We’re currently looking into a school for our son in Santiago, Chile.
If you’re starting the search too, here is a list of some of the best schools we’ve come across here in Santiago and the suburbs.
Please note that these notes are my very personal thoughts and impressions. Just because I didn’t rate a school, doesn’t mean you won’t.
Every parent and more importantly, every child, is different so I thoroughly advise you to check them out for yourselves. The application process is crazy, and while we were advised to apply to as many as possible, in the end we broke our list down to just a few that we really, really liked.
Please do drop me a comment (see below) with your own observations on these or any other good schools. I’m still hearing about more great places and I’ll be adding to this list as I go on. In the meantime, here goes:
- The International Nido de Aguilas – a large, mixed, international, US style school with excellent facilities, teaching using the English language. Based in Lo Barnechea, fees are well above the average. Offering classes from Pre-Kinder (age 3) to Grade 12, this school is a top favourite among my expat friends, with many claiming that it provides the best facilities and level of tuition in the English language. www.nido.cl
- Chartwell International Pre-School – Based in Vitacura, this is a new small, secular, mixed preschool looking to expand over the coming years to accommodate older children too. It follows the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) as defined in the English National curriculum. Facilities are modern and it also offers Friday night sleep overs and (optional) longer school days than many others. We personally wanted a more established school with a more defined, structured teaching programme. As the teachers were non native English speakers, and as we wanted more of a local, Spanish speaking Chilean school, we personally chose to focus on different institutions. www.chartwell.cl
- The Grange – Here the international curriculum is linked to the Cambridge IGCSE and A Level programmes. With a strong sports tradition, the mixed school is based in La Reina. The school’s application process takes place earlier than others, around February. It accommodates children from 4-18 years. While the website states it is an international school and the level of English language tuition is apparently excellent, most students are Chilean and allegedly it has a strong preference for those with high level contacts within the school. While we did apply as the application process took place much earlier than the others (and were immediately rejected), we personally felt this school was not right for our son as there was a high emphasis on discipline and sports, and we were not convinced that the school was open enough to international students, nor that it had a thoroughly rigorous anti bullying system in place. www.grange.cl
- The International Preparatory School (TIPS) – Based in a beautiful part of the country in Lo Barnechea, TIPS is a small, mixed school following the Cambridge international programme, accommodating children from 4-18 years. It offers more friendly, relaxed, gentle ethos than many schools and pupils here do not wear school uniforms. This gentler method of learning could perhaps suit a child who is struggling with their adaptation to Chile, or who would thrive in a more relaxed, less structured environment. For us personally, this wasn’t the right fit as we wanted a more structured teaching environment and routine, as well as higher quality facilities. www.tipschile.com
- Deutsche Schule / Colegio Aleman de Santiago – this school is routinely popular among expat parents, including non German or German speaking parents, due to its high level of academic performance, especially for the younger age groups. A strong preference is awarded to families who can show their connection to the German speaking community however. The admission process takes place over three days to allow the child to shine in its best light and is very transparent. As this is a German school, English is not their forte, which is worth taking into consideration if English is a must for you. Like most schools here, admissions are extremely popular with hundreds applying for a handful of places. www.dsstgo.cl
- Santiago College – along with the Nido, the vast Santiago College based in Lo Barnechea offers some of the best facilities and teaching in the city. Parents I know with children here praise its academic excellence, its high level of English and Spanish language tuition, noting particularly the emphasis the school puts on forming inquisitive minds, teaching through method and example rather than mere rote learning. The admission process is again notoriously long winded, but focuses purely on the child, not the parents. This is a very professional school, and is routinely praised among my expat parent friends for its excellent teaching standards. www.scollege.cl
- Colegio Everest – a large, Catholic school based in the Lo Barnechea suburbs which gets good academic results. Everest offers a nursery from one year and education right up until 17 years of age. While the school is mixed, classes are separated by gender from the age of about six upwards. There is a strong emphasis on Catholic values and the school puts a real focus on children’s emotional wellbeing, as well as their academic progression. There is more of a focus on English in the earlier years, but as children progress the classes switch to Spanish in later year groups. I really appreciated its colourful, playful, caring atmosphere, as well as its teacher and administrative professionalism. It also seemed to have much better anti bullying policies in place than many other schools. As well as an one hour exam with the child, parents are interviewed as part of the admissions procedure. www.colegioeverest.cl
