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A reader commented on the Expat Report Review of Kiettisack International School in Vientiane, Laos
Review-of-Kiettisack International School
How would you describe the facilities at this school? What extra-curricular activities are available?
Very poor. This is a private Lao school. It's not accredited, there is no school board and it employs foreign teachers who are mostly not qualified. Teachers are not respected by the school owner and are treated badly. There is a regular turn over of staff! The aim of the school is to make money. Education is a low priority. Most of the students are from rich Lao families.(97%). There are English classes in the morning which are ESL classes as most of the student's English is poor. They learn Lao in the afternoon. The internal organisation is in a shambles! (Continue)
A reader replied most recently with:
It is wrong to say that the teachers are non qualified and inexperienced. All teachers have to prove their teaching qualifications before they are employed and in my experience the farang teachers are very experienced and capable. The school takes educational progress and exam preparation to international standards, very seriously, and students with poor English are weeded out and taught separately. As to the attitude of the owner towards the teachers. Yes, a great deal of improvement is necessary here, but the owner has no contact with the students.
A reader replied recently with:
I must say that I am very satisfied with KIS and the management. I have also been talking with them over the past couple of years and have seen them growing and build. I find very few parents that are not happy with the school but I have never seen a school that had 100 percent love ratio. It is a parent thing. I recently interviewed for a job and found that the owner is truly interested in the welfare and placement of the students in the correct learning level. It is also a fact that failing children are required to attend summer school and if they can not bring up their grades then they can be retained one time in grades 1 through 6. Every student I met and talked to liked the school. Lunches are what they are and you can not please everyone. As for the location of the kitchen it is being addressed. I felt it was clean and even though it is near the toilet most homes also have a toilet in or near the kitchen. Some older students do bring their lunches or order out. No big deal. The owner is very approachable but very busy. The school is going through an expansion program adding new rooms and campuses. This requires focusing both on existing and future progress. The Assistent Director is also approachable as is all the teachers I met. If they were as bad as the comments I have seen here then I doubt they would be in the position they are now. It is a good school and fine staff.
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A reader commented on the Expat Report Review of Kiettisack International School in Vientiane, Laos
Review-of-Kiettisack International School
How would you describe the facilities at this school? What extra-curricular activities are available?
The facilities I think are ok. The often have "discos" for the children (Halloween Dance, Valentines Dance etc)... There is also something called "Friday Club". On a Friday afternoon the younger children get to go bowling, swimming or an ice cream! (Depends on the weather)... (Continue)
A reader replied most recently with:
The only reason some kids like to go to school is because they like their teacher. There are not many teachers left who are happy. Its very difficult to be happy when your boss treats you so badly! The moral is so low its effercting teacher student relationships. The boss keeps a few teachers around her who she uses to bully the others! its a terrible situation. Its almost unbelievable! She manages the teachers through fear and intimidation!
A reader replied recently with:
I agree wholeheartedly with the above comments. Our 5yr old daughter has been going to the school now since she was 2 yrs old and she looks forward to going each day. My 14 yr old stepdaughter is in the same school and loves it too. I might add that I have a Lao wife and we live in Vientiane. I work overseas but get home on a regular basis on leave.
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A reader commented on the Expat Report Review of Kiettisak in Vientiane, Laos
Review-of-Kiettisak
How would you describe the facilities at this school? What extra-curricular activities are available?
The facilities are ok, though to be honest the school grounds are a little small for the number of children enrolled in the school. There are a number of functions that kids can attend, such as valentine's Day and Halloween parties. There are also Friday Clubs. (Continue)
A reader replied most recently with:
FYI you appear to have little knowledge of the inspections carried out by Cambridge. Another person posting with no knowledge.
A reader replied recently with:
FYI, Cambridge is not a accrediting body. An international accrediting body, Like CIS, SACS and WASC will come to a school and look at all aspect. Cambridge is a program of curriculum that requires barely nothing on a schools part.
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A reader commented on the Expat Report Review of Vientiane International School in Vientiane, Laos
Review-of-Vientiane International School
How would you describe the facilities at this school? What extra-curricular activities are available?
Good without being exceptional. There are after school activities. (Continue)
A reader replied most recently with:
Thailand is dangerous. It is no place for a child in a boarding house. So many children are raped and then killed to silence them. It astounds me that parents could have such little regard for their children.
A reader replied recently with:
I am curious why so many parents of VIS students are looking for tutors elsewhere, particularly in Math. Is there a reason for this?
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Expat Report Living in Vientiane, Laos by stumpy was published
Living-in-Vientiane
Describe how you "dreamed" expat life would be before you moved overseas. Please provide as much detail as possible.
No illusions. Having lived and worked overseas in many developing countries.

