B5bn Verso School rounding into form

B5bn Verso School rounding into form

Keeree Kanjanapas (centre), chairman of BTS Group Holdings, with Piyaporn Phanachet (far left), chief executive of U City Plc, and Cameron Fox (far right), head of Verso International School.
Keeree Kanjanapas (centre), chairman of BTS Group Holdings, with Piyaporn Phanachet (far left), chief executive of U City Plc, and Cameron Fox (far right), head of Verso International School.

Bangkok will soon be getting its largest, priciest and roundest international school, thanks to a 5-billion-baht joint venture of U City Plc, a subsidiary of BTS Group Holdings, and Fortune Hand Ventures Ltd, a Hong Kong education firm.

Verso International School, located on a 168-rai plot of land near Suvarnabhumi airport, will open to students in August 2020 and eventually hold a capacity of 1,800 students from pre-nursery to grade 12.

The uniquely designed campus, currently under construction, consists of four large O-shaped buildings meant to give off a futuristic vibe.

Tuition ranges from 600,000 baht a year for the early ages to 960,000 baht a year later on. For comparison, the average worker in Bangkok makes about 306,000 baht a year.

"It is my long-term goal to create something that will benefit future generations, not only to add value to our business," said Keeree Kanjanapas, chairman of the board at BTS Group Holdings. "I have always aimed to invest in human resources, and eventually found the right partner, which is Fortune Hand Ventures, to build an international school that truly provides an innovative and highly progressive educational experience in Bangkok."

Like all elite schools in Bangkok, Verso promises parents a reprieve from anxiety stirred by an uncertain future. The curriculum takes into account digital disruption and guarantees that students will have the skills to compete with artificial intelligence and eventually be qualified for jobs yet to exist.

"This school is designed for the future, but also for Bangkok," said Cameron Fox, founding head of Verso. "As the city grows, so does its ambition as a hub of technological innovation, and Verso wants to be part of that thriving ecosystem."

Verso's curriculum is heavily skills-based, with students across age groups working with teams of teachers that are not bound to teaching one subject per class.

Mr Fox said the more freewheeling approach better reflects the work environments that students will encounter post-education.

There are currently more than 200 international schools in Thailand, the third most in Southeast Asia, with demand driven by a mix of wealthy Thai parents and expat families.

"There are already many international schools in Bangkok, which already makes Thailand a destination for parents looking for international schools," said Piyaporn Phanachet, chief executive of U City Plc. "I'm confident in the government's plans to attract more expats to Thailand through its Eastern Economic Corridor project, which could attract as many as 100,000 expats in the next few years."

While the EEC may be creating new jobs, many long-term expats have recently expressed displeasure en masse over the government's recent decision to enforce TM30, a tedious, decades-old immigration rule requiring foreigners to report their travel to the government.

As property developers rush to open more international schools in the country, the market will likely become increasingly competitive.

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