Monday, 12 August 2013

The Luanda International School is a private, non-profit, coeducational day school


Alex will be five on the 2nd September.

Naturally, I have been thinking about his schooling.  I have not just been thinking about his schooling, God knows if you are a regular reader of my blog you will know I have been losing sleep over this and any number of other issues.

Acknowledged as the finest school in Angola is the Luanda International School.  It offers the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme and operates under the auspices of the ‘New England Association of Schools and Colleges.’  The NEASC eh?  So I looked them up.
 
"The New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) provides accreditation services for more than 2000 public and private institutions in the six state region - Pre-K through university.  NEASC accreditation uses self-reflection, peer review and best practices as integral components of its assessment process."

I know that I am a cynical old soak but I understand that Marcia wants the very best for her first born and only son so I handled her gently when she brought me the prospectus for the Luanda International School that I was now dutifully flogging my way through, 'Umming' and 'Aahing' at regular intervals with as much conviction as TV chefs do tasting their own dishes on camera as I flipped the pages.

‘International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme’ sounds to me more like Microsoft Office Home Edition rather than Microsoft Office Professional.  Understandably I wanted to know whether this school was a registered Baccalaureate exam centre and what their pass rate was.  There was nothing at all in the prospectus answering either question.  The only thing I could find was on their very thin Wikipedia entry which stated: 'The IB Middle Years Programme is being implemented in grades 8-10'.  So it's not ready yet then?  That's what you're saying on your website, isn't it?  Be honest.

New England Association of Schools and Colleges sounds more provincial than international to me.  In fact it sounds just like those irritating adverts Google throws up at its users offering International on-line degrees with the Cambridge University College the whereabouts of the campus of which is uncertain since no one has been able to locate them in Cambridge (one of the two main university cities in England).

Determined not to piss Marcia off by screwing the prospectus up into a tight ball and using it to light my barbecue, I read on:

“The most significant and distinctive feature of the IB Primary Years Programme is the six transdiciplinary themes."

Is the six transdisciplinary themes?  Is?  Since there are no less than six features, surely it should read "The most significant and distinctive features of the IB Primary Years Programme are the six transdiciplinary themes."

"These themes are about the issues that have meaning for, and are important to all of us.  The programme offers a balance between learning about or through the subject areas, and learning beyond them.  The six themes of global significance create a transdisciplinary framework that allows students to ‘step up’ beyond the confines of learning within subject areas”

What on earth does that mean?  I have quoted this faithfully from the prospectus, as written and punctuated including the words in bold type so would be grateful if anyone with a reasonable command of the English language could enlighten me.

The six transdisciplinary themes help teachers to develop a programme of inquiries-in-depth investigations into important ideas, identified by the teachers, and requiring a high level of involvement on the part of the students.  These inquiries are substantial, in-depth and usually last for several weeks

If I sent my child to school and he wasn’t highly involved, I’d be a bit annoyed.  So if the curriculum consists of a series of inquiries-in-depth investigations each lasting several weeks, what are they?

Who we are

Where we are in place and time

How we express ourselves

How the world works

How we organise ourselves

Sharing the planet

Blimey.  Answer all those questions and you'd be up for a Nobel Peace Prize.

‘Whatever happened to the three R’s?’ I thought to myself as I struggled through pages of this drivel to the end of the prospectus.  I want little Alex to learn how to read, to write and do sums, not learn how to hug trees and knit yoghurt.  I had this horrible vision of Alex as a teenager having attended this school running down Oxford Street with his hair in dreadlocks smashing up shop windows clutching a placard demanding Land Rights for Gay Whales.

I then turned to the insert to the prospectus, the fee schedules.

Annual fee:  US$35,448

Registration and Annual Facility Fee:  US$15,000

Let me remind you, as if you weren’t already suffering the same heart palpitations as I was and were, like me, hurriedly reaching for your Inderal heart tablets and Nitrolingual spray, this is a DAY school, not a boarding school.  US$50,448 per annum.  If you want your child to join the other children for lunch, by the way, that is an extra US$1,915.

Christ Almighty, this is the sort of fee prestigious boarding schools charge in UK, schools who in return for the fee all but guarantee your son a career in the City or a Commission in one of the three services afterwards.  Universities only charge £9,000 (US$14,400) per annum.

