The founder and director of SCL International School is Emma Dyas, who is also an active teacher there. SCL has been in operation since 2004, and there are currently a total of 30 experienced staff, with seven of them being Thai nationals. There are 106 children aged between the ages of three and 11 years in the junior section, and 86 in the secondary school – and that gives a very advantageous teacher-pupil ratio of six to one!
However, the first thing that’ll strike you about this school is that everyone’s so happy! The grounds run in a long strip away from the road, with the nearer part having the classrooms in a row at ground level. In the warm, sunny weather this is a positive incentive for some aspects of lessons to move outside. And so it’s a rare occasion that you won’t see dozens of younger children all energised and busily engaged, as soon as you walk in.
Of course that’s no measurement of what a school is all about. It’s just a first impression. But this atmosphere of enthusiasm and involvement doesn’t go away: if anything it’s revealed as an integral part of the ethos at SCL, as you start to look around the school in more detail. Children learn through play. So although the younger ones seem to be doing a lot of cheerful running around, they are actually being guided to follow the British Early Years Foundation Stage Framework (EYFS), one element of the UK National Curriculum.
The school caters to children of all nationalities, and from the ages of five to 18 years, which also tells an aware parent that it’s not all just candy and cuddles at SCL – there are students here looking to go on to higher education, to university or vocational colleges. In fact the curriculum here is very much as you would see at any well-organised and staffed UK independent school. In the early years, there is a degree of flexibility but, as students progress, not only do they seamlessly move onto the English National Curriculum Key Stages 2, 3 and 4, but there is a wide avenue of varied opportunity at post-16 level, too, at Key Stage 5.
But not all children are academically inclined. And whereas the UK National Curriculum recognises this at examination level (with its grading system geared to students of all abilities), so also does the philosophy behind the teaching at SCL. Education is as much about social harmony and integration as it is about academic performance. Every young person is seen as an individual, with their own personality, strengths and weaknesses. And each individual receives the appropriate support and guidance necessary to progress through each stage of the curriculum.
Samui is a multinational community, and many of the students are not native English speakers. The emphasis in the first instance is on numeracy and literacy; therefore some lessons are bi-lingually taught in Russian, French, Thai or Mandarin. And students who are not at ease with English are taken out of the main groups for regular one-to-one sessions with a specialist English teacher. As progress is made, this time gradually reduces. Similar parallel structuring also allows individual attention and help for students with special educational needs.
There’s a strong emphasis at SCL on working together, which is reflected in not only school drama and music performances, but also in the projects to be seen around the grounds of the school, ‘the garden’ being a good example here; a plot of land where everything from art lessons to land husbandry and science experiments can be hosted. Likewise there’s a keen interaction with the local community in aspects relating to marine ecology, and conservation and recycling activities in line with the Eco Schools Project.
In terms of academic performance, SCL has consistently achieved results that are admirable. Every year between 30 and 40 15-to-16 years-olds sit their Edexcel International General Certificate of Education exams. And at Key Stage 5 – what is often called the 6th form – a significant number have followed programs of study that lead to Advanced Level examinations or the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program, prior to gaining places at universities and colleges around the world.
But, in keeping with the school’s philosophy of educating children of all abilities, there are also vocational links with other educational establishments on Samui. And also, in particular, the Bangkok School of Management (BSM), which offers students the opportunity to study for two years in Bangkok, and receive a UK accredited Higher Diploma, and then be directly enrolled into Northumbria University (NU) final year top-up programme to obtain BSc (Hons) Business and Management. In the final year, students can then either choose to complete the degree at BSM Bangkok, or to transfer to NU’s two campuses in the UK, which offer further choices of specialisation.
A freely nurturing and child centred approach? Or one that is assessment driven and academic? Or, perhaps, a school such as SCL International School, which fulfils both objectives? It’s absolutely your choice to make!
Rob De Wet
For further information, telephone 0 7741 8789.