Published by Norway-Asia Business Review

When you’re thinking about relocating to Asia with children. One of the many questions coming up will be ‘Is there good quality education available?’.

Luckily, you’re not the only one asking that question. Over the last years, international schools have seen a steep growth across the region according to data by ISC Research published by Relocate Magazine. The report illustrates 32 percent growth of international schools in East Asia and 39 percent growth in Southeast Asia over the last four years.

Co-founder of International and Private Schools Education Forum, Ms Rhona Greenhill, states to Relocate Magazine that the number of international schools in East Asia has grown from 828 in 2013 to 1125 in 2017. Southeast Asia went from 725 to 1008 schools. “We see a lot of growth potential in this part of the world for private and international schools, mainly as a result of the continued growth of the economies in East and Southeast Asia,” says Ms Greenhill.

According to Relocate Magazine, “China, with 567 international schools, still dominates the list of countries in the greater East Asia region. It has more than twice as many international schools as Japan, which came second with 257. Indonesia is in third position with 190 international schools, followed by Thailand with 181, and Hong Kong with 177. Malaysia is close behind with 170. Next is Cambodia with 114, followed by Vietnam with 111, and Singapore with 110.”

During the last 10 to 15 years, the number of international schools in Singapore has increased to the point where the competition among schools is fierce and each school tries to stand out.

One of those schools is Stamford American International School in Singapore (Stamford). Stamford has two campuses: the Early Learning Village for students as young from 18 months to 6 years, and Stamford’s Main Campus for the Elementary and Secondary students from 7 till 18 years old.

Stamford American International School (SAIS) states on their website that they are the only school in Singapore to offer the full International Baccalaureate (IB) Programme integrated with US Standards, combined with the College Board’s Advanced Placement (AP) courses. “Stamford American aims for their students to achieve more than they believe they can… academically, socially and as ecologically literate citizens in a culturally diverse world. The students not only have the opportunity to choose a sought after education pathway to help realise their academic ambitions, they are also provided with life skills reflective of the IB Learner Profile as adaptive, thoughtful and principled young adults, with a fostered inclination to design, innovate, problem solve and communicate.”

Stamford was founded nine years ago and has students from over 65 nationalities. Mr Mark Williams, Upper Elementary Deputy Deputy Principal at Stamford states,

“We want to create the problem solvers of tomorrow and inspire our students to be innovative in their thinking. Education technology coaches integrate design thinking into the curriculum and across the campus because we need to prepare our students for an advanced digital world that is yet to be created.”

Over the years, several well-known people have visited the school, e.g. Nobel Prize winners and sports champions have been invited to speak as part of Stamford’s Global Mentor Program. Visitors to the school include Dr. John Francis, environmentalist “Planetwalker” and United Nations Ambassador, Jane Seymour, award winning actress, Andy Stumpf, Former Navy Seal and World Record Holder, and General (Ret.) David Petraeus, former U.S. military commander and CIA Director, to mention a few.

The school prides itself with SGD 300 million invested in its campus, “featuring state-of-the-art technology and facilities that established it as the new benchmark for international schools in Singapore and around the world”. Stamford is welcoming potential students and parents to take a look themselves during the open house days from 3 to 6 November. In addition they are happy to take on personal tours at any time.

From Singapore to Thailand, with NIST International School (NIST) in Bangkok. Mr Brett Penny, Head of the School explains the origin of the school. “NIST was founded 25 years ago by parents working at the United Nations looking to educate their children. The school was set up as a non-profit school so all the fees are reinvested into the school. The UN background has also let to a very active outreach program. We want to give back to the community.”

According to Mr Jared Kuruzovich, Director of Communications at NIST, the growth rate of international schools has been staggering. “In 1992 the laws were changed, allowing Thai students to study at international schools. Since then, the number of international schools has risen from six to nearly 180 across the country.”

Thai nationals make up about 26 percent of NIST’s students, who range from three to 18 years of age. “NIST caters to almost 1,600 students from 58 nationalities. 90 are children from UN employees and 100 kids have parents at the US embassy,” Mr Penny continues.

Thailand has three different kind of schools besides the public school system, Mr Kuruzovich explains. “There are private schools taught completely in Thai. Then there are private bilingual schools that offer part of their program in Thai and the other part in English. The last option is international schools, which usually have a British, American or international curriculum.”

How should you pick the right school for your kids out of all these available options? Mr Penny explains what sets NIST apart. “International schools are usually best if the children are planning to study overseas while students from English language schools usually continue their education in Thailand. From the international schools in Bangkok, NIST is one of the few non-profit schools. Another distinction is our international reputation.”

The non-profit aspects shines through in the activities organised by the school and students themselves. On 30 September, Danish actor Mr Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, known for his role as Jamie Lannister on the TV series Game of Thrones, paid a visit to the school. NIST is home to Chelsea FC Soccer School and Mr Coster-Waldau was an honorary referee for the Global Goals World Cup, a soccer tournament for women. The winner is the team with the best soccer performance and the best action benefitting one of the 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development by the UN.

An initiative organised by the students is FairNIST Coffee Co. FairNIST is a project increasing the quality of coffee beans and subsequently the income of farmers in Maeramit, Omgoi in northern Thailand. The coffee is sold at the NIST cafés at the school, one of the places where parents are welcome to hang out during the day. A gym, yoga classes and other opportunities are also open to parents.

“As you can tell by all these activities, values are very important to NIST and our students. We select students and parent that align with our values of integrity, caring, community and growth. We don’t just accept all applicants into our school,” Mr Kuruzovich states. In December parents and their children can visit NIST during their open house. The dates will be announced on the website.

To conclude, there are many different factors taken into account when picking the right school for your child including the curriculum, approach, values and location. The number of international schools in Asia is increasing and each school has its own approach. Out of all of these there should be one fitting your needs perfectly.

  • East Asia has seen a 32 percent growth of international schools and Southeast Asia 39 percent over the last four years;
  • The number of international schools in Thailand went from 6 to 170 between 1992 and today;
  • Singapore has today 110 international schools;
  • Open house at Stamford is from 3-6 November and their website is here;
  • Open house at NIST will be in December. The specific dates will be announced on their website;
  • Information about the Global Goals World Cup can be found here.


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