Samui Wining & Dining
The International School of Samui takes a new and vibrant approach to education.


On a small hilltop sits a community that most residents have heard about, yet relatively few are familiar with. In this article we take a look at the International School of Samui, a private school that aims to enable children to put down their educational roots on a small island, and yet have an international level of learning.


The school has moved on since its first days, when there were just a few buildings and only a few students. The setting is conveniently located close to Chaweng, with the immediate environment being calm and secluded. Turn off the ring-road at Bandon International Hospital, and head up the hill until you see the sign for the school. You’ll have to go right over the brow of the hill to see the school itself – a whole collection of buildings that has a village-like feel to it.


The sign itself includes the school’s motto, ‘For a better future’, which encapsulates a lot more than you might initially think. Headmistress Lisa Taylor Hawkins says that it’s about having a clear vision. “The students come first,” she says. “We strive to be an outstanding school, enabling every child to achieve their true potential, both academically and personally. We’re adamant that the highest standards will be reached by every child, and their talents nurtured.”

The school, she says, treats children as individuals, thereby stimulating their interests so that they develop a real thirst for learning in a supportive environment. She believes that students should enjoy learning – it shouldn’t ever be a dull business. “Students benefit from the expertly planned, innovative curriculum that we have. We also have a lot of extra activities – these are an integral part of the children’s education.”


During the school’s Business Enterprise Week, for example, students from years one to 11 learned how to create a business concept. They had to visualize everything, put together plans that included profit margins, and then actually sell the products they had designed and made. Items ranged from jewellery, candles with glass mosaics through to dream-catchers, food and the students’ own artwork. Everything was put on display and sale at stalls in the school itself. This goes to show that the school isn’t just an academic setting for young minds, but has a very practical side to it, too.


Page-52-2The students come from a variety of different backgrounds and nationalities, and though they may speak a whole gamut of languages, at the school it’s English that draws them together and which linguistically unites them.


The school teaches a British curriculum, with all teachers being experienced and qualified to teach the English National Curriculum. They are also ably supported by Thai assistant teachers. The language of instruction is English, with Thai also being taught to Thai nationals, and Thai culture to all non-Thai children. Spanish and Mandarin are taught as foreign languages to students.


The age range is from 18 months to 18 years, with the older students being offered a range of Cambridge and Edexcel A level qualifications, opening the path to university.


The physical side of education isn’t forgotten either. When it comes to sports, all children take part, but the trick has always been to find activities that will motivate every child. At the school there’s a whole variety on offer, so children can hopefully find something that they really enjoy. A happy environment is one where children are not endlessly faced with sports situations that bore them and make them feel more like becoming couch potatoes than working their muscles. The school’s list of extra-curricular activities is more akin to that of a popular sports centre: children can participate in a variety of activities ranging from yoga,keep fit, taekwondo and swimming, as well as play hockey, football and water polo. They can also play chess, dance, paint, learn to play the recorder and do drama and ballet. The list goes on…


As Lisa says, “We want to give children as many experiences as possible and have the best start in life – so we’ve opted for a wide choice of pursuits.” Obviously, a motivated child is more likely to find success in the areas that he or she has chosen, and to be motivated enough to try to surpass previous results.


The school is always aiming to move forwards and has ambitious plans. They’ve completed a 25 metre swimming pool with five lanes, where the children are now able to do all their swim training, as well as compete against other schools from around Thailand. And the next phase of development is a learning playground that will include state of the art equipment, different learning areas and safety flooring. Unusually for a school, the planners and architects behind many of the changes also include the students themselves.


Page-52-4“Students should be active participants, not passengers on their journey,” says Lisa as she cites the example of the school garden. “The children designed it. We gave them a completely empty area and let them go ahead and do all the planning. Then they had to design it, and together as a whole school community we built it. The teachers, staff and parents helped. It wasn’t just a question of digging some flower beds, either. They wanted a cascading waterfall, so we went ahead and built that, too.” Having students design their school setting would have been unheard of just a few decades ago, but approaches like these work, and have helped gain the school its reputation.


The school was recently accredited by a UK inspection agency, gaining the coveted International Schools Quality Mark (ISQM). It is the only school to have had its standards verified by an international inspection so far on the island. To quote from their report, “Students’ personal development is strongly visible across the whole school. As they grow, the students take pride in being part of what is a courteous and caring school community. Their developing maturity and confidence is helped by a high level of participation in school enrichment activities as well as community initiatives such as charity fundraising and business enterprises.” The report praises the school as being successful and for taking “great care to ensure that it delivers its vision of educating students to become confident, independent individuals who are ready to take their place in a global community.”


As you can see, education has changed and doesn’t need to be dull at all. The International School of Samui, with its pursuit of excellence, and its beautiful island setting has ensured that education can be a joyous and vibrant time in a child’s life, and offers many new possibilities for learning, recreation and personal development.


 Dimitri Waring


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