Just reading the curriculum in the prospectus I began to wonder what planet these people were on.  Having seen the fees I am now convinced they are part of a solidly grounded organisation the sole purpose of which is to scam the desperate.

I am unsure how to conclude this post.  Even after sleeping on it a night, I am still in shock.  I would gladly pay the fifty grand a year if I was convinced it was a good school, but I am not willing to pay that much just so Alex can learn how to share the planet and, and… hug trees and knit fucking yoghurt.

I am faced with three choices:  swallow gallons of backward running spit and send him to the International School; consign him to the truly awful Angolan system; or send a five year old abroad to boarding school.  It would break my heart to be separated from yet another of my boys.

Answers on a post card please.
 
PS:  I am just about desperate enough to offer YP 50 grand a year to tutor Alex and send him to a local Yorkshire school but then I know I would see my boy on Sky News smashing up Oxford Street and stealing frocks from Harvey Nichols.

 

47 comments:

  1. "...‘step up’ beyond the confines of learning... "
    I don't think I would pay 50k a year for that even if I could figure out what it means. Sounds like double talk to make them sound really, really educated, in order to rope in the few, the uneducated, the wealthy. i.e. the corrupt politicians & lawyers currently reproducing. I'd consider building a school instead of an inn. Looks to be more profitable.

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    1. Oddly enough, Marcia has already considered building a school but as I pointed out, unless you get a General or a Politician on board, you'll never get a licence.

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  2. Ooooh...I've written bollocks like that when I haven't known what the hell I'm on about, though usually without the typos. They're non-profit? Is that because the Head Teacher requires a salary the size of which would make a City of London Trader blush?

    I'm happy to run a correspondence course for him...cost would be just €500/day plus online distribution and connection charges. If you'd like feedback at any stage, that will be a further €10,000 per session.

    Is there no sensible alternative in Luanda?

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    1. Last count, 220 students @ 50k a year, 11 million dollars pa. Where's the profit in that?

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    2. To answer your last question SR. NB, No.

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  3. Send him to me.
    I'll teach the boy how to knit yoghurt
    and to speak with an Auntie's true tongue.

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    1. Be careful what you wish for. I could think of far worse tutors.

      And then I would have to deal with that inevitable enquiry...

      'Dad, is it true what they are saying, you fancy my teacher?'

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    2. (4) you could home school.

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  4. The cost of schooling is unconscionable. Now I'm seeing to three grandchildren, and the fees--oh, the fees. I pay the highest rate of school taxes in my state, by virtue of the location of my home, and then I must pay for the "supplies." I assume it's the worms they dissect in the lab and I guess I shouldn't go there. I cannot imagine what you will do. I love Alex, but don't sent him to me. Aside from the fury of Marcia, my youngest will be gone in seven years, when I am 78. I intend to last that long. Not to mention, they will always need a place to call home.

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    1. I could never grasp the tax regime in the States. It was only when I saw the film, 'Grumpy Old Men' that I realised you could work all your life and retire with your house paid off and still be taxed on the value of your house and if you didn't pay, the government would toss you out and sell it.

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  5. Keep him home as long as you can. It doesn't take $50,000 a year to teach a primary-age student what he needs to know. You can do that yourself. My kid went to a Waldorf school (where they really DO hug trees and knit yogurt and all the other parents wore sandals and had hairy legs), but I homeschooled him through high school. Best thing I ever did. He graduated in 3 years instead of 4, went right to college and maintained a 3.5 GPA. Whenever a relative or friend traveled somewhere, I paid for the kid to go along. He's well-traveled, well-read, and knows how to work hard (because his teacher was a slave-driving bitch). If you were 30 years old and intended to have lots more kids, it might not matter so much, but I think it would be great for both of you if you kept him home and spent as much time together as possible. Teach him practical things as well as academic things. If he needs "socialization," take on a couple of other local kids for the lesson part. Before I got to your last paragraph I was thinking...send him to YP when he's old enough.

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    1. Everyone seems to favour the Yorkshire communist, don't they?

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  6. Wow. As you pointed out, circa $11 million is a lot of money for a non profit making school. My kids school suddenly looks bloody awesome and is free. I love helping out there as well. I know that in parts of Scandinavia, kids don't start school until they are 7 years old. We have some great schools here and I am pretty confidant my boys will be well schooled in the state schools. I feel for you. And Marcia. And Alex. Good luck with this one.

