Is anybody listening? – Can somebody do something?

-A Flying Sporran Panic Attack!-

I guess there must be more than a few
people like me in Thailand who have kids here but not the cash to pay the
massive fees demanded by international schools – some even more expensive than
This is one subject  which
can bring me close to tears or if not that send my stomach into knots. My daughter Annie, 5, goes to bi-lingual school in
Bangkok and speaks to me in English.
Matthew, 3, speaks to me in Thinglish, and Archie, 8 months
speaks Swahili I believe.  By the time
they are all at school I will be speaking gibberish from multiple panic attacks.
The Thai education system frightens me. Occasionally I think
I’ll bag all the kids and take them on a plane to rural Berkshire or my first
love the Western Highlands of Scotland.
But that is out of the questions. I am a journalist. All my
contacts are in Asia now. I would be put out to graze I guess. Become a shepherd or ghillie?
Politicians keep making promises to improve the schools. They break all the promises except the ones they made to themselves.
I cannot see this one pupil one tablet computer plan by the
current government achieving anything in its application – apart maybe from
some very large commissions. I would like to see it work but I gave been told too much about the machiavellian schemers involved.
It would appear on all levels that Thailand wants to keep
the status quo. Keep the poor people poor and ignorant, and the rich people rich. Short term
Nobody seems to have the foresight to see Burma and
Vietnam racing ahead as did Malaysia and Singapore years ago.
The reds had a hollow victory in Pheu Thai.  (Not that the democrats have done any better)
The patronage system continues. Nobody listens.
Actually blackboard and exercise books should have been
thrown away a long time ago. Though I 
still want people to be able to write with pen and paper.
One school in the UK has almost done this. At Bolton’s Essa
School, whose kids come from what is described as a ‘disadvantaged intake’
every teacher has an I-Pad.  Every pupil
has an I-pod Touch.

This from the Independent:

“The gadget revolution is all down to Abdul Chohan, a
chemistry teacher at the school’s former failing predecessor. He is now one of
four directors – in old parlance, deputy heads – at Essa.

“Mr Chohan, who had experience with Glaxo pharmaceuticals as
a researcher before turning to teaching, is convinced that his pupils will need
21st-century skills when they set out to find work. He also believes that too
much attention is focused on exams rather than developing life skills.

“He is particularly scathing about the way some schools have
introduced new technology. “Thousands of pounds has been spent in schools
and used really unwisely,” he says.

“Teachers are really good at doing the wrong things
well. For instance, they used to have a blackboard and now they have an
interactive whiteboard – but they still stand in front of the class pointing to
it as if it was their old blackboard.”

 The fact that pupils can be continually in touch with their teachers is a crucial advantage of the new system, Mr Chohan points out. “If there’s something they want to know, why should they have to wait until the school gates open at 9am in the morning?” he says.

RAF 220 Squadron Hudson

But anyway Essa School seems to
have got it right in the end.     


Last year every pupil achieved five A* to C grade passes at
GCSE, compared with 40 per cent previously.

Why cannot something like that happen here? 
 I don’t really know how Annie is getting on at
school. They do not give reports until she is seven at least that’s what my ex-tells me. If Annie has any problems I do not hear them. So maybe she does not.
If she had an Ipod Touch I could even talk to the teachers.
Can somebody in Thailand help?  How do I protest without being labelled a
trouble maker.
All this has been racing through my mind after a panic
attack today when I caught Matthew on the top shelf of my office grabbing for a
model of  Flying Fortress ‘J’ of RAF 220
Squadron which is the plane his granddad flew in the Second World War.
I grabbed Matthew and some pictures came down with the
His granddad was not really a hunter killer as the Scottish Daily Express front paged at the time when he sank U-707 in mid Atlantic flying out of the
He rarely talked about it altough as a kid I wanted to hear about his wartime adventures. He said he dropped life rafts and
provisions, but the records show there were no survivors.

He said he could hear their screams.

But of course he could
not through the four engines of a B -17. But I knew what he meant. I think he
always had nightmares about this.

Dropping bombs on port cities, when Bomber Command was leafleting,  was less personal, although 220 Squadron was wiped out twice in the war’s early stages..

I have so many stories to tell my kids but seemingly so little time to
tell them. I need to get them to learn about irony and that there can be level playing fields and how we used to fight dictators but now befriend them for commercial purposes. But they’re still on phonetics so I’m just teaching Annie how to, or how not to, make cupcakes – But its fun. 
Fortress ‘J’ in the Azores

Essa Academy


11 thoughts on “Is anybody listening? – Can somebody do something?

  1. Andrew, stop panicking!

    You underestimate the power of the home and family which ultimately decides the path sprogs take.

    Formal education is greatly overestimated however, and only serves to ensure students are literate and numerate. Knowledge is largely self acquired and if the student declines to plough his furrow in the groves of academe then so be it.It won't stop him from making choices in the future and if sound values are inculcated through good parenting then he'll be properly equipped to take sound decisions.

    You're not getting any younger and I suppose we all get more risk averse when we age but 60 is the new 50 these days and so returning to Blighty needn't be so traumatic or difficult. Your background makes you the ideal PR consultant and in house communications manager for any corporate entity worth its salt.

    I know several parents who have chosen to place their children in good local Thai schools and they show no sign of incapacity!

    Worry is interest paid on trouble before it happens but certainly making oneself hostage to those rapacious international schools is not compulsory.

