Samui Wining & Dining
SCL International School takes learning to new levels thanks to a holistic approach.


Back in 2004, two children were going to school in an old wooden house at the back of a temple. In the background - jungle, palm trees, buffaloes grazing. An idyllic scenario. It sounds great, doesn’t it? But you might be thinking by now the teaching was as simple and as rudimentary as the school building. And there you’d be wrong. Even if the school started small and didn’t look like an educational powerhouse, the teachers were dedicated, professional and inspiring. The word got round, and more and more parents enrolled their children, who were happy there and got great results.


The school soon outgrew the old wooden house and it’s now in a new building in a new location, set in countryside in Lamai. It’s easy to find. As you head into Lamai from Chaweng, turn off the ring-road and take the small lane that goes past Tamarind Springs. Simply follow it until you see the school buildings. You’ll find a large modern and well-run complex with plenty of sports facilities. Over the last 10 years, more and more parents have sent their children there and the number is growing.


With a school like SCL International School, education isn’t simply a question of teaching academic subjects; the approach is a far more holistic one. It’s part of the school’s philosophy, and it’s a very practical one; each child is considered an individual, a person, and not a container which needs to be filled with academic subjects.


Says Emma Dyas, founder and director, “We have very high academic standards, but we don’t put pressure on children. We want them to enjoy coming to the school; to enjoy being children. We need to take care of the whole child, not just a part. Putting pressure on them to excel doesn’t really work anyway.” She cites the cases of children who attend the school for only one term each year and go to Europe for the remaining time. These parents tell her that pressure is very intense at the European schools, but the results aren’t as good as those at SCL. “The holistic approach certainly works,” says Emma. “It results in a happier child – and therefore higher results when it comes to learning.”


Of course, such an approach can only work if the teachers excel at what they do, and Emma has gathered around her vibrant professionals who are exactly the right people to help the children, and who treat them as individuals no matter how different their needs may be. Emma cites the work of some of these teachers and says how outstanding they are. Dario, for example, teaches Spanish and sports at the school. “He’s a Spanish national,” says Emma, “He taught in international schools for seven years in his home country. He brings a lot of fresh ideas to the school and has helped develop the curriculum considerably. He’s brought a new dimension to the languages department; Spanish is now one of the languages students can learn here and it’s proving extremely popular.”


Dario’s concept of P.E. encompasses many different sports, from football through table tennis to badminton. He also regularly sets up a boot camp on the beach. Because there are a wide variety of sports at the school, students find it easy to choose something they like, and therefore invest more energy and effort. As a result, they’re a lot fitter than they’d be if the school practiced that dull old staple of just one sport that all have to partake in.


SCL International School has its own counsellor, Poonam, who’s trained in psychology (she holds a B.A. in it) and is thoroughly experienced. Emma says, “Because we have a holistic approach, we also focus on each and every child’s personality, and the emotional side of things, not just the academic concerns. So it’s really vital we have someone like Poonam, who can help children when they’re in difficulties.”


Poonam’s experienced in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, a very powerful means of assisting children when faced with problems. Students can go to her and say they would like to talk to her and book a time to do so, or a teacher can recommend that the pupil goes to see her.


You may be unfamiliar with Cognitive Behaviour Therapy – it’s a complex subject but is credited with being a practical way to bring about change. Says Emma, “It’s basically re-training how you approach issues. Trauma may trigger certain behaviour patterns, but if you can change the way you think, then you can change the actual behaviour pattern itself. To start off, you have to reflect on what you’re doing. Being reflective will always help you; you have to ask yourself how you can differently approach a situation, what other perspectives you can find for dealing with a problem.” It’s a gentle approach and works with children, just as it does with adults.


The school accepts children who have special needs and has its own Special Needs Co-coordinator, Meegan, who was born in South Africa and grew up there. Her work involves spending time with each child who is facing difficulties such as Attention Deficit Disorder or autism, assess him or her and make regular learning in the classroom possible. Meegan naturally helps the teachers with each child in this category, and trains them how to best help the child. Sometimes only small tweaks are needed, such as changing where a student sits or getting the teacher to interact with him or her in a different way. Each case is different and treated as such.


Part of the holistic approach is to boost subjects that many schools have traditionally neglected. Take, art, for example. Often it’s considered rather unimportant, to say the least. At SCL this isn’t the case; they have an extremely talented arts teacher, Lek, who is able to guide students in very different techniques. Lek is able to teach both Thai and Western-styles, and is thoroughly familiar with charcoal, acrylic oils, watercolours, as well as design and technology, and the creation of 3D models.


With its progressive and up-to-date approach, SCL International School is definitely offering opportunities way beyond what’s considered adequate. Thanks to its creative team of teachers, children actually enjoy coming to school and get results, too. And parents can rest assured that their children are receiving a bright, fun, yet thorough education.


 Dimitri Waring


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