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Choosing a School

Choosing an international school can be a daunting prospect, especially in Bangkok. There are a myriad of schools under various education systems or curricula, namely, International Baccalaureate (IB), British and American. Some schools also cater to specific nationalities (such as French, Swiss/German, Singaporean, Japanese and more), and/or offer English as a second language (ESL) support for students from non-English speaking backgrounds.

Once you have narrowed down a short list based on the above (as well as other considerations such as location, travel logistics and your anticipated length of stay in Bangkok), it’s time to do some research. First, visit the schools’ websites and examine the merits of each school’s curriculum. Does it revolve around a child-centred approach that’s challenging enough to develop your child’s strengths, meet their individual needs and foster a love of learning?

Also, look at co-curricular (arts, music, sports, clubs and more) activities, foreign language offerings and advanced placement opportunities. If you have teens, consider the school’s student profile. How do the kids perform on standardised tests, and what universities accepted the last graduating class? If you plan to move within a few years, is the school’s curriculum aligned with global “best practices”, so your child will be prepared for their next school?

Once you have more information (and a list of questions), schedule a visit to the Bangkok school. Ideally, experience a regular school day when classes are in session to get a feel for the overall atmosphere and see the facilities in use. Arrange to sit in a class that is at your child’s level, and assess whether the students are happy, active and engaged. Also, consider the class size and teachers’ credentials. At some point during your visit, you should also receive printed material from the school, including the fee structure and all applicable charges.

Don’t hesitate to ask questions and request documentation to back up any of the school’s claims. Choosing a school is not an easy process but the “right fit” is critical – as it affects your child’s development, happiness and ultimately, his or her future.

Education Systems
The curricula of international schools in Bangkok fall into four main categories: American, British, International Baccalaureate (IB), and specific national curricula (Australian, Canadian, French, Swiss/German, Japanese, Indian, Singaporean). Each system has its pros and cons; more information on the three main systems is provided below.

American Curriculum – The American international education system is based on core subject matter standards and learning benchmarks recognised by one of six education accreditation department in the US, including the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) and New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). To gain accreditation, the school’s curriculum must be in line with the standards determined by the organisation. International American school curricula can vary from school to school (based on ever-evolving standards); on the whole, international American schools have higher standards than the public system schools within the US.

Schooling for children under an American curriculum may begin at the age of five or less in pre-schools or kindergartens. Elementary, middle school and high school education covers children from the ages of 6 to 18 years old. Grades are based on several assessments, including tests, homework and projects. At the high school level, some schools offer Advanced Placement (AP) courses, which strengthen US university applications, as well as IB classes. Students looking for placement in a US college must also complete the external SATs and other college entrance assessment examinations. In line with their US counterparts, schools under this system balance academics with a range of extracurricular activities, including sports, the arts, scholastic clubs and community service.

British Curriculum – In Britain, education is based on the English or British National Curriculum. It is compulsory for all children between the ages of 5 and 16 with clear provision made for students, based on their ages, in specific developmental Key Stages. A defined curriculum accompanies each Key Stage, with clear assessments and examinations to monitor and track each child’s progress. Each Key Stage encompasses core subjects, including English, mathematics, science and information technology, as well as foundation subjects in the humanities, creative and performing arts, modern language and physical education.

Students study the International version of the General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) over the two years of Key Stage 4, from the age of 14. This includes core and elective subjects. Upon completion of Key Stage 4, students sit for the IGCSE examinations, a formal assessment of the child’s attainment of his or her compulsory education. Students planning to attend university continue onto Key Stage 5 to complete two years of advanced courses, comprised of the IB or A-level courses in Years 12 and 13.

IB Programmes and IB World Schools – If you are likely to be a transient expat, moving to another country at some stage in your child’s education, the IB Programme may be ideal, as it is an international curriculum that is recognised around the world. There are three IB programmes for students aged 3 to18 years: IB Primary Years Programme (ages 3 to 11), IB Middle Years Programme (ages 11 to 16), and pre-university IB Diploma Programme (ages 16 to 18). IB World Schools may offer one, two or all three IB programmes. For example, an IB World School may provide primary or secondary education according to a national curriculum (American, British, etc.), but only offer the IB Diploma Programme for its pre-university students.

At the centre of an IB international education are rigorous academics and personal development. Students are encouraged to become active, compassionate, lifelong learners. Along with cognitive development, IB programmes address students’ social, emotional and physical well-being, as well as their role in local and global communities. Study of a foreign language is required.

Schools in Bangkok
Please see a comprehensive listing of Bangkok’s international schools on our Education page.

Education Support Services
For educational and learning support resources, please visit our Special Needs page.

For further information, please email us.