    Anyway, judging by how gorgeous those children of yours look I rather think the only thing they may have inherited from you is your intelligence so all is not lost……

  2. Happy New Year! Paying 20,000 dollars a year for a four-year-old is insane. As the multinationals are trimming the fat from expat packages, what on earth will these schools do? Lower tuition? Ha! Hardly. At least we will get a 3% discount on our third child, that is, if we can afford to have a second.

  3. The colleges are often crap. Not naming any names but there are very Shiny ones that have really inferior education for big money.

    There is a real need for a school that has high staff to pupil ratios but doesn't piss about withe expensive buildings and absurd uniforms.

    A 6th form college in an old office block would be a start

  4. I share your concern, Andrew. Gerry is right about parental involvement in a child's education, but in my view underestimates the impact of the poor Thai education system on those they seek to educate. Poorer pupils need to be accommodated better in the current structure; the thinking of keeping people under-educated is patently unfair and unproductive.

    "You underestimate the power of the home and family which ultimately decides the path sprogs take.

    Formal education is greatly overestimated however, and only serves to ensure students are literate and numerate. Knowledge is largely self acquired and if the student declines to plough his furrow in the groves of academe then so be it."

    If schools, in Thailand and elsewhere, only make kids literate and numerate and assume knowledge is self-acquired, then they have misunderstood their role. Education is about teasing out what is inside a kid's brain (Latin, ex ducere, to lead out)and it is the job of both family and teachers to help this happen in my opinion.

    Blair correctly said that three things were important. Education, education, and education. A brilliant soundbite which turned out to be the usual politician's empty promise. Thailand is similarly unsuccessful in not grasping what is really needed. Talk and chalk should give way to 21st century ideas, and the ethos of money buying a kid's education and any corruption associated with it should be ruthlessly destroyed. The UK needs to take politics out of education and it is even more essential to do the same in Thailand. One pupil, one tablet is a soundbite without substance.

    Only my view.

  5. Your kids have an advantage, they can read and write Thai. Many of the Thai kids in international school cannot. Another thing I would suggest is less video games, and more computer learning. For example computer camp in the summer. Relax and enjoy everything, and support the bi-lingual school. It'll be great!

  6. By email from GW

    I'm not that hopeful about the Thai education system, I'm sure it will change for the better but much more slowly than required for my 2 kids at 7 & 9. Ours started at a Thai kindergarten, then went to a bilingual school for a few months, until someone I knew who worked for an international school suggested we try for a "scholarship". They took both kids at 50% discount so a big saving. That was the American School …. my Mum had the nerve to complain they were getting an American accent, while not offering to help with the fees! But it was very good, kids were happy and learnt a lot. I know other schools offer this, KIS is another that does it for sure.
    We now live in Phuket, and there's a great school here called Headstart, brilliant teachers and half the price of other international schools in Phuket (& Bangkok). But my wife has decided that she wants them to grow up in the UK, so off we're going in July … no more school fees … but lots more tax!
    Anyway, you probably know about the "scholarships" but just in case you didn't. For sure, school is only a small part of the equation, and I have a friend whose kids go to a bilingual school and they are the nicest teenagers you could hope to meet.

  7. By email from Sir Lance

    Good morning Andrew,

    I don’t think I can post comment through my companies server so I will comment to you directly.

    You may wish to include parts on your forum?

    I have two kids, I’ve been a single parent for more than 8 years here in Thailand.

    Their Thai mother never gave a toss about education, her attitude :schools take care of that!

    My son 16 and daughter 13 speak excellent fluent English and write exceptionally well too! They are very well conversant in Thai being their ‘native language’.

    I never spoke Thai with them, they had books and VCR’s in English, comedy programs, Telly tubbie’s, Mickey mouse, cartoons, all in English!

    I tried to never let them sit and watch the inane Thai TV by providing an alternative that they liked!

    Their learning was ‘spontaneous’ —-they breezed it! They are now talking in different British accents when they want to be ‘funny’ and joke with each other!

    They ape my brothers kids accents ( North East), uncle Peters Scottish brogue and sometimes they speak ‘Little Britain’ courtesy of Williams and Lucas BBC TV.

    I taught the kids ‘Cockney rhyming slang’ which they enjoyed once they saw the funny side of some very excellent phrases!

    We had memory competitions as to who could remember and we made up stories in the same slang,

    “The struggle and strife went down the frog and toad for a ball of chalk and so on! It was really good but I had to draw the line with ‘Mechanical digger’!

    When back in the UK the locals ask how the kids have attained such a nice accent, totally un tainted by any UK regional dialects.

    The point I wish to make is by ‘just talking to them’ in your native tongue and explaining life by stories you are giving them so much that no ordinary Thai kid will get!

    My kids are streets ahead in English, they have even sometimes corrected the non native English teachers at school! That’s the bonus my two will have in their lives!

    It’s basically an English speaking ‘Job done’ by the time they were both 8 years old! Andrew, don’t panic just wait and see, but never speak or try to speak Thai with them!

    If they ever spoke Thai to me I always answered in English. (That’s If I acknowledged them, just wait a couple of times and they will use English with you!).

    My daughter replied once when asked where her jacket was ‘On the banisters dad’ Well I haven’t heard banisters ever mentioned in my 30 years here!

    Amazing what they learn!

    • The UK is terrible nowadays! I was in Switzerland on business in November and took a quick flight to see my parents!
    I couldn’t wait for the flight back here!

    • Take the cure when the lying and cheating and bad driving, total non discipline and arrogance gets to you! Go back to blighty and you see why!
    You will miss Thailand!

    Best wishes and good luck with your ‘sprogs’ as Westerby so unkindly states!

    Barry Soanes (Sir Lance).

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