It is great to know that so many international schools are concerned for “child security” and “leadership development programmes” but coverage of international schools is mostly occupied with the slant of highlighting excellency.
Teenagers are not porcelain angels. We all know this. The contents of the American Pie movies are not entirely fictional and, believe it or not, some of that actually happens here. But the questions are: How much monkey business pervades the average international school, in or out of it? What is the percentage of problem-creating pupils? I would say two or three in every class of thirty – in whatever school you care to name.
Teachers get to know things they will not repeat because they know it can bounce back on them. I published a piece about bad behaviour, and the foul atmospheres that can grow in local classrooms, in the Bangkok French magazine Gavroche (February 2010). It was not appreciated by the then ambassador and I certainly would not be offered another job by any administrator who has read it.
Several schools have had had issues involving the use of “substances”. But chancy activities should not be too difficult to pinpoint when you know your teenager frequents “entertainment venues” in Bangkok and does not come in until past midnight. The opportunities are there and teenage culture will not simply breeze past them. “Just say no” is an option that is a matter of free choice for anybody.
The websites are not going to tell you this. Even worse, most parents do not want to discuss with others when they suspect their child is involved in less-than-legal activities. An atmosphere of “Don’t ask don’t tell” descends on the whole affair. A consequence of this is things will continue much as they are.
Nor do the schools mention a small minority of students who get “passed on” from one school to another. What have these students done? Ask around. Before you enrol your child in an international school – an expensive and risky undertaking in any circumstances – make sure you enquire in your local community about what is going on there. Most of the schools have very committed and hard-working teachers. The syllabuses these days make a first rate education and we get good pass rates in the international exams. Many students are indeed “talented and motivated”. But teachers can do little about seriously culpable activities, and the squalls of abhorrent behaviour, in or out of the classroom. We belong to a powerless peer group that is silenced by job security and the marketing hype that administrators will continue to broadcast without conscience.
Will administrators contribute anything to the less savoury stories that circulate? I doubt it. And, let’s face it -running an international school is a business.
John Wilson taught English Literature in a Bangkok international school in the 2000s.