- Colegio Cordillera – this is a boys school based in Las Condes (but towards Lo Barnechea) which teaches according to Catholic values following the Opus Dei foundation. The school is noted for its academic excellence, routinely coming within the top of the league tables. Like most Santiago schools, the admission process is especially tough and also takes into consideration the Catholic values of the family in question, and other connections to the school. It has fostered a really strong community among its parents and teachers, and really looks to see an active participation from the families themselves. www.colegiocordillera.cl
- Colegio del Verbo Divino – a Catholic boys school which is partnered with the nearby girls school, Villa Maria Academy. Based in Las Condes, the school is praised among Chilean friends I know for its personal approach to teaching. Whether your child has a passion for sport, art, music or academia, the school will look to support your child. While the level of English is apparently lower than that at the Villa Maria girls school, and the school is by no means international, most teachers do speak English. All parents that I have met are native Spanish speakers however. There is a strong focus on religious values throughout the school and parents will need to show their commitment to the Catholic faith in order for their child to be considered. www.cvd.cl
- Montessori Cuidadela – a small, progressive school based in Las Condes which follows the Montessori teaching method. While parents tell me that the school espouses Catholic values, it is very open to other faiths. The school is praised among my friends for its novel approach to education, which sees its pupils expanding on wider themes through a series of different activities, getting kids to think creatively outside the box rather than follow by rote. Parental participation is actively encouraged and teachers are very much in touch with parents to ensure every child is supported both academically and emotionally. One of my friends was especially impressed how her child had grown in confidence and really learned to take responsibility since starting school here. www.ciudadela.cl
It’s also worth bearing in mind that:
English, bilingual or international schools – as mentioned in my last post, international schools vary, and may not be as ‘international’ as other schools your child has attended previously). Some ‘international’ schools do not employ native English speakers and there have been reports of poor level of English among staff. Some employ very different teaching methods to other international schools your child may be used to, and a much more relaxed format. A mention on the website that the school follows the Cambridge exam system or another British system does not necessarily mean it offers a similar level of education to other international schools worldwide.
‘British’ schools – None of the schools in Santiago are British, but some are members of the Association of British Schools in Chile, which does have membership requirements. Just to clarify – there is no specific British curriculum other than the English National Curriculum. There is however the Cambridge International programme which is similar to the English National Curriculum, and is taught in many schools here, but it is not the same. ‘British style’ schools in Santiago may also vary widely in their general approach to discipline, routine and vales than other schools you may be accustomed to in the UK.
Catholic schools – the level to which the school devotes itself to Catholic values varies widely from school to school. Some will only accept students whose families are strongly committed to the Catholic faith, others accept students of all backgrounds and faiths. For some, mass takes place on a daily basis and first communion is celebrated within the school, for others it is expected that parents organise this in their own time. For some schools, Catholic values and traditions permeate into teaching on a variety of different levels, and the wider ethos of the school, for others, the values are set more loosely by the parents themselves.
Fees – most schools do not publish their school fees, and as they are updated routinely, it’s best to check directly with the school in question. All schools I know of charge an application fee (to cover the exam etc) which can cost anything from about the equivalent of $20 to $200 USD. On top of this comes an initial incorporation fee per child (also applicable for siblings) which can cost anything from around $3000 to over $12,000 USD. Annual fees come on top of this. Application results come at different times and you may find your child is accepted to your second choice of school, but you’re still waiting to hear from your first choice. In this way you may feel forced to pay the incorporation fee to hold your space, while waiting to see if you got into your first choice. It’s worth checking to what extent your company will support these payments, if at all. In any case it pays to budget for all eventualities.
Mixed co-ed vs single sex – some schools accommodate both genders up to a specific age group, then convert to single sex. Others, for example the Everest, are mixed schools but split classes according to gender. Some schools will organise mixed gender break periods, while others separate according to gender. Some offer activities and trips with other schools in order to mix the genders, others do not. It’s worth asking where your school in question stands on the issue.
Extra curricular facilities – Most school days finish around 12.30pm/ 1pm for the younger age groups, and then until 3.30pm for the older groups. Some offer lunch in school, others don’t. Some schools will offer facilities such as school buses (for an extra fee) which can be very practical for parents living in another are of the city or with children at multiple schools. Others offer extra curricular play groups, music lessons and sports classes which can be a great way to keep your child entertained until a more suitable pick up time and to avoid picking up your children at different times all across the city.