Samui Wining & Dining
School Rules

Education isn’t what it used to be now there’re places around like Samui Centre of Learning.

40Once upon a time, not so long ago, the word ‘school’ was synonymous with boredom. It conjured up visions of blackboards, a lot of dust and teachers droning on for hours in what seemed like a demented social experiment to quell all creativity. Those days are gone, thankfully. Schools around the world are emerging that are truly progressive. And on Samui it’s no different. In the quiet south of the island, Samui Centre of Learning offers its pupils a bright, fun, yet thorough education, whilst parents don’t need to worry that their offspring are being taught by second-rate teachers simply here to pass the time.

You’ll find the Centre in Lamai, where it’s set in lovely countryside. As you head into Lamai from Chaweng on the ring-road, make a right turn where a small lane heads towards Tamarind Springs (it’s well sign-posted), and simply follow it until you see the Centre. The buildings are all modern and even from the drive you can see they are spacious and well-designed. The staff, by the way, are strong on security at the Centre and anybody approaching can be seen from the long driveway well before they arrive.

Emma Dyas is the Director of the Centre, which first started operating in 2004. Back then there were just two children in an old wooden house located behind the temple in Lamai. Emma took over the school following the birth of her daughter and last September the Centre moved to its present, grander location. If you think that the upgrade was due to slick investment and a desire for nifty returns on money, then she’ll put you straight.

“Samui Centre of Learning, as you see it today,” Emma says, “was built by parents who wanted to help. We didn’t come here with piles of cash, nor has there been any outside funding. Basically, the Centre has evolved so rapidly because parents have had the confidence to send their children here.” Indeed. The original school population has grown from 2 to 140 pupils. They come from a staggering 33 different nationalities – making playtime a very polyglot business. The children’s ages range from 2½ to 14 years of age. The Centre maintains a family atmosphere and children all appear to be content. Emma explains, “They all have a lot of fun here. They feel safe and confident, too. They know they’ll be taken care of. And this reflects in their academic results.”

The Centre follows a British curriculum with literacy, mathematics, science, geography and history as the main subjects taught, along with personal and social development, too. Teachers are all qualified and go through the same stringent ‘criminal background’ checks that they would if they were in the UK.

As Emma is running an international school (it’s to receive its official accreditation in September) it’s crucial that the children also learn and practice their Thai. “All the children speak very good Thai,” says Emma. “It’s very important that they learn the language and also learn about the Thai culture. They need to be able to communicate fluently. We have a team of six Thai teachers. The head teachers both won ‘teacher of the year’ awards.” Children study Thai for a minimum of an hour a day. “They pick it up very quickly,” reports Emma. “The teachers are forward-thinking and aim to spark the pupils’ interest by using modern methods.”

English is also most important. Pupils get to a proficient level as fast as possible, so that they can follow the classes and have the confidence they need. One of the problems of running an International school is that children from various countries start schooling at different ages. So it’s quite a task to put together homogenous classes. The Centre doesn’t believe in putting children of different ages in the same class, by the way, so they need to learn English quickly. All of them, incidentally, study Mandarin and learn how to read and write it, too. Emma and her team have the foresight to recognize this is also an important language and children have fun learning it.

Walk around the Centre and you’ll see there’s a lot going on there. Wherever you look, you’ll see children engrossed in their activities. None seem to be fidgeting or bored. When they’re not studying there’s a playground, of course, but that’s only the start. The curriculum also aims to develop the children’s physical abilities. The Centre has a training pool so that they can learn swimming. And other physical activities include dancing, yoga, PE, football and netball, to name just a few.

And what about children with special needs? “They are well-looked after here, too,” says Emma. “Children with Asperger’s, autism and other challenges are equally welcome. We naturally help anyone who is simply struggling with subjects. Teachers also take their time to sit with pupils and help them.”

Samui Centre of Learning also has after-school activities. A large array of them, with subjects as varied as Taekwondo and cooking, no less. Emma is incredibly lucky, she says, as the Centre has a chef who worked in a Michelin-starred restaurant. Imagine learning cooking from somebody of that pedigree. And, interestingly, these activities are also open to children on holiday.

Whilst on the subject of food, it’s a well-known fact that many schools are appalling at preparing nutritious meals. At the Centre, however, a lot of thought and care has gone into what to give the pupils. “We had a nutritionist design the food programme,” says Emma. “The prime consideration was that it should be healthy. The recipes that the nutritionist chose for us have no MSG, salt or sugar. They’re a mix of Thai and International food. For the snacks during the day, you won’t find biscuits or cakes. Just a healthy mix of raw fruit and vegetables.”

With a school like this, children find learning a lot more fun than it used to be. With a vibrant approach and healthy food and pastimes to match, it’s a sure bet that they’ll actively enjoy coming here. They’re certainly busy attending the summer school programme – four weeks of enjoyment this August. Holidaymakers’ children are again also welcome to participate.

Yes, good schools today are nothing like the ones I was dragged to as a kid. In fact, if I had have gone to a school like the Samui Centre of Learning, my parents would have had to drag me home at nights!

 


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