Many schools with a slick pitch may not be what they seem, ac­cord­ing to Ali Cop­ple, who has been an ed­u­ca­tor in the coun­try since the early 1990s and is a se­nior part­ner at Yejj Con­sult­ing. She talked to South­east Asia Globe about get­ting the most out of

Southeast Asia Globe - - Education Special -

What was the pri­vate ed­u­ca­tion land­scape like when you ar­rived?

I was hired ini­tially to tu­tor World Vi­sion chil­dren – this is in 1990 – and within a few weeks they thought there are other in­ter­na­tional kids here too, so I was hired to start ISPP [In­ter­na­tional School of Phnom Penh]. It was a home school at the time. In our first year we went from six at the be­gin­ning to 33 at the end of the year, and it just grew. It was mostly NGOs and some em­bassies that had fam­i­lies, not a lot of Cam­bo­di­ans.

How would you de­scribe the in­ter­na­tional school op­tions now?

It's not changed as much as I would have thought over the past four to five years. There are prob­a­bly – we think about tiers – there are prob­a­bly two or three in the top tier, in the sec­ond tier maybe three to four, be­low that are still good schools, maybe an­other four. There are also schools that are run as busi­nesses. Lots of these schools hire cus­tomer ser­vice peo­ple, and their job is to sell the school to get cus­tomers in, and that's not wrong as long as they're be­ing au­then­tic about what they're say­ing about the school.

How can par­ents eval­u­ate a school be­fore de­cid­ing to send their kids there?

I think that as a par­ent walks in the gate their im­pres­sions are re­ally go­ing to help them know if the school is what it claims to be. Is it nice? Is it wel­com­ing? Is it some­where you would like to stay your­self ? Of­ten the re­cep­tion ar­eas are very nice, but once you get past that, you need to see the rest of the school. What do you hear? What do you see? When you go into the class­rooms are the chil­dren en­gaged? Are they busy? Or are they sit­ting very qui­etly for long periods of time – that would be in­di­ca­tor num­ber one that you don't want to be at that school. Can you see that there is mu­tual re­spect be­tween the chil­dren and the adults? I would rec­om­mend go­ing for al­most an hour to sit qui­etly in the back of class­rooms – you can learn a lot about a school that way.

How do you know if you have found the right school?

I think your child is the best in­di­ca­tor for you. Is your child happy to go to school ev­ery day? If you have a ques­tion, what hap­pens? Can you go see a teacher? What kind of com­mu­ni­ca­tion are you get­ting from the school? I think you can tell [for] your­self if you go into the school, like when you buy a used car – you kind of know you made a mis­take be­cause you got pushed into some­thing.

I would rec­om­mend

go­ing for al­most an hour to sit qui­etly in the back of class­rooms – you can learn a lot about a school that way

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