‘We are moving to Bangkok in July’.
Saying these words out loud over drinks, back in January 2014 to my good friend and colleague Steve, was the moment that the reality of our next family move hit home.
‘The Bangkok traffic will drive you utterly insane’ was the only comment offered up by Steve during our drinks together. ‘It can’t be that bad’ I countered defensively. Oh, how I would come to rue those words…
The single most important consideration when moving to a new country as an expatriate family is choosing the right international school for your children. Thailand has over 200 and this number continues to grow every year. With this choice of international schools available to expatriate families, exactly how do you choose your new school?
As an international school headmaster, I have been asked this exact questions on numerous occasions over the years by many expatriate parents and they are not easy questions to answer; apart from the curriculum question, having worked in British international schools for many years (and being British myself) I am biased towards our British curriculum model. Choosing the right school for your child is complex and it is vital that expatriate parents take time to do this and do not rush into this decision.
In Bangkok though, there is one major problem with following that last piece of advice – traffic!
A recent study found that the average length of time a child spends on a school bus or in a private car, travelling to and from their school in Bangkok, is 10 hours and 35 minutes per week. What looks like a relatively small distance on paper (‘20 kilometres door-to-door will not take that long? Surely’, we say to ourselves) is quite different in reality when the Bangkok traffic rears its ugly head on a daily basis. Surely there is an alternative to these lengthy travel times and wasted hours of our children’s lives each and every week?
I do believe there is, and that solution is Weekly Boarding at Bromsgrove International School, Thailand (BIST).
Weekly Boarding is, for those of you who have no knowledge of a British boarding school, where students arrive on campus on either Sunday evening or Monday morning for the start of the school day. They spend the school week, Monday to Friday, living on site in the boarding house, being immersed in boarding school life. Then, on Friday after school they travel home for the weekend to spend quality time with their family.
The traditional strengths of British boarding schools are still their greatest attraction. Academic rigour, individualised learning and high expectations are central to their success. But boarding schools have an additional and invaluable asset: time. The school day starts early and ends late. It has a rhythm that is quite different from that of a day school, allowing for activities which give opportunities for students to learn independence, leadership and teamwork.
Weekly boarding prepares youngsters for living away from home but in a structured way with an appropriate level of pastoral support and increasingly parents and the pupils themselves are seeing the benefit of that. At university, suddenly you are responsible for your own decisions and it can be a big jump for many young people. For this reason, there is a significantly high drop-out rate; it is very easy for youngsters in the first year of university to get lost in the system and become homesick. Boarding schools act as an effective bridge to university.
Bromsgrove School is one of the oldest independent boarding schools in the UK established in 1553 and their sister school here in Bangkok opened in 2004. Our school, located on the outskirts of Bangkok, away from the hustle and bustle (and pollution) of city life, continues to grow in size, facilities and academic stature in the Bangkok expatriate community. In addition, we are fully accredited by the British Boarding Schools Association (BSA) the benchmark of standards and quality that all UK independent boarding schools must adhere to.
Mrs. Tracey Tweddell, Head of Boarding, joined BIST this academic year from Bromsgrove School in the UK, where she was Head of Boarding for twelve years. Tracey’s huge array of experience and knowledge of UK boarding practices has already made a huge impact here at BIST.
Our intensive homework ‘prep’ programme for our boarding students ensures that each student is appropriately stretched and supported academically across all their subjects every day, resulting in good academic progress and success in their external IGCSE, A Level and BTEC examinations, leading to admission to some of the world’s most prestigious universities. In addition, our students have opportunities to partake in a wide range of sporting and social activities throughout the week as part of the weekly boarding programme. In short, our weekly boarders make the most of every minute they are with us throughout the school week and do not waste many hours travelling to and from school each day.
So back to that conversation from 2014 with my friend Steve in Seoul, with his words still ringing in my head… ‘The Bangkok traffic will drive you utterly insane’.
Well it has Steve; many, many times. And it is that bad, really. But there is an alternative for expatriate children in Bangkok not wanting to experience the insanity of the traffic to and from school every day – it’s called Weekly Boarding.