International schools offer young people a relaxed and fun learning environment that allows individual attention to be given to students.
While most schools take a well-earned break, a lot of
International schools at a glance
International schools throughout Thailand distinguish themselves in two ways. Firstly, the curriculum is based on a foreign system, predominantly British or American. Secondly, the medium of instruction is usually in English and many teachers are native speakers. A few international schools do use other systems and languages of instruction such as the Japanese, Swiss or Singaporean schools.
International schools come in all shapes and sizes, catering for kindergarten-age children through to high school students, often making up a diverse cultural mix. All international schools are fee-paying with some offering boarding facilities.
parents will be thinking ahead to the next term, if only to look forward to a little peace and quiet. Some parents, however, may be considering a more radical change for their child.
In the past, Thai parents who were frustrated with the limitations of the local curriculum had no alternative but to stick with it unless, of course, they were rich enough to send their children abroad. But following a ruling by the government in the early 1990s, international schools were permitted to allow a small percentage of Thai students into their classrooms.
Over the last 10 years, the number of international schools in Thailand has mushroomed almost to saturation point. Indeed, the very nature of these schools has changed dramatically too.
Today, the number of Thai children being educated in international institutions is considerable with many schools catering to Thais almost exclusively. This has prompted some people to question whether such a demographic makes a school truly international. The answer, it seems, lies not in the make-up of the student body but in the curriculum a particular international school adopts. As such, the international system has become a viable alternative to the national system for those who can afford it, at any rate.
Making the decision to send your child to an international school, while never taken lightly, should be fairly straightforward. But deciding which school to send them to opens up a whole maze of decisions to be made based on a complex set of information. Here, we aim to answer some of those questions frequently asked by parents contemplating international education for their children.
should I send my children to an international school?
The benefits of sending your child to an international school are fairly extensive. Since you are paying a substantial fee, the resources available and the quality of teaching are usually higher than in the national system, with the student-teacher ratio being much more favourable. Secondly, if your child is high-school age, they will usually be able to attain globally recognised qualifications.
Says Dr Michael Holmes, Director of School Development for Ruamrudee International School (RIS) in Minburi: Parents know that if their child does well at RIS, he or she will be eligible to attend the best colleges and universities in the world.
In addition, one of main reasons Thai parents choose to educate their children at an international school is that it will help them to become proficient in English. While this is certainly the case, it is worth remembering that although Thai language and culture is taught in international schools by law, Thai students often have difficulty keeping up the quality of their Thai writing and reading skills.
In what ways is an international curriculum different to the Thai
This largely depends on the type of curriculum adopted by the school. As a rule, many international curriculums are much more academically rigorous than their Thai equivalents with a major focus on public examinations for older students.
Teaching styles in international schools are generally learner-centred in nature, which means that the student has significant input into their own education. Thai schools are beginning to adopt this style of teaching although, for all sorts of reasons, it will take time before they reach the standard of most international schools. In addition, as Dr Holmes points out, class sizes in international schools are generally small. Therefore each student gets more individual attention than they would in a Thai school.
can I be sure of the quality of an international school?
Personal recommendations are a good start. However, if these are difficult to obtain, there are other ways to get a feel for quality. As By law, all international schools should be externally accredited, so look out for the certificate granted by a recognised body such as CIS, NEASC, WASC or the Office of the Private Education Commission.
You can also check out the schools website. Is it regularly updated? A good international school will go to some lengths to maintain a professional Internet presence. If it hasnt, it may indicate the kind of attention paid to other aspects of their business, including the quality of education they offer.
Of course, a visit in person to the school is a must. Ask to look at classrooms and talk to staff. Is the atmosphere inviting and comfortable? Do the students look happy?
What is the usual admissions procedure?
You will normally be asked to fill out an application form to begin with. This is then followed by an interview and written test that measures your childs English ability. For older applicants, tests may also be given in maths and science. It is not uncommon for schools to request reports and references from your childs current school, so be prepared to submit those.
