Johannesburg, South Africa Report of what it's like to live there - 03/06/21
Personal Experiences from Johannesburg, South Africa
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?
9th and 11th
3. What years did you live here?
2019 - Present
4. What was your reason for living in the city where the school is located (e.g., government, military, corporate, NGO, retired)?
5. Are other schools available to expatriates in this city? Why did you choose this particular school?
Yes. This is the main American school in the capital city.
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?
Yes. More or less.
2. How would you rate the school's support and welcome/integration of new students and their families, and why?
Rating is a 7. They have student "ambassadors" to help new kids adjust. Special orientation days and meetings prior to the school start day for new students and parents.
Administration & School Procedures:
1. How is the overall communication between teachers and parents, and the administration and parents? How is communication facilitated?
Pretty good. WhatsApp parent groups. School emails and regular Zoom calls to update and communicate with parents by the administration.
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?
Everything is included in the final tuition except for some schools supplies. Laptops are provided. Even scientific calculators are available if you don't want to buy one for your student. They can get expensive.
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?
Pretty good school counseling support for kids. College counselor seems to know about schools worldwide, but it has not been great support. I think it's very generic and kind of a mismatch from the high quality education and reputation of the school. It's a good/pretty good school with a high powered IB program that really challenges kids (in some not such great ways sometimes though), and yet the college counseling is pretty basic. We have a college kid too and the support from our US public school was much better.
2. Is there before and/or after-school daycare available? What are the costs?
No sure, but I think so. Definitely after-school activities for kids in the lower grades - per-pandemic, that is.
3. Does the school have a library? How large is it? How updated are the books? Can students borrow books to read at home?
Yes. Nice library. Yes, kids can check out books.
4. How are information technology resources at the school. Are they up-to-date? Is there a computer lab?
No computer lab that I know of. All the middle and high school kids have MacBooks and Lenovos that are provided by the school.
5. What are the technology requirements for students? Do they need their own laptops/ipads? How is technology integrated into the classroom and homework?
Laptops provided - mostly MacBooks, but still some Lenovos in the lower grades.
6. Describe the physical education resources at the school. Is there a gym? A swimming pool? Are there playing fields or tennis courts available?
Lots of great facilities at both the Jo'burg campus and the Pretoria campus of the school. Jo'burg is the main campus and it has a fantasic natatorium, fields, two gyms, even a small golf course!
7. What is the approximate teacher-to-student ratio in the grades that your child attended?
It's about 11 to 1 or so. Good ratio. Teachers know the students.
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?
IB only. NO AP. There are two diplomas offered, but unfortunately the HSP Diploma program (the none IB program) is not as popular so they don't have as many course options particularly for 11th and 12th graders. This is a disappointment, but the pandemic is partially to blame. Hard to recruit teachers for classes that will likely be smaller. We found the IB program to be really challenging; kids are truly burned out at the end so we're not sure if IB is really worth it. The pandemic has also affected this "cost-benefit" calculation. One calculation to figure out is the ability for a student to get college credits in a US university for a high IB score, vs. all the work and stress during the 2 intense years of the program. Some of the kids have told me that they wish they hadn't gone the IB route. It's NOT for everyone. Our child has learning differences so it did not make sense for him. However, there are several IB certificate courses available to students who do not choose to do the full IB program. Among those courses are Economics, Film and Art! These are still a lot of work - think WRITING about film making, not watching movies - but these are good options for kids who still want to be challenged in areas of interest/talent who are the HSP Diploma Program.
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?
Students are well-challenged.
10. Is the amount and type of homework generally appropriate for the age and grade of the students?
There is a LOT of homework for the HS kids. It's kind of sad because we live in this beautiful country with so much to see and do, and yet we are often stuck at home because the kids have SO MUCH homework to do every weekend. Some teachers have even given homework during holiday breaks! I find this incredibly unfair to the students and families. People need a break! I wish the school would understand the importance of work-life balance!
11. What fine arts electives are available (music, drama, visual arts)?
Yes. Lots of options. But the pandemic has put a hold on all of that.
12. Are the teachers at the school required to speak English as a first language--or at least fluently?
Yes. English is an official language at the school and in the country.
13. What services are available for gifted/advanced students at the school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.
The school seems to be able to adjust well for kids from different learning levels. I don't know of any services for advanced students.
14. What services are available for students with learning disabilities at this school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.
Pretty good support for kids with learning differences. They have a dedicated room for kids to take tests, hang out, talk with the learning support team. There are plenty of kids in this situation so it doesn't appear to be a stigmatizing, which is great. They offer scribing support for kids to take tests, which was new for my son, but it worked well - except for IB classes, which do not allow scribes. Counseling and support is good. They get to know the kids and help to build student's own advocacy to ask for what they need. We came to South Africa in part because we knew we needed an excellent learning support program for our smart, college-bound, a-typical learner. It has worked out. He is challenged and will be ready to go to college. But much of that is because of his perseverance and strengths as a students despite his learning differences. AND, we sent him to an excellent middle school to help him prepare for high school.
15. What services are available for students with physical disabilities at this school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.
No experience. But it's a one-story school with ramps everywhere and wide doorways.
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?
Lots of competitive sports pre-pandemic. Great school sports facilities. Wish they had more intramural sports and not just at the competitive level.
Social & Emotional Well-Being:
1. What is the climate for LGBT+ kids at this school? Are there resources they can draw upon? Does there appear to be any exclusionary behavior?
It's not great but there is recognition that it needs to improve - along with valuing diversity of all kinds.
2. What is the climate for children with special needs? Is there a general attitude of inclusion for children with special needs?
Seems fine. No stigmatization that I know of.
3. Do expatriate students socialize with local students at the school? Are both groups successfully integrated into the school culture?
Yes. But there is definitely an elitism element among the wealthy local kids. They are VERY wealthy and privileged. Partying during the pandemic among the wealthy kids has been an issue during the pandemic.
4. 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.
There are definitely cliques and some bullying goes on. My son was bullied based on a racial issue, it was really ugly. The school seemed at a loss what to do beyond what their school code of conduct required and we found the response to be pretty poor although they were open to suggestions.
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?
I will give the school a B+. My expectations were high. I'm disappointed at the bullying and poor response to remedy it. And I think there should be more consciousness and targeted skills in at least the counseling staff!
2. Please describe some of your child's/children's highlights and challenges during their time at this school.
Pandemic has been horrible here. We found the online school to be a big mess. In our experience, the cliques and bullying were also a problem.
3. Please tell us anything else you think prospective parents and students should know about this school. Thanks for your contribution!
It's a really good school that could and should be a greater/better school.