I wanted somewhere with a pleasant climate, nice friendly people and reasonably cheap to live and with in reasonable travel distance from Australia and New Zealand. (Continue)

A reader commented on the Expat Report Review of KIS in Vientiane, Laos
Review-of-KIS
How would you describe the facilities at this school? What extra-curricular activities are available?
The word “Kiettisack” translates as “honor”. Exactly how honorable conditions at this institution are, you may wish to decide for yourself. When inspecting this or any other school it is highly recommendable to approach the teachers. Being employed by the school they will generally avoid problematic issues. But ask them about the student numbers of their classes. This will give you a rough indicator of the school’s priorities. Are “Children the future” (K.I.S. slogan) or are they the most direct route to your Dollars ? You decide ! Having worked at the school as a foreign staff member for a number of years, I’m sorry to say that the shortcomings of Kiettisack International School described in some of the previous contributions are mostly accurate and unfortunately just the tip of the iceberg.

As already mentioned, K.I.S. is first and fore most a business and second a school. It’s run by the Valakones, a Lao-national director=owner, her sister-in-law, as well as the family clan surrounding them. It is frequented mostly by the Lao elite and newly rich. Depending on how you’d count mixed-nationality children, I’d estimate Lao children comprise roughly 80-90% of the student population. The teacher-student ratio is twenty-five to thirty students to a class. Of the foreign teachers only about 80% are native speakers. It’s school policy to accept every new and paying student, if in any way possible and all year around. If there’s no room in the appropriate classes, newcomers have been accommodated in inappropriate year levels. Compared to other schools around town the tuition fees may seem low, but not included are a number of ‘hidden’ charges, on all of which the school makes a profit. These include the school lunches, uniforms, books, the school bus service and field trips.

MEALS & HYGENE

For lunch the school serves local cuisine, which (I can confirm this) is indeed prepared on the kitchen floor, situated next to the main toilet area. Students have a choice of either a plain local-style meal containing meat or a vegetarian choice. Depending on the weekday, this may be a rice or noodle dish or often merely a bowl of soup. Everyone queues up at the distribution tables which are open to all sides. All students and staff members have to bend over the open pots and bowls to be handed their daily rations. Especially younger learners invariably cough and sneeze over the food. K.I.S. meals have little nutritional value and are generally prepared in a poorly seasoned manner. Usually the amount of food prepared is not sufficient, letting children who arrive late go hungry. Also located on the school grounds are three kiosks which specialize almost exclusively in sweets and fatty foods. One of these is owned by a Valakone.

EDUCATION & RESOURCES

The elementary classes loosely follow the official New South Wales Curriculum, which prescribes themes by subject and school year. It doesn’t include specific text book titles. So teachers have no choice but to piece together a puzzle of the sparse and usually grossly outdated materials found in the disorganized resource room. At the end of every school year the management reshuffles teaching staff and year levels, often regardless of the teachers’ preferences, qualification or experience. Thereby, teachers regularly find themselves facing a new level and aren’t able to develop and refine their grade-specific strategies and resources. Furthermore, original text books are a rarity at K.I.S. Books are photocopied, often in the 2nd or 3rd generation and sold for a profit (check local copy prices). This is not only illegal, and serves as a bad example for the learners, but the quality of the copies are poor, words are cut off, images unrecognizable etc. As mentioned above, no paying students are rejected. The management accepts students with learning disabilities or diagnosed mental handicaps, fully knowing that they won’t get the specialized support they need. Many of these stay back in the English as a Second Language (ESL/ESC) Program year after year, slowing the general learning pace. The advertised purpose of the ESL/ESC program is to prepare newcomers for the English level of the regular mainstream classes. But since the mainstream is mostly over occupied, they are kept back in the Second Language programs even though their proficiency of English would permit them to move on.

