Sunday, December 6, 2009

How to choose an International School in Thailand

“There are numerous international schools in Thailand and in Bangkok in particular. Some of these schools are very well run and have the students’ best interest in mind. Unfortunately, they are in the minority. The majority are owned and run by private owners whose main concern is making a profit. It is very unfortunate because children’s education should be of paramount concern and profit should not be made at the cost of quality education.”

“So how do schools in Thailand become international schools? Apparently, there is a lengthy process, but in the end, it seems like those who can afford to pay for an international school are the ones who build them. So you often see rich people buying schools in an attempt to make some money. Again, the wrong motives at work.”

A well-known educator, under the alias name Mr. Messier, talked to Thailand calendar about how to choose an international school in Thailand.

I was seated in our school library one free period when my co-teacher handed me a Thai Calendar magazine urging me to read an article. The heading immediately caught my attention. And after reading the article, I couldn’t help but give a nod in approval.

Five years of working in Thailand exposed me to the educational system of the country as well as the educational objectives of most of the schools.

Mr. Messier was right in saying that the rich buy schools [either international or bilingual school] generally with profit-driven objectives. They build up a school and run it by themselves. Thus, you would not be surprised if you see a businessman ending up as a principle of his own school or someone without even any units in education running a school. In my country, for someone to be a principal of a school, regardless of its size, should have a minimum of PhD. But in Thailand, there are no clear qualifications for the said position.

For the money-making-schools, the students and parents are very powerful. The teachers are there to entertain and to baby sit with so many unwritten rules. For instance, there was an American who landed a job as a teacher in one of the most expensive schools in Bangkok. He was receiving a very handsome salary; however, he had no power to discipline his students. At one time, he was having an activity for his English class when one girl came close to him and grabbed his private part, held for a moment, laughed, and walked away. The teacher was stunned but chose to be quiet. He knew, that should he make an action regarding the behavior, the school would have to take the side of the student. Obviously, she brings in handsome dough.

Some schools fake the quality of their education by having magnificent buildings and educational equipments and therefore, collecting very expensive fees. Some schools however, undermine the necessity of advance educational equipments and materials because instead of investing the profit on the school, they use the money in buying elegant cars or other personal investments thereby pressuring the teachers to somehow make quality education out of scarce resources.

Mr. Messier held that as a parent, you can quickly determine which schools are more concerned about education than about making money. He further gave some important things to look for or questions to ask:

1. Does the school have a board of governors, which democratically votes on decisions made concerning the school? Most “for profit schools” will only have one owner making all the school’s decisions – dictatorial vs. democratic. Ask to see the names of board members. This is the single most important thing to look for in international schools anywhere in the world.

2. Is the school a non-profit school? If so, then you know that all your hard-earned salary will be going back into the school and your child’s education, not the owner’s wallet.

3. What is the length of tenure of teachers? If it is a good school, teachers will stay a long time. If not, there will be high turnover of teachers.

4. What is the percent of non-Thai students at the school? if the school is 80% Thai students or 80% of a particular race, then it is not truly an international school. It is basically an ESL school with a small minority of foreign students thrown into mix. The unfortunate result of this being that the foreign students feel like a huge minority and are often treated as such.

Furthermore, Mr. Messier advised that “you should go and take a look at the school. Don’t be fooled by nice tress and beautiful flowers. Take a look in the classrooms. Do you see a lot of resources and supplies? Are there a number of athletic facilities including an exercise room? Take a look at the cafeteria. Does it look like the students have a great of selection to choose from, or is a budget lunch being served? It is very easy to see if money is being put back to the school.”

“Also, ask other parents about the school and how they feel about it. Find out about the reputation of the school.”

“Don’t be fooled by fancy advertisements. Most top schools don’t even need to advertise. Their reputation is what they rely on.”

“A high tuition cost does not guarantee a good quality; you don’t always get what you pay for.”

Source: Thailand Calendar


  1. great thought on commercial education, gleenn.
    miss you, dear! how have you been doing?

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