06 April 2006

The Local Public School

It's been interesting to live near one of the public schools in Bishkek- mostly to see a little bit of how things are done here. I also help a little Kyrgyz girl who is moving to the US soon with English and we talk about school a lot. While I think the schools are generally doing a good job here, I'm certainly not ready to enroll my own children.

The schools are very overcrowded here, so most schools run with two different shifts, or sometimes even three. Our school has two shifts. The little girl I work with goes to school before 8 in the morning and comes home around 2. Her older sister leaves around 2 and doesn't come home till 7. That quite effectively eliminates any time they have together during the week. In the US, parents would make sure their children were on the same shift , but that isn't an option here. I don't like that.

The children are outside a lot more here than they are in the US. They help keep the school and the grounds clean, they're out playing, and they go out to exercise. I like that.

Immunizations are often doled out at school and there is no option to refuse them. I'm not interested in that.

Children learn to play chess in school here. They also spend more time with dancing and art and singing. I like that.

We do have our children in an art class and a chess class in a children's center in town. No one speaks English there. My children haven't learned the huge amounts of Russian everyone said they would learn. They do understand quite a bit, but I've preferred to have them focus on reading and writing in English this year instead of learning Russian. The other foreign children we know aren't learning much Russian either because they are in the international and Christian schools. Children learn foreign languages when they attend school in a foreign language. It usually works really well in the US because US schools put a lot of effort into ESL and helping children learn English. Here, it's sink or swim. There are few non-Russian-speaking children in the public schools. And it's not a risk I'm willing to take. And they learn a lot of Russian by playing with the children in the neighborhood.

Besides, there will be little opportunity to use Russian when we get back to the US. And if we do happen to stay longer, there will be more time to learn it. I wouldn't say no to a Kyrgyz class though. :)


  1. The public schools sound much better then the one experience that I had out in the village. Actually everything about the school was great except for the fact that they didn't have any heat, at all. The poor students were bundled up in their coats and scarves and were trying to write with layers of gloves on their poor fingers. Usually the universities I had been in were cold in the winter, but they did have some source of heat, whereas these children were very, very cold and were obviously preoccupied with staying warm and not their studies.

  2. It seems to me that heating the public schools isn't an unreasonable expectation. Can you imagine what US parents would say in a similar situation?

    So how are apartments heated in Karakol? Is there some kind of central heating system like in Bishkek? What about the hot water?

  3. There's heat in Karakol. The hot water ran through a thing in most of the rooms. That school was just the first place I had come across with absolutely no heat. The hot water though does turn off for an entire month in the spring for some still unknown reason.