I can also confirm that K.I.S. is an international school by name only. The language of instruction in the morning program is English. But the overall language abilities of the students in the mainstream are relatively poor, so that some regular program teachers have found it appropriate to resort to Cutting Edge (ESL) textbooks. Pupils addressing one another in- and outside of the classroom predominantly use Lao.

STAFF

Most Elementary and Second Language classes are granted a Lao assistant teacher. But much of the office and library staff and even some of the assistant teachers speak little to no English. Many of them are part of the management family. The librarian's literacy for example doesn't seem to extend much beyond palm reading. That's not her fault, but nonetheless she's found employment at the school and has since transformed the tiny library room into a DVD cinema.

The foreign staff members are mostly dedicated and approachable, and manage the big classes to the best of their abilities. The school hires applicants with university degrees (any degree). There has been at least one instance where a foreigner didn’t fulfill this requirement, but was hired nonetheless. He's the son of one of the manager’s business partners. What's more, no police record checks are conducted. In recent years, there have been a handful of teachers inflicting disciplinary measures through physical abuse on their pupils. Of these, one teacher spoke very openly to other staff members about his mistreatment of the children. This was immediately reported to the management, which in turn was slow react. The accused teacher was permitted to keep his employment for another three years, despite repeated and ongoing complaints by the foreign staff.

SCHOOL FACILITIES

Some of the classrooms have rather thin-longish dimensions, ill-suited for lessons of any kind. The students' wooden tables and chairs are locally manufactured and of very poor quality. Often bits of the furniture break off, leaving dangerously sharp edges and protruding nails which cut into clothes and skin.

Despite its many faults, more and more uninformed parents send their children to K.I.S. In the past school year (2010-11), well over six-hundred children were enrolled. That’s an increase of more than a hundred compared to the previous year. In order to maximize profit a three- and a two-story building were recently added, cutting down the recess play area significantly. Students go to and from their classes using open, balcony-like walkways with poorly secured steel railings. Fortunately, nobody has fallen down yet, but books and other objects do occasional plunge onto students standing below. Furthermore, the three-story building housing around 150 students has only a single set of staircases. Should a fire breakout on or near these then fatalities are unavoidable. More buildings on the same grounds are to be constructed.

STUDENT ISSUES

The fact that more and more students are compacted into an increasingly smaller space has lead to a higher risk of student injuries. But for quite some time now there’s been no qualified nurse employed. Instead the injured are mended by the office staff or ferried to a local hospital. With increasing student numbers, these incidents are becoming more frequent and serious. Additionally the student density has a negative effect on the pupils’ personal-social well-being. Gangs and bullying are on the rise.

Also alarming is the fact that students and teachers have no choice but to share the same toilets. It goes without saying, that this opens the door to all kinds of sexual harassment and/or malicious accusations. Many of the cubicles have open ceilings and students have been caught taking picture with their phones of the children in neighboring toilets. This problem has repeatedly been brought to the management’s attention by foreign staff members, to the effect that the single cubicles now have teacher/student and male/female signs. These are generally ignored by the students.

Suspicious students have been singled out for drug testing. Of these, a few where found to be positive. But not all drug users were immediately expelled, as is the school's policy. Foreign staff members have noticed that especially students from families, who have more than one child enrolled, are often treated with more lenience by the management. Also students from more prestigious family backgrounds seem to be favored. In addition, it is standard management practice to promote students who have failed throughout the school year.

