Suva, Fiji Report of what it's like to live there - 05/09/16

Personal Experiences from Suva, Fiji

Suva, Fiji 05/09/16

Background Information:

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


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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?

3rd grade & 6th grade

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

2014 to present (2016)

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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)?


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

ISS is almost the only option here for expat students - the other options are bleak.

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Administration & School Procedures:

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

Between both of our children, we have experienced grades 1 through 6 so far. ISS is truly an international environment, as there are 40 different nations represented, yet only 600 students in total attendance (preK through year 12). Almost all of the students are expats and have moved quite often, so both the students and the parents are very welcoming to newcomers.

Grade 3: There are 20 students per classroom, and each class has a teacher and a full-time teaching assistant. Teachers are very warm and patient with students. Arts, music and culture are a big part of curriculum, which we love as these subjects are becoming quite limited in Stateside schools.
Grade 6: There are 40 students total, split equally into two year 6 classrooms. They have one teaching assistant that rotates between the classes. Arts, music & culture are also highly stressed in the middle school curriculum. The students all seem to get along very well and help each other with projects, etc. This was our daughter's first year of middle school and it has been a great (non-teenage-drama) experience for her.

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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 very fair environment for all, although there are a few high-maintenance families who put a lot of extra work on the teaching & admin staff.

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

Communication in Fiji in general is frustrating, but the school has greatly improved on communication with parents. If a parent reaches out to a teacher or admin, they are very open and available.

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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?

Uniforms aren't too pricey - the price list is on their website.

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

I'm not sure about gifted services, so I can't say if they exist or not.

There is learning support for students who face some academic challenges. I do not think that the school is well equipped to work with children who have certain physical challenges.

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

Primary: language classes, rugby, soccer, martial arts, dance, art, guitar, ukelele.
Secondary: various sports activities, drama.

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7. Homework assigned (quality, quantity):

Primary: very little homework is assigned, which we appreciate. Kids work like crazy at school, then have time to play and enjoy life while at home.
Secondary: homework is more intense, but do-able. It's not all-consuming as we've seen in Stateside schools.

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8. 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?

When we arrived, we heard from other parents that the school was not challenging enough, but now that we've been here for almost 3 years, I can say that this is not true (well, for grades 1 through 6th). Our post has had 4 families return to the States recently, and their children far exceeded their respective grade levels.

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

Our primary student receives learning support for reading and writing. Often the learning support teacher will pull he and several students aside to work on something together, and once a week or so he receives individual instruction.

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

Yes, but I do not think that ISS is adequately staffed for children with extreme behavioral or physical challenges.

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

Absolutely. Arts, drama, music are highly stressed at ISS.

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

Our children both participate in the school's after school activities.

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

Yes. They do a nice job of getting kids introduced to the community and checking in on their progress.

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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?

The school now has a counselor for primary and a counselor for secondary. I hear good things about both counselors.

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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?

ISS has the best school library in all of Fiji. A very decent library for such a small school.

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

Weekly IT throughout all grades.

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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?

In both primary and secondary, the students have a few weeks of swim incorporated each school year. Once all classes have finished their swim lessons, there is a full day swim carnival that the kids absolutely love.

There is also a track & field day once a year that the students look forward to.

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

Primary: 20 students to 1 teacher (preK and kinder have lower numbers).
Secondary: 20 students to 1 teacher through year 9, after year 9, the numbers greatly decrease.

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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?

ISS is an IB school, primary through secondary.
I know that AP exists, but not the extent of it, as my children are younger.

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


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

Yes. English is the main language here.

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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, Suva has a very welcoming expat community. Kids and parents are plugged-in quite easily.

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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.

Bullying is almost non-existent at ISS. It's a very happy/easy school environment.

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Overall Impressions:

1. What is the greatest strength of this school?

The multicultural aspect is wonderful. Kids are excited when new students arrive, you witness children happily playing together on the playground- while some of these children do not speak a word of English, many different cultures & holidays are celebrated at school - Diwali, Christmas, Halloween, you name it.

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2. Would you choose this school again? Why?

Absolutely. As a former educator, I was quite concerned about our transition to this school, and I could not be happier with ISS. Our children enjoy school, they have great support from their peers & teachers, and they are appropriately challenged.

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