An international school in Bangkok’s mid-Sukhumvit area will open a brand new purpose-built facility for the coming school year, more than tripling its capacity.
A number of international schools are located in the densely populated area between Asok and Phrom Phong in Bangkok’s Sukhumvit area. One of them, First Steps International Pre-School, has over the years built a strong reputation among families and is now expanding with a new primary facility to accommodate its growing number of students, called Future Steps International School Bangkok, FSB.
The school currently offers up to Year 5, but with the new facility, which is adjacent and fully connected, it will expand to Year 6 for the coming school year.
It has a future capacity of up to 700 students, more than tripling its current number of almost 200, and will look at expanding to complete high school should families ask for it.
TIS Monitor has toured the facility which should be completed in time for the new school year in August. Apart from many new classrooms and common areas, like a large library, canteen, and cafe, the five-story building also has an indoor sports hall, a running track on the roof, and a covered 25-meter heated swimming pool.
”The water temperature in a swimming pool can get a bit chilly during the cold season so we have opted for a heated pool. This will make swimming more pleasant for our students,” says Emma Mulligan, Head of School.
There will also be a football pitch and playgrounds for the children to enjoy themselves during break time. The school uses IT throughout the facility.
A diverse international school
FSB currently has 194 students, from Pre-K up to Year 5, from a total of 34 countries. Given its size, that would make it a very diverse international school.
”I think it reflects our location. This area is very popular among foreign families, and it shows in our student body,” says Damon Nemish, the school’s owner.
Roughly 80 percent of the children live in the area, and many come to school by walking or taking a tuk-tuk. Only about 20 percent come from further away.
”Those are families who share our values and like what we do and what we offer,” he says.
According to a poll among the parents by the school, there are a number of reasons for its popularity.
”Location is very important, but also that this is an intimate school. We know everybody, we know all the kids’ names, the parents’ names, and where they work. We have a strong sense of community. And this is something we really try to keep in mind, even as we grow. Another reason is that what we offer is value for money,” says Mulligan.
FSB has a simple fee structure
The fee structure shows that the school typically costs around 450,000 baht per year, positioning itself in the lower half compared to other international schools in the country.
More interesting though is the very simple fee structure, which is very transparent and straightforward. Apart from a registration fee, there is only a tuition fee and a lunch fee. A school uniform is also needed. This is unlike many other international schools in Thailand that would also demand various kinds of deposits and a myriad of other fees, making it difficult for parents to compare schools and understand the true cost.
”We want to have it simple, because if it is simple for the parents, it is also simple for us,” says Nemish.
The school has also been cautious with raising fees over the years.
”We know that if we raise fees too much, families would leave. While we do not promise, we know that if we stick to raising the fees yearly with two or up to three percent, our families would accept this,” he says and adds:
”We try to keep up to inflation.”
While some external investors have been asking for fee increases, the school has fought back.
”I am a value person. I believe in quality for money. I think that if you pay X, you should at least get X. But if you want Y, you need to go somewhere else. People should know that when they come to us, they get a good deal,” Nemish explains.
No need to try to negotiate fees
Another interesting financial strategy is to avoid negotiating individual fee discounts with parents. At FSB, all parents are treated equally.
”If you offer a family a discount and it slips out, other parents will start to complain and question that. We would always have to remember who got the discount and who didn’t. So this is something that we try to avoid,” he says.
As for most international schools, the main cost is teachers’ salaries. At FSB, all the main teachers are fully UK-qualified. Each class is also supported by a teacher assistant.
”We have been able to find some really great teachers. While they might not have 15 years of experience, we have chosen those who have come to Thailand to teach as part of their career. They are not tourists,” he explains.
Language is an area where FSB has focused. Apart from Thai and English, it offers German and French as well as Japanese and Mandarin.
Started as a swimming school
With the new facility opening up, the school will also be able to start improving its sports program.
The school traces its roots back to LETS ASIA Swimming School. It took over First Steps International Pre-School in 2009 and further expanded into the current FSB primary school in 2022, which is now growing even more.
”While big schools have always offered swimming, smaller schools normally didn’t, except for us. And as we grow, this is something that we want to continue. We have attracted families who want their kids to be active, as well as getting an international education. That has been a big thing for us,” says Nemish.
For the coming school year, Future Steps International School Bangkok will offer some very generous discounts on the tuition fees, from 30 percent from Year 3 up to 40 percent for Years 5 and 6, for all families.
”We offer these big discounts now because we know that they can’t stay for long and will be leaving the school. We have an agreement with St Andrews Nord Anglia with guaranteed spots for year 7, which makes this transition easier, but eventually, they will need to change to another school for the upper years,” says Mulligan.
Despite this, with the new facility opening in August, FSB will reinforce its position as an interesting option for families seeking an international school for their children, for Pre-K to Year 6.