English schools in Latin America
Colegio Bolivar is a private, non-denominational, American school located in Cali, Colombia's second largest city (pop. 2m.). The school was founded in 1947 to serve the dependents of North American and third country personnel assigned to Cali, as well as those Colombian families who wanted an English language, American style education for their children. Over the years, the school's population has shifted from majority American/third country to majority Colombian. This shift attests to the growth and strength of Colombia's broad middle class and to the quality of its upper management personnel.
The school is located on a thirty acre campus located at the foothills of the Andes, ten miles from the center of the city. It consists of ten classroom blocks, a science building, a library/media center, an auditorium, a gymnasium and outdoor swimming pool, a cafeteria, an administration block, various athletic fields, and a great deal of open space. Cali's ideal weather (85 by day, 65 by night, year round) allows for the unusual feature of truly "open" classrooms, the rooms themselves having only three walls, with the fourth open to the outdoors. The campus, with its verdant landscape and flower gardens, is considered to be one of the most beautiful in Latin America.
Colegio Bolivar is a unit school, covering grades pre-kindergarten through twelve. There are four school sections: Preprimary (K/4, K/5, 1), Primary (2-5), Middle (6-8), and Secondary (9-12). Each is led by its own principal and has its own faculty and facility. The school is college preparatory, with nearly all graduates attending university in either Colombia or the United States, the ratio normally being 75/25. There are approximately 1200 students representing over 20 nationalities. English is the major language of instruction, but all students are required to take one hour of Spanish daily. While most of the students are native Spanish speakers, all are virtually bilingual by the end of primary school (teachers from second grade forward are not required to be bilingual). The average TOEFL score of graduating seniors is 600, which represents near native fluency.
Academically, the school meets the standards one would expect to find in a reasonably competitive private school in the United States. It is accredited by both the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and by the Colombian Ministry of Education, and will soon be a member of the Coalition of Essential Schools. High school requirements include four years of English, Spanish, Math and Science, and three years of Social Studies. There are also requirements in the arts, computers, physical education and philosophy, as well as a range of elective courses.. There is a strong commitment to the support of individual students which is manifested by a pupil services department consisting of six counselors, a psychometrist, a reading specialist, an English as a Second Language specialist, and a medical doctor. There is also a special program for gifted students at the middle and primary levels. Evaluation is descriptive and non-numerical at all grade levels.
Cali is a modern city characterized by a friendly population and a general sense of openness and space. It is located in the agriculturally rich (sugar, soy, coffee, rice) Cauca Valley, with a 13,000 foot mountain range separating it from the Pacific Coast. With its summer like weather, Cali is an outdoor, sports oriented city, including soccer, basketball, volleyball, cycling, running, tennis, racquetball, golf, swimming and hiking. While not a cultural Mecca, the city supports a symphony, a ballet troupe, various theater groups, and numerous movie theaters. It is an easy city to get to know and to get around. Taxis and buses are plentiful and inexpensive. Restaurants of various types abound and are also moderately priced. Teachers live in spacious modern houses or apartments (for which the school provides furniture), often equal to what they have left in the United States or Canada. Salaries, while paid in Colombian Pesos (an easily convertible currency), are guaranteed in net annual dollars. A single teacher can expect to save 20-35%.
Colombia is an extraordinarily beautiful country of varied geography: mountains, rain forest, cloud forest, snow-capped peaks, Atlantic and Pacific coastline, even desert. The adventurous traveler can and does see much of this. Finally, it is important to note that, despite its reputation, Colombia is an easy and safe country in which to spend a few years. It is not, by any stretch of the imagination, third world. It is the oldest continuing democracy in Latin America, has one of the strongest economies on the continent and, given its human and natural resources, is a country with limitless possibilities for the future. At Colegio Bolivar you will have the chance to work with and teach many of the children on whom that future depends.