GET­TING SCHOOLED

South­east Asia Globe’s guide to find­ing the right school for your chil­dren in Cam­bo­dia and be­yond

Southeast Asia Globe - - Education Special -

Teach­ers

A school would ide­ally have teach­ers with ed­u­ca­tion de­grees, but if a school em­ploys some teach­ers with­out de­grees it does not need to be a deal breaker. If teach­ers have de­grees in other fields re­lated to work­ing with chil­dren, or are in the process of earn­ing their teach­ing cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, that's a good sign. “It is an in­di­ca­tion that the teach­ers… are life­long learn­ers as well,” said Ali Cop­ple, an ed­u­ca­tion con­sul­tant based in Phnom Penh. “Of­ten in mid­dle-tier schools, there will be lots of teach­ers hired with TESOL and TEFL cer­tifi­cates, which is great for teach­ing English but not for a holis­tic cur­ricu­lum,” she added. Staff turnover is to be ex­pected at an in­ter­na­tional school, but if it hap­pens too of­ten that is a clear sign that the school is not go­ing to of­fer a sta­ble learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment.

Ac­cred­i­ta­tion

Any top-tier school will have in­ter­na­tional ac­cred­i­ta­tion that makes its qual­i­fi­ca­tions ap­pli­ca­ble to other in­ter­na­tional schools or uni­ver­si­ties. As with the qual­i­fi­ca­tion of teach­ers, a school does not have to be ac­cred­ited to be a good in­ter­na­tional school, but it does need to have a sys­tem en­sur­ing that stu­dents are be­com­ing crit­i­cal thinkers and in­de­pen­dent learn­ers. “Chil­dren that go through an in­ter­na­tional pro­gramme, even if it's not ac­cred­ited yet, they are learn­ing those skills, they are learn­ing how to work in a team and a group, they're not think­ing only about what some­body tells them to do,” Cop­ple said. “If chil­dren are ac­tu­ally go­ing to an in­ter­na­tional school, they will be fully equipped to study out­side of the coun­try.”

Cur­ricu­lum

As with teach­ers specif­i­cally trained to teach English, some schools will build their cur­ricu­lum by cob­bling to­gether ESL pro­grammes, mak­ing it seem like a gen­eral cur­ricu­lum. How­ever, with­out a holis­tic cur­ricu­lum the school is less likely to have ac­com­pa­ny­ing ac­tiv­i­ties that im­bue crit­i­cal-think­ing and prob­lem-solv­ing skills to stu­dents. Even mid­dle-tier schools should at the very least be able to ex­plain what stan­dards they fol­low and what pro­grammes they use in their cur­ricu­lum. If the text­books for sub­jects like maths and sci­ence are all ESL-ori­ented, that is a strong sign that the school is not fol­low­ing a real in­ter­na­tional cur­ricu­lum. “We prob­a­bly have too many [self-pro­claimed in­ter­na­tional schools] that are not ac­tu­ally in­ter­na­tional schools, which can be con­fus­ing for par­ents,” Cop­ple said.

Fa­cil­i­ties

The qual­ity of a school can of­ten be seen in the qual­ity and amount of learn­ing ma­te­ri­als in class­rooms, as well as other ar­eas where stu­dents can play, learn or ex­er­cise, ac­cord­ing to Cop­ple. If play­grounds and in-class re­sources look well-used and well-main­tained, that is a good sign, as is hav­ing lots of stu­dent work hang­ing up in halls and class­rooms. For younger stu­dents in par­tic­u­lar, there should be lots of prac­ti­cal things in the class­room for them to use and ex­plore. If the school has a range of age groups, there should be dif­fer­ent ar­eas for play­ing or stag­gered break times. Shared spa­ces such as cafe­te­rias, gym­na­si­ums, au­di­to­ri­ums or com­puter labs should be wellused and hy­gienic.

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