Setting up campus

Ex-rebellious student Teepat Sutabutra is now an international school's executive director

His parents ran private schools, and his father, Professor Thira Sutabutra, was also Kasetsart University president. But at first, Teepat Sutabutr didn't want to follow their footsteps because he wasn't sure he was a good fit with the education sector.

"Somehow, you can't avoid it, and end up doing something that you thought wasn't your kind of thing," he said of his position as SIIS International School executive director, which he took up early this year.

Thirty-nine-year-old Teepat has had a number of jobs, including being an organiser, but he was mostly in media, publishing the country's first entertainment newspaper, Siam Dara, which presents informative news rather than showbiz gossip.

Publishing came to a saturation point for him as he needed a new challenge, and he found one revamping the international school located at Rangsit Klong 3, Pathum Thani.

"The funny thing is that after Siam Dara and Siam Bantheong [publications], now I'm doing Siam International School. I guess my life is attached to the word Siam," he said.

SIIS adopts a modified American curriculum, based on the California curriculum, but adapted for Asian students. As a provider of world-class education, the school also plans to open campuses in Pattaya and Koh Samui, providing an even bigger challenge for high-powered Teepat.

Can you tell us about the SIIS revamp?

After the business acquisition, almost everything from the logo to the curriculum has been modernised. I have used the letter 'I' to reflect the school's modernisation and credibility, starting with the five 'I's: innovative, integrate, integrity, intelligence and interactive.

Interactive also refers to technology. A collaboration between SIIS and computer giant Apple, the curriculum employs the ACOT2 programme (Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow-Today) to engage learners to utilise the very latest technology in the classroom.

This includes the convenience of downloading interactive textbooks on their iPads, which will be available to G10-G12 students, who wouldn't have to carry heavy books in their school bags.

I remember how I carried a weighty school bag, which is a health hazard, as it can lead to chronic back pain and poor posture. Today's students can now have 10 textbooks on a single iPad, and that makes life easier for them.

As for G1 to G9 students and teachers, we plan to give them an iNotePad, which is a collaboration with a Thai company, the Samart Corporation.

Does that make life easier for teachers, too?

While 21st-century students are familiar with computers, iPods and iPads, most of the teachers were born and grew up in a different age. So training is required to help them keep up-to-date with the fast-changing technologies of the digital age so they can facilitate Samart Corporation students' learning.

Most important is to recruit teachers with the heart to really help students achieve their full potential.

What is SIIS's learning philosophy?

The "learning for life" philosophy aims to develop and maximise students' potential. The integrated learning approach covers academic, socio-cultural aspects as well as developing skills based on nine multiple intelligences, based on Howard Gardner's theory.

Teachers shouldn't make a guess about students' abilities, which could put them on the wrong path. Instead, if we help students identify their multiple intelligences in music, sport or art, we can develop their competencies and help them go as far as they can in what they are really good at.

How can we ensure students are on the right track?

Education counselling is important in advising students on academic, personal and career-related issues, but unfortunately, many Thai schools lack education advisers. In many other countries where education counselling is a priority, youngsters know what they want to do in their life, and schooling grooms them for a good career.

On the other hand, Thai graduates may still be confused about what's next, as they don't really know what they want to do after finishing university. As a result, they end up doing something completely different from their education background. This can be a waste of time and resources for themselves and for the bigger picture, for Thailand.

How can we improve education to make Thailand more competitive globally?

Thai parents need to change their perception that vocational education is for children who are not good at studying. Vocational education is as important as university education because of the vocational skills required to develop the industrial sector as well as build the nation.

Presently, graduates completing university may not match the country's need for human resources and so it's harder for those with a degree to find a job.

In contrast, South Korea sets an example in how their education system aligns with long-term development strategies, and so they have the labour force with the required skills to drive the country's future. Consequently, unemployment becomes less of a problem.

Likewise, Asean Economic Community countries should have strategic workforce planning, and the education system has to support that from elementary to secondary school through to undergraduate level.

Are you hoping to see a lot of students from the AEC attending SIIS?

Having students from Cambodia, Myanmar, Indonesia and the other AEC countries would bring cultural diversity to the school.

We hope that SIIS can be a part of the AEC development in offering quality education to build human resources for the 10 countries in this region.

Do you see a lots of kids skipping school?

Whenever a kid doesn't want to go to school, you have to start asking questions. What is the teacher like? What is the environment like? Likewise, when people don't want to go to work, you have to ask whether it's because of the boss, the colleagues, or the environment.

I attach great importance to building a supportive environment that attracts students to attend school.

A good environment is not only about tangible facilities, but also people, and I consider bad behaviour pollution. So we also focus on instilling good attitude and behaviour in students.

As I once was a rebellious student, I perfectly understand youngsters who miss classes or misbehave.

In running SIIS, as much as possible I want to respond to students' needs and give them what I didn't get when I went to school.

About the author

Writer: Kanokporn Chanasongkram
Position: Reporter