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  7. Homeschooling. And use the money you save for lots of trips all around Africa and further along. Make him write (help him with the writing and typing untill he can do it for himself) a blog about his adventures and trips, illustrated with some artwork and photography and let him correspond with all his readers.
    I think that will be the best recipe to help him grow into a fine young men with lots of knowledge and an open mind.
    Good luck!
    Els (always a spare bed ready for when he's over 12 years old)

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    1. Maybe you can publish his first book when he is twelve years old!

      I already let him play with my laptop (I am on my third since he started, it usually is a spilt drink that kills them) and I sit with him on my lap and read out other people's blogs to him while looking at the pictures.

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  8. I would be proud that any child of mine would be taught and schooled and mentoured by you

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    1. Oh, so you want your child to grow up as a thug with a conscience?

      Alex could do far worse than being looked after by you and Chris. And he's good with animals...

      Delete
  9. An interesting post. Your cynicism is admirable sir. Nowadays there's far too much bullshit in education. But I suppose a really big thing about the Luanda International School is that Alex would be surrounded by other children from aspirational homes in relatively small classes - that peer group would be a massive ingredient in his development. If you want to send him to Yorkshire, we have a spare bedroom and I am sure I could enrol him at our local primary school. Does he like supermarket home brand instant oats and tinned soup? We'd give him sausages and turkey drummers at the weekend. Promise...And would he be okay about the usual chimney cleaning duties?

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    1. I think to turn him to a true Yorkshireman, you should feed him gruel mixed with gravel (the latter to aid the Yorkshire 'voice')

      He loves porridge, loves soup, adores sausages dipped in tomato ketchup. He has never had a turkey drummer.

      He would take his monthly chimney sweeping duties in his stride probably delighting in being allowed to get so dirty!

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  10. Maybe you could pay a teacher to come from the UK. Teachers here earn around $30k. If you offered room and board - not to mention the fabulous beach you have there - it would be less than the school and Alex would be the only student.

    YP is obviously a good choice, but John Gray is better known for taking in those who need a new home.

    Helen

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    1. Your idea is not as crazy as it sounds...

      I will ask Marcia to look into how we can get a licence from the Ministry of Education to open a private school. Everything works on licences here, without one we could not get the teacher a work visa.

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  11. Tom,

    If this is the international school that the likes of Chevron use then there are three reason why they charge so much - because they can, to keep the riff raff out and most importantly -- the foreign oil companies are their biggest clientele. The foreign oil companies cannot donate money to the school - they can only donate to worthwhile social project to better the environment they live in. So - they arranged with the school to charge these outlandish fees - which the companies pay on behalf of their employees. No self interest at all!

    If it is not that school, then it is due to other schools (such as the above) charging so much, this school seems reasonable.

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    1. Still makes my eyes water, though!

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  12. My alma mater (officially founded in 960, but much older) now runs an International Dep't. Alex would have to go through normal schooling until the age of 14, then board for 4 years. Not sure what the fees are these days, but probably less than you quoted above. The school is just outside Cambridge.

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    1. I've just checked the fees. £32,781 p.a. Woops!

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    2. So, like I said, for the same money he could go to a decent school...

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  13. Oh Heavens you've discovered "education-speak"! It's a new language of buzz words and phrases invented by educators to try to dazzle consumers with incomprehensible tosh so they can give the impression that they are modern forward thinking professionals instead of good old fashioned teaching institutions.
    Don't send the little fellow away to boarding school... at least not yet!
    Don't spend $50 000 on schooling him in some money grabbing institution either.
    There has to be another alternative be it home schooling or hiring a tutor. I know you forgo the company of classmates if you do that and that in itself is a big consideration but he is not without local classmates and perhaps you could find a buddy amongst them to take lessons at home with him?.. for a few years at least( Australian kids living in the Outback manage quite well with what we call Correspondence School using School of the air and the internet. They even talk to "classmates" on the internet ).
    He has intelligent parents so he will most likely be a smart boy so start looking for somewhere good for his highschool years ( perhaps even the dreaded boarding school- or perhaps you could all relocate in term time ). I would have thought you could find a good school somewhere for less than $50 000 a year (England, Australia, South Africa, France, Germany, Switzerland would all be good candidates I would imagine) and you could start saving for it now.. or by then perhaps the restaurant will be a huge success and $50 000 will be a mere drop in the ocean !!!

