St. Stephen’s International School is set to inaugurate a new campus in August 2025, located behind its current site along the bustling Viphavadee Rangsit Road in Bangkok’s Chatuchak area.
Thailand’s international school sector is displaying more signs of growth, with new schools opening and existing institutions expanding. One of the latest international schools to announce a significant expansion of its facilities is St. Stephen’s International School. The new campus will be substantially larger and equipped with enhanced facilities, especially for sports activities.
”The new campus is approximately twice the size, and the buildings and classrooms are far more spacious. We will have an auditorium, a double gym, two multipurpose halls, and a 25-meter swimming pool as well as specialist areas in art, DT, music, drama and ICT. There will also be two large libraries, a 400-seat theatre and an underground car park.
And when we move further back in, away from the road, it will be greener and quieter,” says Mr John Rolfe, the school’s headmaster.
The move to the new campus will bring about a big change.
”These days, when we enter sports competitions, it is difficult for us to host large competitions with our current facilities so it will be nice to be able to receive other schools here in the future,” he says.
New campus has larger capacity
St. Stephen’s, which offers Pre-K up to Year 13, currently has over 400 enrolled students, with capacity for more. The new campus will have a capacity of 1000 to 1200 and it is anticipated that it will gradually fill up.
”We have had families visit us in the past who did not join our school because of better facilities elsewhere. That should now come to an end,” he says.
Mr John Rolfe predicts that the growth of the student body at St. Stephen’s will mostly come from a buoyant Thai middle class rather than an influx of foreigners.
”Our families live in this area, and we are one of few international schools here. ISB and Harrow are the nearest other schools, and they are a fair distance away. Our location makes it convenient for parents living in the area to deliver and pick up their children when travelling to and from work in the city”, he says.
Mr John Rolfe says that with more families joining, there should be no need to increase the current fees, despite the significant financial investment needed for constructing the new facilities.
”I have not heard anything from the owners about raising fees. We have hardly increased fees at all in the last four years. For three years, there was no increase in fees, and last year, we increased by two percent. And that should be a pattern. Our parents are working people, and they pay the fees themselves. That is a big difference compared to some other schools,” he says.
St. Stephen’s teaches about Thai culture
Founded in 1998, the school today positions itself in the mid-segment in terms of pricing but has also found a niche in what it calls ”Where East meets West.” With 90 percent of the children being Thai, parents currently expect the school to maintain a strong influence of Thai culture, language, and traditions in its curriculum.
For example, in music class, children learn how to play traditional Thai instruments, such as a xylophone-like ranat and the gong-like khong wong. The school also puts heavy emphasis on traditions like the wai khru ceremony and celebrates other key Thai festivals. The students sing the Thai national anthem every morning at flag raising. But otherwise, the school follows a British based curriculum, and all main teachers are native English speakers.
”What parents look for at our school is fluency in English. In a recent survey, about a third said it was the most important reason for putting their children into our school. The second reason was location, followed by academic standards,” Mr John Rolfe says.
St. Stephen’s is non-selective. All students who apply are welcome, given they meet the minimum requirements. The school will accept any child if their needs can be catered for. Weak students will get the support they need. This is different from some other international schools in Thailand that take only the high achievers. Despite this, St. Stephen’s has produced some excellent academic results.
”Although our students are 90 percent Thai, our English results are superb. We have great teachers because we spend a lot of time and effort in recruiting our staff. There is a lot of phonics work in the primary school, with additional specialist English support for students who need it. Students do a lot of public speaking from a young age”, he says.
”The result is that students in Year 11 in recent years have all sat First English examinations, which is equivalent to native speakers level, with very high grades,” he adds.
St. Stephen’s prepares for the future
Mr John Rolfe is a veteran within the international school sector in Thailand. He first arrived in the late nineties to work as a mathematics teacher at Bangkok Patana School. He then joined Harrow International School as a founding member of staff, before helping to set up Shrewsbury school in 2003, as Director of Studies. Headships at the Regents School, Pattaya and in Malaysia, followed, before the opportunity arose to lead the two St. Stephen’s Schools in Thailand.
”This is my 10th year at St Stephen’s and I am very happy at the school, and excited at the future development,” he says.
During these years, he has seen many changes in the sector—and Thailand.
”Demographics have changed. Parents now have fewer children and want to give them more global opportunities, so they choose international schools for them. St. Stephen’s can offer these families what they are seeking,” Mr John Rolfe concludes.