Unaccompanied Baggage received these thoughts on the Anglo American School of Moscow via e-mail.
Just because a school has an Olympic-sized swimming pool, and more money than they know what to do with, does not mean it is a great school for every kid. AAS is that school. It is huge, with pre-K to Grade 12 all in one place. In the elementary, there are five classes of 18 kids in each grade. So that means there are almost 100 kids in Grade 1 alone!
Teachers have very little planning time or time in their classrooms, so there is a lot of teacher burnout going on. A surprising number of teachers, for such a fancy school, are not actually trained or certified in their field. Some of that is due to one spouse being the more important HS teacher and the spouse is just found something. The non-art Art teacher in the elementary school is one example. They talk about differentiated learning all day long, but it is not actually something that is done for every kid. Severe problems, perhaps. Milder problems, probably not. ADHD issues, varying from teacher to teacher, but for the most part, no.
Teacher communication is also poor at many levels. Some parents complain that their child’s teacher never responds to emails. Complaints to the elementary office are met with passive interest and no follow up, or lines like “Oh, that teacher is leaving” or “You’re leaving” so there doesn’t seem to be much investment in fixing some problems because someone is always leaving. Yelling by teachers has been an issue in some grades.
Another big issue is the local population. Children who are that rich have issues. To be fair, the school has changed their admissions policies in the last few years, so now the child and one parent must be passport holders of a few nations to reach the top tier for admissions. There are still a lot of “Russian” kids though, with pregnancy holiday passports. Attendance is not a serious thing for many of these families. Behavior also is at a different level. For older kids, the differences in wealth can be a more noticeable issue — prom dresses from Italian designers, the latest of everything, and more risky behaviors are accepted. Drinking, drugs, etc.
A lot of parents are very happy or mostly happy, though. They are wowed by that pool. Or all the trips their older child can take. And they are impressive and probably great. The school does participate in all the conferences all over Europe. The older grades have yearly class trips. The IB program in the high school is hard, hard, hard, but I guess it prepares the kids for college. The school has recently included an American high school college councilor, after several years without one and poor college accepted rates at top U.S. colleges.
It is not the worst international school but it might not be the very best. So go in with your eyes open and don’t be wowed by that pool!
Do you have insight on or experiences with international schools to share? Comment on this post or, if you’d prefer to remain anonymous, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.