Tirana, Albania Report of what it's like to live there - 01/14/20
Personal Experiences from Tirana, Albania
1. Are you the parent of a child(ren) attending this school? A teacher at the school? Or both?
Parent of child.
2. What grade or grades do/did your children attend at the school? During what year(s) did they attend the school?
3. What was your reason for living in the city where the school is located (e.g., government, military, corporate, NGO, retired)?
4. Are other schools available to expatriates in this city? Why did you choose this particular school?
There are other international schools. We go here because most of the embassy staff send their kids here and the other options in the city range from not great to bad.
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?
Reasonably clear. The admissions counselor was mostly responsive to our questions before moving here. The age cut-off is given as October 30 but the school doesn't hold itself to that standard. There are kids in kindergarten that are 14 months younger than the oldest students.
2. How would you rate the school's support and welcome/integration of new students and their families, and why?
Fair. They put on an open house with welcome BBQ at the beginning of the year. The school doesn't really make an effort to introduce many of the staff. You meet with your child's teachers but you need to search out other members of staff like counselors, other academic staff, etc.
Administration & School Procedures:
1. How is the overall communication between teachers and parents, and the administration and parents? How is communication facilitated?
This year has been okay. The teacher will send out a weekly update by email. It includes what the students are doing in class and what to look forward to.
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?
Field trips occasionally require a fee. Usually $3-5.
Academics & Resources:
1. Is there before and/or after-school daycare available? What are the costs?
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 library that is fairly well stocked. Our child brings a book or two home a week.
3. What are the technology requirements for students? Do they need their own laptops/ipads? How is technology integrated into the classroom and homework?
No requirements for the youngest children.
4. How are information technology resources at the school. Are they up-to-date? Is there a computer lab?
There is a computer lab.
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 gym, one tennis court and a field with a track.
6. What is the approximate teacher-to-student ratio in the grades that your child attended?
Two teachers for about 10-12 kids in each kindergarten class.
7. 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?
There seems to be a lot of sit down, memorization for the reading and math curriculum. The school seems focused to make sure the kids in kindergarten are able to memorize what seems like a random selection of words on a wall, while not worry if they're good and kind people that treat others with respect. We're very disappointed there isn't more art and free play.
8. What fine arts electives are available (music, drama, visual arts)?
Not much. Violin for the 5-8 year olds.
9. Are the teachers at the school required to speak English as a first language--or at least fluently?
I believe so.
10. What services are available for gifted/advanced students at the school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.
11. What services are available for students with learning disabilities at this school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.
Not much from what I can tell. When our child was having academic issues last year, we met with the teacher and the director of education to come up with a plan. The teacher, to her credit, worked after school with our child 2-3 times a week. The director of education never followed up with us again until we initiated another meeting.
12. 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?
The school does offer after school "activities." Mostly things like play-doh or lego club. Essentially the school is asking teachers to babysit the kids for an extra hour. The director says they can't use school funds for after school activities but then won't allow parents to fundraise to have real activities that might enrich the children.
They do offer violin for the youngest kids but that is about it for music. No athletics or other activities are offered before middle school.
Social & Emotional Well-Being:
1. 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 am aware of a few instances of bullying; the biggest issue has been on the buses. Apart from one bus, the school does not have any monitors on the buses. This has been an ongoing issue for over a year. There have been many examples of older students using inappropriate language in front of the younger kids, and of others using violently graphic language to scare or harass classmates. We found that when these issues are brought up to the administration, the concerns are dismissed. Of the few times we've asked to see/hear the video/audio feed from the buses, there is always a problem with either the video or the sound.
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?
F. It has been a disaster. We are thinking of curtailing early because it has been such a negative experience. We found out last year that one of the teachers had a felony conviction on his record. We brought this up with the administration and then eventually the teacher quit due to "health concerns." We feel like the administration did not take this or other concerns brought up from our community seriously.
2. Please describe some of your child's/children's highlights and challenges during their time at this school.
Not sure there are many highlights. Our child asks every night if she has to go to school the next day.
3. Please tell us anything else you think prospective parents and students should know about this school. Thanks for your contribution!
Think long and hard before sending your child here. (Or any QSI school for that matter.) We knew living overseas offers its own challenges. We didn't think the children's education would be the biggest.