Competition is gearing up on Ko Samui as a new international school promises to ”push fees down as low as possible.”
The soon-to-open Windfield International School will work closely with an existing French school in the Lamai area.
The number of International schools in Thailand continues to increase, and at the end of August a new British curriculum school will be opening on the island of Ko Samui.
The school, Windfield International School, is being set up adjacent to the island’s existing French school, and will offer a complete education from kindergarten through to year 13.
The idea is that the students will share some classes, depending on each country’s curriculum.
Steven Armstrong is the new headmaster for Windfield International School.
”The British section will be brand new, while the French section has been around for a while. The two schools are going to run alongside each other, complement each other, and join together whenever they can,” he explains.
Some classes will be shared, but the children will not need to be bilingual. If the British children are joining a class in the French school, it will be taught in French but British bilingual assistant teachers will be there to help the English speaking children, and vice versa for shared classes at the British school.
”The way we will operate is going to be completely unique. We will be the only school in Thailand that teaches the combined French and British curricula. We intend to have a lot of the lessons shared between the two systems. The two set of students will learn together for English, French, PE, art, and maybe even music and drama,” he says.
But more languages will be offered, including Spanish, Thai, and Mandarin.
”We really believe in linguistic fluency,” Steven Armstrong says.
A small community – with 20 students per class
While the French school currently has around 80 students, the British school will have an initial capacity of around 200 students. When the doors open in August they will offer classes from years 1 to 10, with a maximum of 20 students in each class.
According to Steven Armstrong, there has been a lot of interest in the new school.
”We haven’t really worked on marketing it much, but the interest has still been huge,” he says.
The typical family inquiring about the school already lives in Thailand, but in major cities such as Bangkok or Chiang Mai.
”They say that they want a change of life-style, and to get away from the pollution. Here on Ko Samui we are able to offer them a really great alternative to city living,” Steven Armstrong says.
Changing work patterns – and the opportunity this creates
Since the start of the Covid pandemic people around the world have increasingly begun to work remotely.
This opens many new opportunity for families who would like to spend their time on a tropical paradise island like Ko Samui, while at the same time being able to work remotely with clients and colleagues all over the world. Thailand is an attractive choice for many of those working remotely, thanks to its good IT-infrastructure, pleasant lifestyle, and availability of good schools.
There are currently four English language international schools on Ko Samui, but Steven Armstrong still thinks that Windfield will be able to establish itself successfully, despite the competition.
”I think we are offering something unique thanks to our curriculum, to our being inclusive, and because we are pushing our school fees down as low as possible. We are offering very competitive rates, and I think we are offering more opportunities than other British schools, while at the same time teaching with 21st century learning methods,” he says.
Around the world before coming to Ko Samui: A look at the staff
Steven Armstrong has a teaching career that spans more than 40 years; 20 of those he spent abroad, starting in Kenya in the 1980’s, followed by stints in Egypt and Jordan. Since coming to Thailand he has previously worked at Garden International School in Chonburi as well as at Ascot International School in Bangkok.
He has been in charge of the recruiting process for the new school.
”I am very pleased with the quality of the teachers we have been able to hire. We have some who are very experienced, and some straight from university. It’s a great mix,” he says.
In terms of facilities, Windfield will have a covered basketball court and a 25 meter swimming pool, with a shallow end suitable for swimming practice. Next the plan is to expand the campus with the addition of a football pitch.
Cheap – but not the cheapest
According to fee data collected by TIS Monitor, Windfield’s rates will position the school in the middle range of cost for international schools on Ko Samui. The high end choice is the International School of Samui, currently charging 2.5 million baht for a full year 1 to 6 education. This makes the school twice as expensive as the other international schools on the island. The other three existing schools on Ko Samui all charge between 1 and 1.3 million baht for the first six years, with the cheapest being Lamai International School. The other two are Greenacre International School and Panyadee, the British International School.
On the nearby island of Ko Phangan there is also an international school, Si Ri Panya International School, where year 1 to 6 cost a total of 893.000 baht.
Windfield International School lands firmly in this middle category with a cost of 1.2 million baht.
All rates above are for the past school year (20/21), except for Windfield, where the rate is for the upcoming school year. TIS Monitor does not expect any major fee increases at the other schools due to the current Covid-19 situation.
One international school recently closed on Ko Samui
Competition among international schools on Ko Samui can be fierce, however. Last year, the international school Oonrak Koh Samui School closed its international section and shifted to a bilingual Thai/English curriculum. Talking to TIS Monitor, a school representative cited the competition from other schools as well as the ongoing Covid-19 crisis as the reason behind the closing of the international program.
Dr Anders Engvall is head of analysis at TIS Monitor.
”It is always good news when a new International school opens in Thailand as it gives families more choice. I think that the trend of people and organizations shifting to remote work during the Covid-crisis could be a long term advantage for International schools located on tropical islands here in Thailand. Many professionals would certainly be happy to try a different kind of life-style for a few years, but the availability of good schools for their children is obviously essential. It will be interesting to follow Windfield International School and all the other schools on Ko Samui to see how they fare in the future,” he says.