PHUKET: Choosing your child’s school might be one of the most daunting decisions you ever have to make.
It might even be harder when living abroad, as educational standards that are common back home may not be supported in the new county you’re living in.
The first rather difficult point you have to consider is where your child will study, live and work when he or she gets older.
Are you here in Thailand for a few years, or are you here with no plans to go back home?
These kinds of questions are important since they directly affect the curriculum your child should follow to increase his or her chances of a successful future.
If you are staying here for a couple of years and are planning to send your child to a school in your home country, then an international school is definitely the answer.
Make sure the international school you choose offers a student portfolio that is recognized all over the world, so that transitions between schools are easy and hassle free.
If you are planning to stay here but you want your child to study abroad or at an international university within Thailand, then an international school is also the better option. It prepares your child for an international community. International schools usually follow a Western curriculum, with a world focus, plus additional Thai and foreign language/cultural classes.
Choosing a Thai (bilingual/English Program) school is an option if you’re staying in Thailand and have no plans to move back to Western society. A Thai school may still offer English for the majority of subjects, but the curriculum will be based on the Thai standard, in order to prepare your child for Thai society.
The second point to look at is the school’s mission and vision statements. These inspiring statements should reflect the purpose of the school and its disposition toward education, learning and the school community.
Parents should investigate how this mission and vision has been put into practice at the school and its community. This is important since teaching and learning practices should be based on the school’s mission and vision.
How this vision is realized will affect your child as a student and your role as a parent in the school community. During an intake session with the School Head or Head of Department, ask how their vision is put into practice and if you are allowed to watch a class. Or better yet, ask if your child can have a trial run and join a class for a day.
The third point to look at is the amount of time instructing from textbooks. Teaching from textbooks immediately tells you that creative learning is taking place less than at schools with fewer textbooks (or even no textbooks at all).
Frequent use of textbooks creates a static, teacher-centered way of teaching (not learning). Exploring through using one’s own creativity and independent thinking in a social setting is what you want for your child. Activity-based learning through exploration, in a strong social setting, is when children are most encouraged to learn. They use and expand their own skill set to the best of their ability. Thus, independence and creative thinking are triggered.
The fourth point to look at is the facilities and the physical education (PE) program at the school. A vast amount of facilities is needed to support effective learning.
A fully equipped library with books from well respected publishers, covering both fiction and nonfiction is a must, and it should be made available for parents to take reading home.
All classrooms should have an interactive white board so that learning in classrooms is taken a step further.
What about display boards in and around the classroom?
Children’s work should be displayed so that they can see how they have progressed, feel proud and show parents when they are visiting the school.
Children should enjoy weekly swimming periods at the school’s age-appropriate swimming pools, as swimming is a great physical activity and a very important skill.
When choosing a school, ask: “Are children offered sports and how many PE sessions per week?”
Is there appropriate PE equipment and is there a covered PE/activity field to protect the children from the elements?
Obviously it is difficult to envision where your child will or would like to be a decade from today.
However, it is possible for you as a parent/guardian to influence your child’s chances at a positive future, if you look for the right things.
Lennard Kolthof is currently finishing his master’s in education and is the marketing coordinator, and a physical education instructor, at Kajonkiet International School Phuket .
— Lennard Kolthof
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