Reversing the trend towards higher fees, Astra Academy will offer international education at strikingly lower rates than nearby, more established schools.
In recent years, several new international schools have opened in Bangkok. With grandiose campus areas and first-class facilities, several have positioned themselves in the upper price segment, with annual fees approaching one million baht.
Astra Academy, which opens in August in Bangkok’s busy Ekkamai area, is bucking this trend. With a smaller campus and simpler facilities, it wants to create a new niche by offering a full international education at competitive prices, partly by allocating most resources to teaching.
”In Bangkok there is almost an arms race between schools when it comes to on-site provisions and tuition fees,” Jack Ruenprapan, Director of Community at Astra Academy International School says.
”Our proposition is that we are not compromising on the quality of the teaching. We have very high quality, qualified native English speaking teachers, with great experience,” he says.
Challenge more established schools in the area
According to the information presented by Astra Academy, the tuition per year currently does not exceed 500,000 baht. Up to Year 6, they average around 450,000 baht, and up to Year 13 around 480,000 baht per year.
This makes the school a serious challenge to three nearby and well-known schools, such as St Andrews Sukhumvit 71, Bangkok Prep and KIS. In the lower year groups, Astra Academy will be around 100,000 baht cheaper, and in the upper year groups around 200,000 baht cheaper per year.
There are many reasons why the fees can be kept lower.
”When it comes to facilities, we will have what we need to offer high quality teaching and learning, but we won’t need full size sports pitches, an Olympic size swimming pool, or huge laboratories,” Jack Ruenprapan says.
”We will instead partner with local providers and institutions that have those facilities and know-how,” he continues.
While Astra Academy will have a small size swimming pool suitable for younger children, it will enter into a partnership with an external swimming club a few blocks away with full size swimming pools, where the older children can travel when it is time for swimming.
There will be a football pitch at the school, albeit slightly smaller in size. There will also be a covered area for sports such as volleyball and basketball.
Astra Academy is not building a new campus of its own, but is moving into the same premises at the deep end of Ekkamai soi 14 where the former Singapore International School of Bangkok, SISB, was previously located. The renovation is currently in full swing. In May, the new campus will be ready to receive staff to prepare for the start of the 2021-2022 academic year.
Family feeling on campus
The school will also be relatively small in the number of students. The maximum limit is set at 500 students. In principle, this means two classes for every year group.
Dave Wakefield is the school’s headmaster. He has previously worked at international schools in Malaysia and Myanmar, and also in Thailand. The size of Astra Academy is something that attracted him to take the job.
”For me, that is one of the attractions with coming to this school. It’s not a huge conglomerate. I will know all the staff, all the kids, the staff will know each other, most of the kids will know each other. It will be a more of a family feeling. They don’t need to feel isolated or lost in a huge entity,” he says.
Astra Academy is owned by the same company that for 18 years has been running the preschool Kids’ Academy. The new school is seen as a natural continuation for the children in preschool. But Astra Academy also hopes to attract new families with their approach.
”We saw that there was a niche that wasn’t filled, with families who want a high level of education for their children, but who won’t need or cannot afford all the bells and whistles. But Astra Academy isn’t only about making an affordable school. There are many schools out there that are even cheaper. What we aim to do is to maintain a high standard of teaching and learning,” Jack Ruenprapan says.
Astra Academy opens in August with Years 1-3 and Years 7-9. Next year, the school will be fully open through to Year 10 and will open year groups progressively all the way through to Year 13. Astra Academy follows the British curriculum.
Growing market means more choices
Dr Anders Engvall, head of research at TIS Monitor, says that new international schools are always welcome as it adds to the choices available to parents.
”In tracking new entrants to the Bangkok market, we have seen a predominance of new schools in the upper price segment. It is encouraging to see a new school in the mid-market. The entry of Astra Academy is a sign of a functioning market, where the needs of different market segments are adressed. Still it remains to be seen if enough parents are attracted by the lower fees while accepting less attractive on-campus facilities,” he says.