After your child has fulfilled all the entrance criteria, they should be ready to begin studying. Most schools recommend starting at a mutually convenient time such as the beginning of a new school term or academic year, although this is not compulsory. In some of the more popular international schools, it is likely that your child will be placed on a waiting list first, which could delay entrance by a number of months or even years.
Most international schools require that students have a proficiency in English over a minimum standard before they can study there. This standard will depend on the individual schools policy but it is normally fairly high. Some schools have special language centres to assist children who do not quite meet the minimum English requirements.
What about the expense?
The cost of sending your child to an international school varies. Like most things in life, you get what you pay for. Quality international schools, with fully trained, highly professional teachers and excellent resources, will naturally be the most expensive.
Some schools can cut costs by employing more local staff or investing in existing buildings rather than having purpose-built accommodation. These schools can still, however, provide a quality education. The size of a school is another consideration.
Most schools charge an application fee, a one-off initial payment
and then term fees that can be paid in installments. There will also
be additional expenses for school uniforms, physical education kit,
transport and school trips.
Part 2 of our series looking at how young people use the Internet will appear in next weeks learning post.
Attending the awards ceremony at Bangkok Patana (left to right): Dr Siriphon Maneerin, International Award Coordinator Ian Jones, ML Pariyada Diskul, Bangkok Patana acting headmaster Robert Thornhill, International Award regional director Sue Walker, International Award regional chairman John Pascoe, Her Excellency Gwendolyn Fall, and the president of the Friends of the International Awards, Rex Morgan.
Last Wednesday, Bangkok Patana School played host to the presentation ceremony for Thailands winners of the International Award for Young People.
Gwendolyn Fall, wife of the British Ambassador, presented the awards at schools Bangna campus. Special guests at the ceremony also included Sue Walker, regional director of the International Award, as well as prominent members of the community, including Dr Khunying Kalaya Sophonpanich, MR Sukhumphan Paribatra, Dr Parichart Jumsai Na Ayuthaya and former education minister Dr Sirikorn Maneerin.
Run as an extension of the UKs Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme, this programme is designed to foster independence and community spirit among students. To date, almost 5 million young people from more than 110 countries have been involved.
The award is split into three categories: Bronze, for over-14s who have committed a minimum of six months to the programme; Silver for over 15s who have participated for a minimum of 12 months; and Gold for over-16s who have participated for more than 18 months.
The programme itself comprises four sections that must be completed by all participants. The first, Service, includes community service projects, conservation work and community voluntary work. Secondly, the Adventurous Journey section involves expeditions through which students gain an understanding of the environment and teamwork.
The third section, Skills, encourages the development of personal interests and hobbies, while the fourth, Physical Recreation, encourages fitness through team activities and individual sports. Additionally, the Gold Award includes a residential project intended to broaden experience through living and working with others over a period of five days.
Bangkok Patana has been involved with the scheme for five years. This year, 12 students from the school achieved Gold Award status, a first for Thailand. Additionally, students from NIST and Shrewsbury International School were presented with Silver and Bronze Awards, with more than 100 awards being handed out in total.
Motives for participating in the awards with Gold Award winners spending several years in the programme were mixed, but all winners said that they came away with far more than they expected.
I started the International Award just to get out of Bangkok, see Thailand and spend weekends with friends, but came away a different person, said Bangkok Patana student and Gold Award winner Gary Granger. After completing the award scheme we all want to get more involved in the community and in outdoor education, added Virginie Lacrosse, also a Patana student.
This year was the first year that Shrewsbury International School
participated at all levels, with 40 participants in the scheme. The
winners were keen to stress that the awards are open to all nationalities
and schools and that participation helps to develop inter-school ties
as well as break down cultural and ethnic barriers.
For more information on the International Award and how you or your school can get involved, visit the official website at www.intaward.org. Bangkok Patana students have also created their own related website at www.patana.ac.th/Students/IntAward/