Key to the future

A headmaster talks about the future of education and selecting an international school to integrate children into the upcoming Asean Economic Community

Keith Wecker's years of experience in education - both in Thailand and overseas - make him a respected figure within academic circles.

The Australian, who has lived in Thailand since 1993, is currently headmaster at Bangkok International Preparatory and Secondary School (Bangkok Prep).

Under his watchful eye, the international school continues to equip students with the correct tools and accreditation to assist them in their future choice of higher education and career.

When asked what Bangkok Prep had so far done to help prepare its student body for the launch of the Asean Economic Community (AEC), Wecker said: "2015 brings Thailand into the AEC and international schools are liaising through their representative body Isat [International Schools Association of Thailand] to ensure both competitiveness and marketability in the evolving regional education business areas.

"Whilst students themselves will not likely be directly affected, schools continue to refine their teaching and learning practices to ensure students in Thailand are performing at comparable standards with fellow regional Asean international schools, as well as Western examination agencies in the UK, USA, and the International Baccalaureate (IB).

"Bangkok Prep has recently successfully gained overseas and regional accreditation, authorisation, affiliation and association with University of Cambridge International Examinations Centre, New England Association of Schools and Colleges and Federation of British Schools in Southeast Asia, which are 'significant external benchmarks' of quality attainment and quality assurance to ensure our students are recognised and acknowledged as attending a school of excellence."

Age : The entry age of the child and the expected tenure within the school or country are two key points. Thailand has a great variety of stand-alone international preschools and kindergartens for two- to five-year-old children. Often located in renovated houses or purpose-built premises in quiet neighbourhood sois, they provide a nurturing environment with small class sizes and relatively low school fees.

While giving his take on the pros and cons of having a huge selection of international schools in Thailand, the headmaster said that as there are now well over 120 international schools, including preschools, of which 104 are members of Isat in the country - parents now have a "significant choice" of international schools in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, the Eastern Seaboard and Phuket areas.

The curriculum also varies from UK, USA, IB and other national curricula. School roles vary from less than 100 to more than 2,000 students. Choice and variety are not only focused on the central Bangkok area, but also off main arterial roads to the airport and the coast. Parents now have a choice of fee levels, curriculum, school size, and locations near their residences.

But more is not always merrier in this case, it seems, as a larger number of international schools means that business competition, and viability must play an ever-increasing role for senior administrators and directors who need to constantly balance the budget in this evolving economic community to ensure that students are still exposed to the best learning practices, yet ensure that self-funded parents can still afford 13-15 years of private education.

Wecker says being headmaster of Bangkok Prep comes with its challenges.

"Headmasters of quality international schools must continually remain receptive to parents' expectations of value for money - continual attention to recruit more experienced and more highly qualified teachers, continual upgrading of facilities, safety and security, a supportive and nurturing environment... the list can go on.

"The headmaster's role now extends well beyond the formal curriculum and encompasses a significant component of business and company management and development. This is particularly so in Thailand where nearly 90% of international schools are proprietary in nature.

"Maintenance of trust, pride and respect in all aspects of a school's management, operation and direction are the ongoing challenges for not just myself, but headmasters today in Thailand."

Wecker named five areas parents should pay special attention to when finding a school for their children.

Curriculum type : American, British, International Baccalaureate and National Overseas Systems are all on offer in a variety of international schools in Thailand, so parents can pick what best suits their child. PHOTO: CHAMLONG BOONSONG

Location and transportation : Many parents will want to know if a Bangkok-based international school is serviced by a school bus and also if it is close to the skytrain or subway. For regional boarding schools, being within a reasonable distance to airports will be key for some parents. PHOTO: SOMCHAI POOMLARD

The school’s abiding culture : Another important determination is whether the school provides a rich and diverse cultural setting that encompasses all national groups attending, as well as the host country community itself. Photo courtesy of BANGKOK PREP

About the author

columnist
Writer: Yvonne Bohwongprasert
Position: Reporter