International School Trend in Bangkok

While glancing through the Nation a few days back, a read an article describing a new international school set to open in Bangkok in two years. Another international school? In a city where international schools are the new fad, I doubt that Bangkokians need another international school to choose from. When it comes down to choosing a place to send you kids to school, it really seems that international school is synonymous with quality, or at least that’s what most Thais believe. This belief stems from the aversion to the traditional Thai educational system in which rote memorization and lectures are the mainstays. Old fashioned teachers still abound and many Thai educated teachers are teaching the same way that they were taught.

Now, if you have the money to pay for ISB, NIST, Bangkok Prep, Regents, Harrow or any similar school, I say go for it. These schools provide the best education that money can buy. But be forewarned, these schools are based on British or American curricula and are comprised of Western teachers. Your child will be thrown in with the children of expats and other well-to-do Thais and acquire English to the point of native English fluency. As a Thai, however, you do run the risk of raising a child with very few Thai values unless you take the extra time to provide the training which these international schools will not provide.

While I am skeptical of the claims made in the article about Ivy League International School, I am hopefully that other Thais see the need for educational reform in Thailand. I agree that “education is the key to improving society” because by teaching our children, we can influence the leaders of tomorrow. I also applaud Ivy’s ambitious mission “to provide high-quality education for children so that they will grow up to become productive and responsible citizens. We would like to teach children to push beyond memorisation of accepted facts; to question and explore issues and ultimately to think critically on their own. The spirit of inquiry and intellectual excitement is what we would like children to experience at our school,” as this is exactly what I believe education is all about.

However, with such lofty expectations and claims, why does Ivy plan to accept only students aged 3-8? Granted young children are the most malleable and easily influenced at this age, real change will only occur if children are continually trained with the skills needed to become leaders and productive members of society. The small classroom size of 8-10 is amazing, the school is in a prime location for expats and wealthy Thais and the price, 400 thousand baht a year, is expensive to say the least. All this makes for  very elite school that is bound to serve only the super rich Bangkokians. Sure, these students will get a world class education promised by Ivy League International School, but then again they would have received a world class international school education anyway.

If we want to make a change in Thailand’s educational system, lets try to provide quality education and a price that middle class Thais can afford. Society is comprised of all types of people in order to run properly and not all of us can be the leaders of tomorrow. For the rest of us who will become politicians, musicians, teachers, doctors, nurses and business people, a good Thai school will provide the learning experiences needed to open the door to further opportunities later in life without sacrificing our Thai identify.

From the Nation newspaper in Thailand

School for future leaders

Chatiporn Assarat inherited a strong urge to improve Thailand’s education standards from his forebears.

Published on December 11, 2007

He and his two sisters have launched a new international school in Bangkok which they say will be in a class of its own, taking children and making them into ethical leaders. Chatiporn’s strong family heritage in public service can be traced back to the late 1800s. For instance, in his maternal lineage, his great-grandfather, General Luang Suranarong (Thongchai Jotikasthira), served as a royal aide-de-camp and privy councillor to His Majesty King Bhumibol. And on the paternal side of his family, Udane Tejapaibul, one of Thailand ‘s philanthropic legends, is Chatiporn’s great-uncle. Ivy Bound International School has been initiated by Chatiporn, 28, and his sisters Jiraorn, 29, and Sikan, 24. Their parents, Vichai and Ketana, believe strongly that education is the key to improving society. They are preparing to invest more than Bt400 million to realise the dreams of their children – to provide a quality education for kids. The school will be located on 3.5 rai in Sukhumvit Soi 39. It will be developed in two phases. The first phase will offer an after-school enrichment programme and the second stage will be a full-scale international school, serving children between the ages of three and eight. Construction will begin next year, with an official opening in 2009. The two-level building will contain 10 classrooms, each accommodating between eight and 10 students. Tuition fees are estimated at Bt400,000 per year. “The mission of Ivy Bound is to provide high-quality education for children so that they will grow up to become productive and responsible citizens. We would like to teach children to push beyond memorisation of accepted facts; to question and explore issues and ultimately to think critically on their own. The spirit of inquiry and intellectual excitement is what we would like children to experience at our school,” Chatiporn said. “Beyond stimulating children’s cognitive development, schools also have the responsibility to instil strong ethical morality in children. I would like to develop a new generation of Thai children who are proud of our heritage and understand the value of giving back to society. Strong leadership skills and good ethics are qualities that our country desperately needs.” Jiraorn, who is in charge of the curriculum, said: “Ivy Bound is led by a team of educational experts who have all received their degrees from Ivy League colleges. We are a school that understands the cultural context in which Thai students achieve in school. With this knowledge, we can make the necessary adaptations of programmes and methods largely conceived in the West to the needs and background of Thai students. It will be a school in a class of its own.” Chatiporn received a bachelor’s degree in political science from Williams College in Massachusetts and a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University in New York City, focused on public management and education policy-making. His older sister Jiraorn received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Yale University, and holds two masters’ degrees in education from Harvard and Stanford Universities. The youngest of the three, Sikan, also received a bachelor’s degree from Williams College, concentrating on educational psychology. At present she is working on a master’s degree in education at Harvard University.

Kwanchai Rungfapaisarn  

The Nation

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