INTERNATIONAL schools are becoming more and more popular in Thailand.
With a growing middle class and relatively affluent foreigners coming for work, there is a burgeoning demand for world-class education.
Parents considering an international education have a myriad of things to consider. Do you go for the most expensive option, the one with the top exam results, or the one where your child will be happiest?
For many Thai parents, they will want their child to understand English fluently. In an increasingly globalised world, this makes sense and, given Thailand’s relatively low levels of English, provides them with a huge advantage in the employment market.
International schools also offer internationally-recognised exams, such as the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) for 16-year-olds and the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma for 18-year-olds. These qualifications are gateways to the world’s best universities and, in Thailand, they are almost essential for students wishing to study overseas.
International schools publish their IGCSE and IB results, so it is worth asking for these when you are checking out prospective schools. They don’t tell the whole picture, but they are a healthy indicator of where the school is at.
However, international schools are not solely about learning English and passing exams. International schools generally have a different ethos and approach to learning and, in turn, this results in a very different kind of student.
Every school has what is known as a ‘hidden curriculum’. These are the assumptions a school has about its students and the unseen factors that contribute towards creating its identity. International schools tend to encourage critical thinking, open debate and diversity.
At Garden International School (GIS) on Thailand’s Eastern Seaboard, the Core Values are a major part of the school’s identity. These values – principled, caring, balanced, open-minded, communicators, knowledgeable, inquirers, thinkers, risk-takers and being reflective – are influenced by the IB’s Learner Profile. Students are encouraged, and rewarded, when they take risks. For some, more reticent, students this may mean asking questions in class. For others it could mean giving a piano recital to the whole school.
GIS, which is based in Ban Chang, close to Pattaya, has students from more than 40 nationalities, making it truly international. Because of this, it is also important that students really are open-minded and accepting of other cultures and faiths. The school celebrates its diversity by recognizing Thai events, such as Loy Krathong and Songkran, but also has a Russian Day and celebrates the Indian festival of light, Diwali.
Events are one thing, but what happens every day in classrooms is arguably more valuable. Students who are comfortable sharing ideas with each other and tolerant and understanding of other’s viewpoints are well-placed to face a future that will be increasingly globalised and multi-cultural.
GIS also encourages students to voice opinions and be active members of the school community. This is done through the hugely-popular Model United Nations (MUN), where students can debate real-world issues in a formal manner, the Student Council, where students get to fundraise and discuss issues affecting them, and the Prefects –roles taken on by IB students that improve their organisational, communication and leadership skills.
Research shows that having strong communication skills, being a team player and having an analytical approach is highly valued not just by universities but also by employers.
So ultimately, choosing an international school for your child is not simply about getting exam results that will be accepted anywhere in the world; it’s more about creating a student who will be accepted and be able to shine anywhere in the world.
For more on GIS, visit www.gardenrayong.com.
188/24 Moo 4 Pala-Ban Chang Road, Tambol Pala, Amphur Ban Chang, Rayong, Thailand 21130. Tel. (038) 030808/9 – Fax. (038) 030805. Website : www.gardenrayong.com
Bangkok Campus : 2/1 Yen Akart Soi 2, Yen Akart Road, Bangkok, Thailand 10120. Website : www.gardenbangkok.com
REPS Campus : 188/46 Moo 4 Pala-Ban Chang Road, Tambol Pala, Amphur Ban Chang, Rayong, Thailand 21130. Website : www.repsrayong.com