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    1. Great advice from Helsie. Being at home with you and Marcia in those formative years will serve him well. I think parents feel powerless because of the eduspeak. I know two high schools in NQ that take international students and teach IB. One has a boarding facility and the other does home stay. The school at which I teach has international students from France, Germany, Italy and China. But we are also starting to get students from PNG. Our school is very multicultural with resettled refugees from Bhutan, Nepal and Sudan as well as indigenous students. After putting my son through private schooling in those formative years, I ended up pulling him out of that closeted environment and made him see how to relate to real people in the real world. He will still go to university. It will be local again here in Cairns, but even at 17 he still has some growing up to do. Bottom line is it comes down to the family knowing what is right for their child, not what's necessarily best in terms if $$.

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    2. Helsie's advice is good. The nub of the problema is that I think it is more important for the boy to be with us rather than in an institution, however good.

      Carol's school sounds ideal and Cairns is, by all accounts, a pretty nice place to be so long as it does not have poisonous snakes, spiders, crocodiles or box jelly fish.

      I would love to hear more from both of you!

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  14. Phew! Sorry I was so long winded !

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    1. It wasn't that long winded although I did have time to have, and recover from, a heart attack while Reading it!

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  15. I reckon Churn Dash is onto something. Maybe you can find one or two parents on the same situation to share the cost of the teacher. I'll ask around, my cousin is also looking into schools - but alas, facing the same issues.

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    1. Marco, you and I both know that there is a serious deficiency between the state schooling system and the only top of the range private school. There is a plethora of 'private' schools, but these are often little more than a means to suck as much out of parents as they can. They are ill equipped, under staffed with poorly qualified teachers, do not offer food and have no playing fields.

      The problem is, who in the Ministry of Education would give me a licence to open a School without the need for some serious and on going Gazozas? Who, in SME would renew the workvisas of the teachers without some serious gazoza? The going rate for a work visa, valid for only one year, is US$5,000.

      I would be happy to collaborate with other parents to share the costs of a teacher but how long do you think it would be before some inspector came and closed us all down with a massive fine?

      If you have any ideas, Marco, I'd love to hear them because if I could open a small school, I'd do it at the drop of a hat. I have land in Benfica and the Barra.

      Delete
  16. Don't send him! it doesn't have the right feel/sound to it....there must be another way and lots of comments here seem to point towards home-schooling initially....consider that...or what Churn Dash said....or somehow open a school yourself...perhaps 'speak' to the right people?

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    1. I think I will have to 'speak' to the right people.

      I'll start lining the envelopes.

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  17. Unflippingbelievable! I wouldn't pay 50¢, sorry 50 p per annum with a prospectus containing tripe like that, let alone 50 thousand.

    They're mad!

    If you send him across the Pond, he'll talk funny, will see other US cars he'd love to ride in, oh, and have easy access to guns.

    Would those in power be more amenable to your idea of a school now that you have, ahem, fresh water available?

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    1. Mad are the oil companies that accept it but then Nigel above explained what it is all about.

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  18. I understand that here is an International School at Benfica - Colégio Esperança Internacional, approx 300 pupils. Medium is English BUT I think that may be from 10 or 12 years, prior to that it may be Portuguese, I'm not sure. It is much much cheaper than the school for the oily kids at Talatona. You may want to make enquiries

    Good Luck,

    Cheers

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    1. I have mentioned this to Marcia, thanks ever so much for the lead. Benfica would also be a damn sight easier for me living in the Barra.

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    2. Hi sorry I know this is an old thread... But looking everywhere for info on Colégio Esperança Internacional, the most I found was here on this post! :) I can't find a website, info on the yellow pages, the alleged facebook page has no information at all... Do you know by any chance where it actually is so I can visit? Thanks

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    3. Hi Francis. I have never heard of this school and neither has my wife, sorry about that. Do you at least know what zone it is supposed to be in?

      I will ask around and if I come up with anything I will post here.

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    4. It is in Benfica. This is number : +244 915 209 944

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  19. Although you may have already considered it, there is also the Portuguese School (the one backed by the Portuguese Education Ministery), which, as I remember, had more sensible fees a few years ago.

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