Lilongwe, Malawi Report of what it's like to live there - 07/06/10
Personal Experiences from Lilongwe, Malawi
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?
Prek-4 through 4th grade
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)?
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?
B/C- Have heard about some issues regardingnon-diplomatic expats from other countries having to be wait-listed until the last minute for a space at the school and there does not seem to be any guidelines on how who gets accepted immediately and who gets wait-listed and this creates here-say about procedures not being transparent.
2. How would you rate the school's support and welcome/integration of new students and their families, and why?
F when we first arrived and now I would giveC as they have tried to make some effort to welcome new families.
Administration & School Procedures:
1. Describe the general climate of the grade level that you teach or your child attends:
Classroom atmosphere is friendly and the kids seem happy, but communication between home andschool has been an ongoing issue. The school has tried to make a more concerted effort this past year with the new administration, but still is not at an acceptable standard for a private international 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/D- Some teachers are very good but it is of their own volition that this happens. Our first two years at the school, I would have given and F for this, but this past year, the school administration in conjunction with the pTA have tried to improve this aspect and signs of this have been evident.
4. Services for gifted students who need academic challenge and students with learning difficulties:
C- very limited for students with learning challenges and non-existent for children that are gifted. However, this is clearly documented in school literature
5. Availability and variety of after-school activities for various ages:
B- Primary school offers activities three days a week for 1 hour and Secondary offers after-school activities 4 times a week for 1 hour
6. Maintenance of appropriately high standards for all students:
D Primary School -depends on the teacher as there does not seem to beuniform standard that is transparent for teachers/parents /students to use as a s a guide. There is no documentation for learning outcomes andbenchmarks that are in writing for parents and students to use as as a guide. This makes it seem very unclear as to what curriculum guide or structure each grade leveland individual teachers are using to teach and assess the students.B- ALthough I don't have students in Secondary school, I have heard that many parents feel that the IGSCE and IB programs are well organized and challenging for students.
7. Homework assigned (quality, quantity):
C-Primary school homework has been disappointing and really depends on the the quality and effort of the teacher as to whethera child gets tasked with homework that is appropriate and supportive of what is being learned or not. Some teachers a revery good and assign appropriate homework assignments.B- Secondary School ramps up the expectations for homework andthe quality of assignments.
8. Administration-parent communication:
D- Better than our first two years, but still no where near where it should for an international private school. The fact that there is no defined documented curriculum with learning outcomes for the primary grades for parents to read and that often events and school days of importance are announced to parents only a few days at a time make it very hard for working parents to adjust their schedules to attend assemblies and days of honor and recognition due to lack of early and clear communication. Secondary school sees to do a slightly better job at this and therefore gets a B/C.
9. Teacher-student communication:
Secondary School- Can't say as I don't have students in secondaryD-Primary School- a few teachers are very good but most send very little home about how the child is doing and what is happening in the classroom on a regular basis. Some teachers are very reluctant for parent help involvement. There does not seem to be a uniform expectation from administrators to make sure that this is consistent across the teaching staff and it does not seem like it is q requirement but rather up to whether the teacher decides to take the time to make the effort or not.
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?
Primary school-yes math and language artsSecondary School- can't answer
11. Does your child receive any special-needs assistance or instruction at this school? If yes, what types? Who provides services and where:
yes, handwriting, fine motor skills development- that is about the extent of what can be accommodated along with some simple dyslexia support. Educational support teacher provides this support.
12. Do you believe the special-needs assistance is appropriate and fills your needs? Explain:
Yes, but only because it is not a long term special needs issue and is easy to correct quickly with limited intervention. For more serious or long term learning support needs it would be most likely not be able to be accommodated through the school.
13. Does the gifted and talented program meet the needs of students? Please explain:
No, my child has been identified as a G&T student based on testing and no BMIS does meet his needs, but the school is transparent about not offering formal programs to accommodate students that are G&T so this to be expected.
14. Does the school offer a wide variety of elective or non-core classes such as art, music, and drama?
15. Please describe any classes or programs that you believe are missing:
Accelerated reader type incentive programs....more structures language arts and math programs for primary- Can't comment on secondary as I don't have children in secondary school
16. Are there academic requirements such as trips or other activities that cost money in addition to school fees?
17. What activities do you feel are missing?
No after-school activities for Prek-4 through grade 2 ... I think students in these grades should have the option to do at-least on after-school activity one day per week.
18. Have your children participated in the activities offered? If no, please indicate why:
yes a lot of them
19. Does the school provide appropriate assistance to new students?
Not really- this is very weak at BMIS
20. Please describe any problem areas or challenges in social interaction at the school:
Not really any to describe from our perspective and experience
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?
Not available at the primary school level and am unsure of how much is available for secondary although I think there is more
2. Does the school have a library? How large is it? How updated are the books? Can students borrow books to read at home?
C- Decent library for a primary school, but substandard for upper secondary resources
3. How are information technology resources at the school. Are they up-to-date? Is there a computer lab?
D-Available but due to numerous power outages and viruses, computer reliability and availability at the school has been substandard
4. Describe the physical education resources at the school. Is there a gym? A swimming pool? Are there playing fields or tennis courts available?
5. What is the approximate teacher-to-student ratio in the grades that your child attended?
C -22-25 students to 1 teacher and a classroom aide- mostly because the teaching aides are not well trained and are mostly tasked with janitor duties and cutting/pasting tasks rather than classroom educational support
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?
B-IB courses are available and students perform above average when compared to other IB schools in the region.
7. Is the amount and type of homework generally appropriate for the age and grade of the students?
Primary school-no- it is teacher dependent- some give appropriate homework and others give little to none
8. What fine arts electives are available (music, drama, visual arts)?
B Primary School offers-art/PE/music/ICT/Library/FrenchSecondary School offers a few more options
9. Are the teachers at the school required to speak English as a first language--or at least fluently?
10. What services are available for gifted/advanced students at the school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.
yes, BUT.....BMIS just started a special class for the last month of school, andthe selection of the students was based on teacher recommendations and nothing more. There is not formal G&T program at the school available.
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?
Yes and no- but there is some mixing and the general feeling is not that the students must socialize in separate circles. A lot depends on where one lives in town, ride-shares, and bus transport options which determines who goes to school with and who goes home with who and therefore plays together after-school.
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.
This is one element that seems to be not an issue at BMIS which is a huge plus!
1. What is the greatest strength of this school?
KIds seem happy and it is a safe place. Some teachers are very good and devoted to the school and the kids.
2. Greatest challenge?
Communication all around, teachers that are positive about their work environment and benefits package, proactive administration (although this is changing and improving
3. Would you choose this school again? Why?
For primary school- maybe- but I would take time to consider the Christian- based american curriculumschool that is here more than I did when we first arrived. They have a good academic program for Primary. For secondary, without a doubt- yes I would choose BMIS over the other options available.