Kiettisack is a Laos word meaning “honor,” an appropriate name for a multicultural school in a multicultural setting whose motto is “Children are the Future.” Kiettisack International School (KIS) was the first international school in the 45-year-old Laos People’s Democratic Republic. The vision of the founders was to grow with the young nation by educating young people, helping the students attain internationally recognized qualifications.
Chris Joseph, head of the KIS secondary school, shared his experience of the KIS campuses during January, a very busy time of the year for faculty and students. This is the the time of preparation for parents’ conference month in February when the faculty and staff speak to parents about their students’ progress. Communication with parents is a touchstone of KIS philosophy because the school cares deeply about the overall success of each child.
January is also the beginning of what could be called the season of New Years, since the school celebrates three New Year’s events in recognition of the diverse culture of the school: the Julian calendar New Year’s Day on January 1; the Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese New Year’s Day in late January or early February; and the Lao New Year in April. As an example of student involvement in the diverse celebrations, the Chinese New Year’s event features traditional dragon dancing with elaborate costumes and other talents of KIS students.
Showcasing a wide range of cultures and languages is a hallmark of KIS, founded in 1992 by Dr. David Marian and current director, Chansanga Valakone. The school supports and teaches in several languages: English, Lao, Chinese, Japanese, and French. Most of the students at the three campuses are from the local area with about 20 percent coming from other countries, mainly Korea, China, Vietnam, the United Kingdom, Poland, the United States and Australia. These are children whose parents live and work in Vientiane, the hometown of KIS and the capital of Laos, a city with almost one million residents.
KIS has three campuses to accommodate the variety of ages and needs of their students. KIS1 is located in Sokpaluang Village in Vientiane and has an enrollment of approximately 700 pupils ages 3 to 11. The campus has 59 classrooms, a science lab, a library, an art studio, and a music center.
KIS2 is the secondary school and has 425 students ages 11 to 19. It is also located in Vientiane. There students enjoy the use of 16 classrooms, two science labs, two computer laboratories, a library, and an art center.
The third campus, KIS3, prepares students to enter the other campuses after extensive study of English. Students often remain there for several years in order to improve their language skills.
One of the secondary science labs is home to Dr. Jon Gulick, American-born math, chemistry, and physics teacher with a background in satellite design. This is his twelfth year at KIS2. His work with his students on an international competition project is one of his most memorable moments at the school. Dr. Gulick is looking forward to the addition of A/As-level physics to the senior curriculum.
Not all learning takes place in the classroom. Field trips coordinated with class studies, such as the one to Lao Textile Museum, bring academic pursuits to life. The class visited the museum after reading Gathering Blue, a book about a talented young textile worker.
Both KIS1 and KIS2 teach a full international curriculum in English and a Laos curriculum in native Lao. The older students face a long school day, from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. The reward for these hard-working young people is graduation with the internationally recognized Cambridge International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) and A/As-level qualifications as well. Students in the Laos program will be able to qualify for entry into the University of Laos.
“Parents may feel assured,” wrote Director Valakone in her welcome to the school on its web site, “that our international curriculum will enable their children to participate in and enjoy all school activities geared towards their total development as future world citizens.”
KIS2 Deputy Director Ron Lel saw firsthand the benefit of international certification when he took students to the University of Thailand on a visit. These students could see where their academic success could take them. Native Australian Lel is very proud of the success rates of KIS students who apply for overseas universities.
“Students do not have to come from wealthy families,” wrote Director Valakone concerning KIS student applications overseas, “in order to achieve a quality education. If a student is prepared to work hard, then there are many avenues open for them to gain scholarships.”
Students participate in more than academics at KIS. The school’s sports teams have won several championships. Some young athletes have even been selected to play nationally and internationally.
Another type of competition is more academic in nature. The Ambassadors English Speech Contest brings out stellar competition among the students. It is sponsored by the school with the cooperation of the British, German, and United States embassies.
KIS also encourages students to take responsibility for the world around them through service to other Lao schools. Service projects such as the Fun Fair, organized by secondary students in Vientiane, provide needed funds for less fortunate local schools. The students raised money at the fair with games, face painting, and food and fun booths.
KIS also led the students by example when it shared the cost of building a new primary school in Namuong Village, Khamkeut District, Bolikhamsai Province.
KIS2 is the campus using Thinkwave administration software. Joseph said the system is very popular with parents, students, and teachers. Weekly updates allow parents to monitor their children’s work. Students like being able to view their test results as well as their project and participation grades. Teachers like Dr. Gulick see the program as well organized, a tool that encourages communication with students and parents alike.
“The key to success,” observed Joseph, “is the amount of work and assignments teachers put into the system.”
Another of these teachers is Lynn Ponferrada, a native of the Philippines. She has taught both science and geography for nine years. Students are, of course, her primary focus. Thinkwave has become a primary aid to her teaching by saving her time in calculating grades and delivering feedback to her students.
In the first semester of the 2016-2017 school year, over 25 different elements were used in the Year 7 and Year 8 grade English classes alone.
“This means,” Joseph said, “we can make incredibly accurate assessments of not only our students’ progress, but also their future educational requirements.”
KIS plans to expand their use of the cloud-based software to customize the report card feature in order to produce end of term reports.
“Quite simply,” Joseph said in his summary of Thinkwave, “it is the best school management system I have used.”