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BUILDING MINDS AND SCHOOLS
SCL International School’s ambitious new building project dovetails
with students’ happiness and performance.

SCL International School’s ambitious new building project dovetails with students’ happiness and performance.In architecture there’s a saying that goes, ‘form follows function’ – the use that a building will be put to determines how it’ll look. Too often, however, we have to make do with ramshackle architecture that not only doesn’t look good but only vaguely fulfils its potential.

          

Schools tend to end up rock bottom on the architect’s list of creative ventures. Children are mercilessly crowded into rooms that seem to have been inspired by the tight shoeboxes their footwear came from. The rest of school design seems equally slap-dash: the biggest space gets tagged as the assembly room and the rest follows predictably with lip-service rooms, such as play areas, science labs, a refectory, etc. All are connected with arteries of echoing corridors, and hey presto the architect’s work is already done. The results are as rousing as the sight of a multi-storey car park. It seems to take a visionary to do anything different.

          

Thankfully there are schools around that think out of the box. In Lamai, SCL International School is doing just this. It was a year ago that Emma Dyas, the school’s headmistress moved premises. A larger school was needed, as was increased outdoor space. The move went ahead, with the new location being just a few doors up from Lamai Post Office. And since moving into the new facilities, she’s been steadily improving on the layout and the amenities. Emma’s now going ahead with ambitious new projects that require some major architectural changes to be made.

          

Six purpose-built classrooms will be added and these will each reflect the four elements. For example, ‘fire’ will be represented by solar panels. The entire school is set to be as ecologically sound as possible, using energy that’s sustainable, wherever possible. SCL International School’s ambitious new building project dovetails with students’ happiness and performance.It’s a heady goal and one that has as yet no end in sight. The important thing, according to Emma, is to get started and to go as far as possible. “It’s also an educational highlight,” she says, “The sustainability of the school will hopefully inspire the children to look for sustainable options themselves.”

          

Building work is also required for sports and Emma plans to provide a football pitch that’s entirely covered, allowing protection from the rain and sun. Sports are taken seriously here, not so much in the competitive sense, but as a key to children’s health; so it makes sense that sports areas are protected from the strong tropical sun.

          

There will also be a dance studio where children will be able to practice contemporary dance along with a little ballet. (Emma herself is a trained dancer, and may well also offer classes to adults.) An organic farm will complete the improvements. Here children will learn about fruit and vegetables and how to grow food that’s as pure as possible.

          

If form follows function, it’s clear this is a school that’s not at all the ordinary, traditional type, and it’s reflected in the very building plans. But it’s not just about layout and bricks and mortar; you clearly get the feeling that there’s more going on here – a lot more. Some of it isn’t even visible in any usual sense and goes beyond the physical. For example, the school teaches mindfulness and meditation.” These practices are good for exam anxiety,” says Emma. “But that’s just the start. By getting children to focus for just a few minutes a day, they improve their sense of wellbeing;SCL International School’s ambitious new building project dovetails with students’ happiness and performance. they leave the negative behind, see the positive instead, and the type and quality of their energy changes. As a result, they become much calmer and more focussed.”

          

SCL International School has a philosophy that’s very different from that of most schools. For a start the accent is on the child, not on the system.

          

Rather than view each child as having to integrate into that system, each is considered as being a unique individual, who deserves to be nurtured. In other words, the child comes first. The educational system fits around the child – not the other way round.

          

The results are astonishing. SCL isn’t a dull place where children have to fill in time, part of a system; it’s a haven where children love to spend their days and to learn. Says Emma, “Making children’s happiness and confidence the priority is all important. This is a place of learning, and we have very high academic standards – but at the same time, it’s essential that children enjoy themselves. If a child is relaxed, he or she will certainly perform better academically. We cater for the whole child.” The approach works well and is good all round. For example, everyone passed their IGCSEs (International General Certificate of Secondary Education), and all but one child went on to college.

          

She goes on to say that she’s sought out teachers who are vibrant and dedicated. They know how to engage children and make learning fun and relevant. Just to take one example, art, all too often a neglected subject, is taken rather more seriously at SCL, and Emma has found a wonderful teacher in a master of fine arts, Khun Kriangkrai. SCL International School’s ambitious new building project dovetails with students’ happiness and performance.He studied in Bangkok and specializes in making artefacts from silver as well as drawing. He’s extraordinarily gifted, and is able to pass on to children his techniques for art as well as his enthusiasm.

          

Next year SCL will offer A-levels in English, Maths, Modern Languages, Science, History and Business Studies (accounting and economics). This will mean that the school will be preparing students right up to university level. Says Emma, “Offering education up to A-levels is as far as the school can go, academically speaking. And once the new buildings are completed, we won’t need to go further on the architectural side. Our goals will then be to maintain and improve on what we have achieved and to focus on very high quality education. This in itself is a never-ending challenge. We don’t want to grow big; we’re more interested in keeping classes small in terms of numbers. That means we can focus on each individual’s education.”

          

With satisfied parents and children who simply enjoy being at school, SCL has been successful since it first started. Not only are the students happy, but they’re also getting the grades they require for their future. Already a recognisable name, SCL International School is set to go even further.

          

 Dimitri Waring


 


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