Expat Life sat down with the ex-Minister for Education to find out what he is up to after being the longest serving Minister of Education for the last 30 years now that he has moved back to Thailand from the UK.
What is your background?
I was a good student, let’s put it that way, I worked very hard and got into medical school at Chulalongkorn University here in Bangkok. After graduating from Chulalongkorn, I then got a Thai government scholarship to study psychiatry and child psychiatry in the UK. I came back and worked at the Faculty of Medicine, Khon Kaen University and then became Vice Dean for the Faculty of Medicine. Later, I was invited back to the UK to be a consultant. A consultant is a top medical position in the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK where I brought up my two sons who then went on to study Medicine at Cambridge University of Medicine.
How did you get involved in education?
As a child psychiatrist by training I taught at the University of London in the UK. Because of the nature of my work, naturally I was involved in education and worked closely with schools. I attended regular school meetings and advised schools on mental health in young people and so on. Then in 2014 I came back to Thailand to set up an educational foundation with the Crown Property Bureau of Thailand.
A few months into the project, I was asked to be a Vice Minister of Education and was promoted to be the Deputy Minister of Education in 2015. On December 6th, 2016, I became the Minister of Education and held the position until 2019, so nearly 5 years’ service, including my Vice Minister position.
As Minister, I brought Carnegie Mellon University (a private research university based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Founded in 1900 by Andrew Carnegie) to Thailand, McKinsey (McKinsey & Company is an American management consulting firm) and Cambridge (University of Cambridge, dating to 1209. University colleges include King’s, famed for its choir and towering Gothic chapel, as well as Trinity, founded by Henry VIII, and St John’s, with its 16th century Great Gate) in to work with us on various projects, and oversaw Thailand joining PISA. (PISA is the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment. PISA measures 15-year-olds’ ability to use their reading, mathematics and science knowledge and skills to meet real-life challenges). Basically, I learnt a great deal about education with a blend between local context and international knowledge.
What attracted you toward education?
Because this is where the future lies. The more I work on it with people, the more important I realise it is. Put it this way, as a child psychiatrist, I am fixing somebody who has been wronged by the system and I do that with one child at a time. The people who need my help the most, benefit the least from this system. Preventive measures are always better. As a psychiatrist, you can only treat a small number of people.
Working in education, you can actually influence a lot of young people at one time. So, if we get it right, the difference can be enormous. Many of the policies I introduced have finally started to bear some fruit. I’m not talking about it romantically or idealistically, but you can really make an impact on education. A lot of politicians come and go, they don’t ever learn about what education means. Just because you become Minister, doesn’t mean you know about education. I think I learned about education from associating myself with educators around the world, at almost every level, who I then learned from. At least I can claim that I know a little bit about what good education is.
What are the roots of Newton Prep?
There are a collection of very clever people called Enconcept. They have been in private education tutorials
for 20 years and helped the Thai government produce various education apps for English and vocational skills.
They came to me a year before I stepped down as Minister and asked if I had any ideas about uplifting Thai education and exposing Thais to an international curriculum.
I told them in Thailand if we need to have an international curriculum to be taught biligually, i.e.
teaching maths and science in our mother tongue alongside developing English to the best level.
So, I conceptualised that if we have a sixth form, we also need to prepare the students in their character
building in order to go to top universities. They need to work on clarifying themselves, developing their purpose and
aspirations, their interests and that’s what we call the Newton Leadership programme. We teach our students to develop
character and their academic skills.
What is the Newton’s vision?
Newton Sixth Form is a personalised pioneering maths and science specialist sixth form with emphasis on character building for top universities – the first in Thailand.
Newton School’s vision is to produce the best human capital by preparing students aspiring to go to top universities, either nationally or internationally, to realise their dreams. It aims to provide personalised solutions with high-level teaching in academic subjects, character building and English language, all required to enter top universities of
their choice. Newton’s philosophy is that of high expectation of students and staff in academics, character and English.
The curriculum and methodology is under the guidance of a team of experts in education from Enconcept and Edukare
(UK). Our campus is located right in the city centre of Bangkok.
At Newton we have a motto, “In Newton, we CARE”, which is an acronym for Character, Academics, Resources, English. At Newton we “Build character or top universities and put excellence at the heart of learning and teaching.”
Who can study at Newton?
Newton admits students who have completed IGCSEs or secondary students of the Thai curriculum, wishing to pursue A level.
For those who have not had GCSEs or IGCSEs, they can enrol themselves at Newton to study pre-sixth form programmes to help them obtain good IGCSEs results and to be A level ready.
A level qualifications are generally respected and accepted globally including American, Australian, Canadian and European universities. Students may be required to sit SAT and/or AP exams for which Newton can provide extra-tuition.
Why study at Newton?
Number one is our location, we are a city campus in Siam Square. Number two, there are no uniforms as per sixth form tradition, so they can wear what they are comfortable with. Number three, we are probably the only sixth form open on weekends so we have flexible schedules. Number four, each student has a personalised plan and supervisor to work with them. That means, if they need resources anywhere, we can get them and bring them onsite. The main resources in any school are the teachers. We bring the best teachers in Thailand to Newton.
Other tests preparation such as IELTS, TOEFL, BMAT, etc can also be provided. We also offer a special Newton English course for those who seek to improve their English to a high level speedily. Harvard based computer science programme is also provided to those with interest in pursuing computer science or engineering.
I would like the community to see this as an opportunity for Thailand that can provide world- class quality education with reasonable tuition fees so that more Thai students can reach their academic potential. I want people to know that we integrated the best practices in education. I have done my best with this group of people who really want to upgrade Thai education. Now we are admitting students, and we begin in earnest in September.
Please come and talk to us and look at us as a better alternative to the traditional sixth form options. www.thenewtonschool or call 065 998 6528