A good education can make a difference in a child's life. It's also fundamental in preparing them to become effective members of society.
Selecting a good school that offers high academic values and a pleasant studying environment that can build character, is a big challenge for parents.
An international school can be a superb alternative for both parents and children.
Expat parents swear by them and increasingly, international schools are gaining popularity among Thai parents.
Dr Kesinee Owasith
Parents need to consider some basic principles such as affordability, location and reputation. On top of these, parents must ensure their child is ready for a multi-racial environment.
"It's important for parents to assess their child's language and communication skills when considering an international school," said Dr Kesinee Owasith, Developmental and Behavioural Pediatrics, Samitivej Srinakarin Children's Hospital.
Basic language and communication skills
The language barrier is the biggest obstacle a child must face when entering an international school. It's essential to understand what others say and for children to be able to express themselves. "Of course, all children have immature language and communication skills," Dr Kesinee said. "But they can use basic body language to engage with others."
For instance, she continued, when a child has a stomach ache, he could put his hands on his abdomen. It's difficult to find assistance and support in a new environment without communication.
"Children pick up language skills faster than adults. For children under seven, language development is very important."
Dr Kesinee also advised that parents should bring their child to a prospective school's open day, to experience the environment.
"If the child feels comfortable with the other children and the school, and is excited about attending, the parents will soon know about it," she said.
Sarah Brannon Parents with fairly good language skills
Parents with fairly good language skills
It is important that parents have a relatively strong command of English so they can speak with teachers when they have questions or problems.
Around the home, parents can help their child improve language skills with simple games and toys.
If no-one in the family speaks the language, this will hold the child back, creating pressure for the youngster.
"Parents play a leading role in a child's development in all aspects, not only language skills. They should stand side by side with their children and teach them about the world," Dr Kesinee said.
"The amount of time children spend with their parents having fun and learning together at the same time is vital to healthy development."
A multicultural environment
Diversity can be another important concern, Dr Kesinee said. International school pupils come from many different backgrounds and there is a concern among Thai parents that their children may experience culture shock.
According to Dr Kesinee, everything we do, be it gestures, body language or even the volume of our speech, is shaped by our culture.
A lack of understanding of different cultures can hinder Thai children in an international school.
Dr Kesinee believes the diversity and culture issue should be discussed with the child at an early age. Parents should foster open communication. Teach them to be proud of who they are.
"Try not to make them feel that there is something wrong about being different," she said
Children should understand that everyone is unique. Exploring different aspects of a child's culture is a good way to instill self-esteem. Children must also learn not to be judgemental about classmates just because they are different.
If a child sees difference as positive, he will learn to respect and enjoy diversity. This will in turn help the child to develop self-esteem.
"In general, children experience this problem early on at a new school and it may last a couple of weeks or months. With support and explanation from parents and teachers, they will eventually learn to accept and feel comfortable in their new situation," Dr Kesinee said.
"The key is to always listen to what your child says about the school and classmates so that parents can understand what is going on."
Teachers and school administrators
The attitude of a school's professionals towards parents and children is extremely important. Children should be surrounded by professionals who are helpful and supportive, so they can soon love learning.
"Teachers and administrators should be personable, so parents are able to talk about the child's development," Dr Kesinee said.
British or American curriculum
There are more than 80 international schools in and around Bangkok.
Some implement the British schooling curriculum, while others are under the American system. The two programmes are, however, different in many ways.
According to Sarah Brannon, headmistress of the primary school at the Bangkok International Preparatory & Secondary School, the British curriculum is a national curriculum, which clearly defines different stages and core subjects for children aged five to 16.
"The British curriculum has a clear structure and programme of learning for all students. This means that students who follow the British curriculum all over the world would be learning the same skills," she said.
The American system, on the other hand, has no national curriculum because of the size of the country.
Each state has its own body that oversees the education system.
Cultural assimilation problems
While parents want to expose their children to many cultures, they generally wish to maintain their own traditional traits and values.
Some Thai parents may be anxious when their child picks up foreign characteristics or behaviour that may shock family members.
Dr Kesinee suggested that Thai parents should set rules and regulations at home to maintain discipline. Also parents must teach them about good Thai traditions and manners.
For example, Thais perform a wai when they greet and always say thank you.
"We are Buddhist. I often bring my son to temples to take part in Thai rites and rituals," said Ravit Tuedvongs, whose son who is studying at Bangkok International Preparatory & Secondary School.
"We always lead the Thai way of life. I also want my son to enter the monkhood."
Why an international school?
Thai and foreign parents tell why their child attends an international school.
"I want my son to be a good boy who is creative and self-confident. Studying at an international school, I think he will have a better opportunity to express himself as well as communicate and share his thoughts with friends rather than studying by rote. To this end, he will be able to apply skills and experience he has learned in the classroom to real life and become self-reliant."
"I believe that having language skills is an outstanding quality and will give my son an edge in today's global workplace."
Fay Stombler Pansringarm
"My son has a good chance to interact with children from different countries. This can provide him with new, exciting life experiences."
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