Samui Wining & Dining

A look at what makes the grade – at SCL International School.

 A look at what makes the grade – at SCL International School.

When you’re a school kid, you don’t think about school so much. Yes, sure, of course it’s always on your mind, day-to-day. But you don’t know enough about things to philosophise. It’s only later, with kids of your own, that you’ve now formed an outlook. Schools, you’ve discovered, go about things in different ways. Some of them stress knowledge and the importance of passing exams. Others are more child-centred, approaching it all with an eye on the child as a whole, and with their happiness and development coming first.


But this is Thailand. And for most aware parents, this means looking at a school that offers an international level of care and achievement – an ‘international school’. Such schools have to fulfil explicit conditions for Thai registration, and satisfy all the requirements to qualify for international standing, too. This is heavy-duty stuff, and not easy to achieve. But one such school is SCL International School in Lamai, which also happens to be the longest-running international school on the island. And when you discover that their motto is ‘Educating the Mind, Nurturing the Soul’ then you’ll get a good idea of what their particular approach to education is all about.


Coming into the school, first impressions are that everyone here is very cheery indeed. The co-founder and director is Emma Dyas. She’s been on board since the school began in 2004, and now has attracted more than 150 students aged between three years and 11 in the junior section, and almost 50 in the follow-on secondary school. All the teaching staff are young, enthusiastic, and mostly UK trained and experienced. And the whole place just buzzes with life.


As a parent your first concern is that your child will be happy. You’re looking for a caring environment. You want your child to look forward to going there every day. But, of course, you also expect more, especially as time passes. Be assured that, at SCL, A look at what makes the grade – at SCL International School. there is also a very purposeful approach to learning.Thus in 2010, the school gained accreditation as a UK Cambridge International Examinations Centre, and the following year were granted full and accredited ‘International School’ status.


Everything here is deliberately structured to feed both the heart and the mind. Children learn through playing. Thus the younger ones, although they seem to be doing an awful lot of running around, are actually following the British Early Years Foundation Stage Framework (EYFS), an element of the UK National Curriculum, which provides them with a nurturing learning environment within which they feel happy and secure, whilst developing and acquiring social skills, interaction awareness, and racial integration. As they do this, they are unknowingly taking on-board all kinds of information and knowledge, too.


Anyone who has stayed on Samui for more than a week will have noticed that there are many different nationalities here, and not just the tourists. In the last decade, the island has attracted huge numbers of foreign residents. Some come here to retire. But an increasing number are coming here to work, either as employees or with their own businesses. Many have children. And so, right away, there’s a problem. If you are Russian, or French, you are tempted to send your offspring to a Russian-speaking school, or a Frenchspeaking school (which now exist on Samui, but only in the unofficial nursery sector). But at SCL these concerns are acknowledged and addressed within the framework of the overall international curriculum, even with very young children.


For example, the school has separate departments, English, Maths, Science, and so on. But there’s also an EAL department – ‘English And Languages’. This is where students receive one-on-one help to strengthen their language skills. And you’ll find English, French, Spanish, Thai and Mandarin incorporated into the teaching here, as well as Russian, thanks to the recent addition of Dr Inga Kazakova. Students who are struggling with the English language are taken out of the main groups for one or two hours a day to begin with,  A look at what makes the grade – at SCL International with a specialist teacher who can speak their language. Later this time is reduced, as the student becomes more confident using English.

All the teaching here is keyed to the UK National Curriculum. Already, at the age of seven, students are grounded in the basics of these courses of study. ‘Learning through play’ is fun, but it’s not aimless. And, as the students become more mature, they seamlessly move onto the English National Curriculum Key Stages 3 and 4 (which starts as students approach the age of 11) and are also guided to extend their activities out into the community, too.


Previous vehicles for this have included an awareness and appreciation of the environment, and of what harm is being done to the marine ecology. Another was a program of conservation and recycling activities in line with the ‘Eco Schools’ project. And last year, there was a curriculum initiative devoted to working in co-operation with the ‘Road Awareness Kampaign Samui’ (RAK Samui) in a further attempt to make the island and its communities safer and more aware.


It all depends on, as a parent, what you want, and also and how old your children are. If you think you’ll be here for only a few months, then it probably doesn’t matter so much. If you have a three-year-old, then you’ll want gentle day-care, with someone to talk to your child in his or her own language. But all of this changes significantly if you plan to stay longer, and your child is coming up to that very special point of about five years of age. That’s where they really need education, not simply babysitting. Then you have to make a decision. And that might mean new language skills, as well as education.


SCL International School has continued to grow from strength to strength, yet still maintains a caring and involved family atmosphere. With its continued emphasis on individual learning, combined with an international standard of education, this is a school which really does make each student’s light shine brighter, and will make your kid’s time here truly . . . the best days of their life!


 Rob De Wet


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