Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Back to School

Franco and his prizeImage by fnnkybutt via Flickr

School started up last week for my kids, and let me tell ya, we got off to a rough start. My oldest son is starting secondary school this year - that would be the equivalent of 7th grade in the US. It was really hard for him; he's had some tough times in school before, where he was victimized by some bullies when he was in first grade, and that combined with his innate shyness has made starting in a new school a real trial for him. Before, he was in school with his younger brother, but this year, Franco (the young one) has morning classes and David is on his own with the older kids in afternoon classes.

Without giving too much detail and embarrassing my poor baby if he ever reads this, the first day of school nearly gave him a nervous breakdown (me too!). Leaving him at that school, knowing how terrified he was, has to be one of the hardest things I've done as a parent. But sometimes you just have to do what you have to do - and in the end, it all worked out ok, and he's super happy at the school now.

So, if you're starting your kids in a Peruvian school, what can you expect? Well, our kids are in public school, which surprisingly enough doesn't make much difference in the amount of supplies we have to buy. We had to get each boy a notebook for each subject, the requisite pencils, colored pencils, erasers, pencil sharpeners and so on. Also, there were things like poster paper, large graph papers (called papelographo), markers and pens for the teachers, and even 10 rolls of toilet paper each. When we had them in private school, we had to buy floor wax, pine cleaner and other cleaning supplies for the school! I think a lot of people coming from the US public school system would be shocked at the amount of supplies we buy for our kids here.

If you're putting your kids in a private (called 'colegio particular) school, be prepared to pay - monthly tuition ranges from a low end of around $100 up to $1000 or so for the best International schools. Check the Expat website for a list of schools in Lima that are affiliated with the International Baccalaureate program - they also have some schools listed for other cities in Peru.
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  1. What is your opinion on the quality of education at the public schools in Peru? The only comments I've heard, from Peruvians and expats, have been horrifically negative. My experience working at a Peruvian primary school reinforced that--it was mostly repetition and workbooks with huge class sizes and frustrated teachers. How has your kids' experience been? Have they experienced any negativity due to being bicultural/English-speaking/lighter skinned?

    My son will be entering kindergarten this year or next year, so it's on my mind. We live in northern Peru.

  2. My kids are Peruvian, I'm a step-mom. :) We've never sent the boys to any of the 'elite' sort of schools, but we did have them in a private school for a while. My experience with it as a parent and also as a teacher at that same school was dismal - there was a complete lack of discipline because the school was afraid of upsetting parents and then having the kids withdrawn from the school. There were serious physical attacks between students, secondary students having WAY too much contact with very young students, students bringing contraband items to school and not receiving any discipline... and so on. I quit, and we took our kids out and put them in public school, because really, we just can't afford private school at this time.

    The were in a state-funded parochial school before that, and it was absolutely horrible. My older son was terrorized by bullies, to the point where was afraid of strangers and walked around with a jacket over his head (this was before my husband got custody and the boys came to live with us). He was so traumatized he hadn't learned to read, and the teacher told us she 'didn't have time' to teach him, and that it wasn't her problem, he should have learned already. (He graduated 1st in his class from Primary school last year :D)

    For the last two years though, the boys have been VERY happy in public schools. The school that they're in now is very strict and disciplined, and my boys appreciate that (especially my older son, who's 13 now). The biggest difference I've noticed between public and private schools is that kids are in class longer in the private schools, and have more 'elective' types of courses. The school their in is only in session for 5 hours a day.

    My boys are in 6th and 7th grade this year, and are learning algebra I didn't learn until 9th grade in the US. I've been frustrated at times with the 'Peru-centric' attitude in teaching, but I've actually seen more branching out in the public schools than in the private school. For example, they watched the Obama inauguration, and discussed how US presidential elections worked while they were in summer school last year. I was really surprised when my kids came home telling me how the electoral college worked!

    The schools are far from perfect, but i think my kids are learning well, and I believe they're advanced from what kids their ages are learning in school in the US. I do get annoyed with some of the repetition - the number of times we've had to build models of the coast, sierra and selva is staggering ;) - but as the boys get older, I see that they do get more in depth information. If we could afford one of the really good international schools, I'd definitely go for it; or even if we could afford one of the better private schools in our area. But I can't say that I'm disappointed with the state school that they're in. I think a lot depends on location - the current school is in Miraflores, which I'm guessing has more money to spend on it's schools.

    That's a really long response... I hope it answered your question!

  3. Thanks! That is really interesting, especially the part about private schools being afraid to take a stand on discipline. My inlaws are all of the type that would never send their kids to public school, very middle class. I want to take that attitude with a grain of salt.

    It is great to hear that Peruvian public schools are good in some areas of Peru--my experience of the rural schools, well, you can just imagine. Your boys sound like they are in an excellent school. I will check out the public schools where we are, because I don't know if I can afford private for too long. I suppose if nothing works out we can homeschool...

    I'm kind of worried of my son being bullied or just given too much attention for being a blonde kid, so that's why I asked about being bicultural.

  4. I know there are some really bad public schools - but I think we've been lucky with the schools we've had the boys in. The school they're in now we've been told is a 'pilot school', where they're trying some new methodologies, and it seems to be doing well. Of course, this is only the 2nd week of school... check with me again in a couple months!

    I hope you have luck with your schools!


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