TEACHER-MANAGEMENT RELATIONSHIP

The situation for the foreign staff members is dire. Many have difficulties making ends meet. The starting monthly salary is round about $1000. Even though tuition fees have increased significantly over the last few years, this has not been reflected in staff wages. A mere payment rise of $50 was granted two or three years ago which doesn’t even make up for the ongoing Dollar-Kip depreciation. At the same time, housing- as well as all other day-to-day living costs have risen due to local inflation. On the other hand, the school management boasts with lavish spending for unnecessary luxuries, such as exorbitantly priced office furniture, huge private estates and sports cars. Foreign teachers’ opinions, suggestions and especially constructive criticism are generally not welcomed by the management. Staff has been fired as a result of speaking up about issues. Additionally, teachers are given no incentives to develop themselves professionally. Moreover, the manager has a rather blunt sense of discretion. Intimate matters concerning foreign staff and parents are tactlessly passed on to other unconcerned parties.

Confirming what was mentioned in previous postings, the clan running the school has no background in education. Nonetheless, the manager has recently made an effort to obtain a Master's Degree in Education from the National University of Laos. Foreign staff was coerced into writing the thesis. For the ‘help’ at least one was promised a bonus payment. (Continue)

A reader replied most recently with:
It is amazing how some people who have been sacked for incompetence decide to retaliate by posting nonsense. An annual health check is a requirement of every Internationals School.
A reader replied recently with:
I can confirm the above comment is accurate. In a nut shell, It's a very poorly managed lao school, run by an autocratic racist. The ex-pat teachers are treated so badly it's shocking. I heard they were ALL forced to take blood tests (and pay for it themselves)because they were accused of taking drugs! Crazy! I will not be sending my children there!
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Expat Report Moving to Vientiane, Laos was published
Moving-to-Vientiane
What advice would you give someone preparing to move to your area about the actual move, choosing a neighborhood and finding a home?
No advice. Depends on your style of life. I grew up in the mountains of Colorado in a cabin with no electricity, running water, and snowed in 3 months of the year. (Continue)
Expat Report Review of Kiettisack International School in Vientiane, Laos was published
Review-of-Kiettisack International School
How would you describe the facilities at this school? What extra-curricular activities are available?
Its a private Lao school that teaches in English in the morning. 95 % of students are Lao. It calls itself International but in reality its not. The level of English among the students is low. Basically its an ESL school for rich Laos children. Foreign teachers are not qualified, paid poorly and treated badly by the owner. It's not accredited. There is no school board or parent associations. It's a money making business where education is low in priority. Do not send your kids there if you are an expat! (Continue)
A reader commented on the Expat Report Culture Shock in Vientiane, Laos
Culture-Shock-in-Vientiane
Do you have any advice or thoughts about culture shock you would like to share?
Lao goes slow so just go with the flow.. When driving/riding..if you think they are going to do it (cut in front) they probably will.. Smile, a smile here goes a long way! Don't drink too much Lao Cow (rice wine)..have the first one as a sign of respect..after that just say NO! (Continue)
A reader replied most recently with:
I liked your comment abuot Lao Cow and after one drink just say No!---Funny :-) I do know what you mean though about getting out and about. Expats need to do that because the more familiar they are with their surroundings the more comfortable they'll feel in their new environs. It'll give them a boost of confidence which will make a difference in how they react to things.
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Expat Report Living in Vientiane, Laos was published
Living-in-Vientiane
What activities, clubs and organizations would you recommend to newcomers to help them meet others?
It all depends what you are interested in. For women there is WIG (Womens International Group) who do various activities. There are many sporting clubs (Rugby, Australian Football, etc). A volunteer group called Paws for Thought who focus on animal welfare in Lao. Most are advertised in the Vientiane Times OR on facebook/internet.. (Continue)
Expat Report Culture Shock in Vientiane, Laos by stumpy was published
Culture-Shock-in-Vientiane
Do you have any advice or thoughts about culture shock you would like to share?
Best to learn as much about your new country before heading out. (Continue)

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