Answers


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

C

View All Answers


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

Homeroom & subject teachers are native or near-native English speakers; teaching assistants and local teachers vary from excellent to weak English skills.

View All Answers


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

The special needs teacher also serves as the gifted and talented support teacher, but no specific program exists. The primary school curriculum does differentiate to some extent but there are few special opportunities above and beyond those created by the homeroom teacher.

View All Answers


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?

As with elective classes, there is a decent variety for the size of the school; it is difficult to find reliable local vendors/organizations and most parents are under-involved with the school so after school activities are almost all run by teachers. There is a piano teacher and an outdoor education specialist that work with students after school.

View All Answers


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, students in general get along well with each other; invite each other to birthday parties, etc. Due to terrible traffic and safety issues, most children play with others in their own neighborhoods except on weekends. However, the neighborhoods are a mix of local and expat families so socializing between nationalities is still somewhat easy.

View All Answers


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, there is no "us-them" at ISU; the school maintains a strict rule about no single nationality becoming a majority of the student population; students come from many different countries. The IB learner profile stresses open-mindedness and tolerance in building internationally-minded people. Bullying or teasing that does happen is an issue with individuals, not groups.

View All Answers


Overall Impressions:

1. What is the greatest strength of this school?

The close-knit community feel among students and teachers, and the fact that the new administration is taking the 5-year strategic plan seriously as a guide toward building a better school.

View All Answers


2. Greatest challenge?

Getting stakeholders (board members, parents, administrators, expat organizations, etc.) to be proactive about the changes that need to happen and will happen in the school as outlined in the 5-year strategic plan (which mirrors the challenge Ulaanbaatar itself faces as a capital city undergoing a period of change and growth.)

View All Answers


3. Would you choose this school again? Why?

Yes, ISU has a dynamic new director and head of primary which has already made a difference in the morale of the teachers here, though some aspects of the school's organization and procedures are exasperating (the school tries to keep workplace issues, including struggles with the Mongolian government from everything from work permits to holding up overseas teaching materials at customs, from interfering with students' learning and well-being, but as an employee it gets old, fast.)

View All Answers


Five stars on Amazon! Don't miss Talesmag's first book of essays, on cross-cultural food experiences from Mexico to Mongolia (plus recipes!)

Read More