Stickman's Weekly Column July 13th, 2003

International Schools Under The Microscope



At the end of last week's column about the cost of educating one's kids in Thailand, I concluded that international schools were overpriced and unless you were either seriously wealthy or someone else was footing the bill, that you would be better off sending your kids elsewhere. Today's column looks at international schools a little closer. If you have kids at an international school, you might not want to read this…

As discussed last week, international schools are outrageously expensive. But getting into the schools is not just dependent on having a stash of cash. Students must meet certain academic criteria and should have a certain level of English proficiency ­ of course that is assuming that it is an international school where English is the main language ­ which is most of them.

So you've got the money and little Johnny is being touted as the next Einstein, but what about your nationality? Yep, it may come down to what is written on the first page of your passport. The better international schools want international students,. i.e. prefer farangs over Thais! Its not often that this is the case, is it! Fancy that, being a farang in Bangkok for once is an advantage. Now where this gets interesting is if the child is a luk kreung, half Thai and half farang. If the child only has a Thai passport, then they may well be turned away whereas if they hold the passport of a Western nation, they may well be accepted.

Just how good are the teachers in these schools? Are they the elite of the teaching world, or are they the stereotypical Bangkok teacher*, dressed in rags and hanging around the Mango for what may be considered the wrong reasons.

There are several good international schools in Bangkok and those with the best reputations are ISB ­ The International School of Bangkok, Bangkok Pattana and NIST ­ New International School of Thailand. It would be fair to say that these schools are everything you would expect an international school to be. Teachers are very carefully selected, most often from abroad, and once they are in Bangkok, they are closely monitored ­ as all teachers should be in any school. Students from these schools average MUCH higher in tests than equivalent public schools in the west and in Bangkok these three schools are generally considered the best.

But there are over 50 international schools in Thailand. Are they all this good? Of course there will be differences…but just because a school is an “international school” is itself, no guarantee. There are international schools and there are international schools. Some are the genuine item, schools whose students come from all around the world. Real international schools. And then there are schools which are only really international by name. Such schools are less prestigious and may have a high percentage of Thai students.

Some international schools seem to exist for the purpose of offering high quality education, whereas others seem to exist solely for the purpose of making money. They are businesses. And as I have always said about the education industry, achieving the three objectives of quality education, happy teachers and profitability is a big ask. Invariably what happens is that corners are cut in recruiting and teachers who are not really up to the task are taken on. And in a country like Thailand where teachers receive a ridiculously high amount of respect simply for being a teacher, almost no-one complains. Crazy really.

At a well known international school in Bangkok which uses the British curriculum, a teacher was dismissed over allegations of paedophilia, according to a little sparrow that whispered in my ear. He was then picked up by another school, using the British curriculum, purportedly hired by someone who was fully aware of his past… At another international school is a teacher whose highest academic qualification is a cabinet making license! This very same teacher also narrowly escaped being caught in a horribly embarrassing situation. He was in possession of the school's camera and had been given a few rolls of film and responsibility to take pictures of a school camp. Instead of take pictures of the camp, he shot off three rolls of film with nude pictures of temporary girlfriends! As staggering as it may sound, 40% of the Bangkok international school teachers who I know personally do not have a degree or a teaching qualification. This is not an accurate reflection of all BKK international teachers, but it does go to show that they are not all the professionals that they make themselves out to be. International schools generally pay well and with high paying jobs not so easy to come by in Bangkok, you get all sorts of folks massaging the truth in what may turn out to be a successful attempt to secure high paying employment.

If you are going to send kids to an international school, make sure it is one of the more respected schools otherwise you might find that your expectations are not met. Just because it is a so called international school does not mean it is of international quality.

* Let me clearly say that while this is the stereotype of the average Bangkok teacher, it is not necessarily accurate, nor reflective of the vast majority of teachers in the city today. This stereotype which may have been valid in the past, is much less valid today.

Where is this pic?

Last week's pic

It was Soi Lang Suan.

This week's pic

Last week's pic was was of Soi Lang Suan and surprisingly few people got it right. Now, where is this week's pic? Again, it is NOT in Bangkok. Mmm, not too easy this one… There are two prizes offered for the where is this pic prize each week. The first Bangkok based person to answer the pic correctly wins a 500 baht credit www.calls.in.th, the cheap telephone people. The second person to get it right wins a tube of MyCreme, the cream that will send your teeruk to heaven! I'm sorry that for now, prizes are only available to guys who are Bangkok based. However, for guys outside the Big Mango, still do feel free to email me your guess.

FROM STICKMAN'S BAG OF EMAIL:

The secrets to success?
I have lived in LOS a number of years now and settled down with a Thai girl who for me is everything I could desire – great sense of humour, good looks, charming, honest etc. I believe there are certain conditions necessary for finding such a girl which I would like to suggest to those still on the quest for the perfect match: 1) You need to live in Thailand for at least 3 years to learn how to distinguish between a truly "good" girl and the rest of the pack 2) You need to speak Thai better than she speaks English 3) Beauty is not her principal asset 4) She has had less than two previous lovers 5) She is in employment or studying when you meet her. Speaking Thai is important, because if you don't, you are limiting yourself to only a small and unrepresentative portion of the population. Learning the language also helps you to understand far better how Thai people think and behave. I can already hear murmurs of discontent like "what a crock of shit" and "it's all right for him, we only get to come to Thailand 3 weeks a year on vacation". My answer is simple : if you end up with a manipulative bitch who takes you to the cleaner's, blame only yourself.
Student attitude.
I teach at a prestigious Thai government university, in one of its international programs. This program receives students from Thai high schools (about 75%) and from Bangkok's international schools (20%). I thus have direct experience teaching the ‘outputs’ from these schools. I can say “Amen” to your quick assessment of Thai schools Udom Triam and MataDei (sp?) – almost half of our students come from these two schools. They turn out some outstanding students who are very receptive to learning in a way that encourages critical thinking, participation, and innovation. They often have to be encouraged to do such things, but they tend to be responsive to efforts to do so, and they develop phenomenally during the course of their university career. Many end up going to the best graduate schools in the US, UK, and Australia, and succeeding impressively. At the other end of the spectrum are the graduates of the international schools. If there are problem kids, they are almost invariably males who graduated from the international schools. These students often embody the worst of both worlds: the ‘attitude’ of farangs, together with the mai pen rai of the Thais. They are frequently lazy, they cheat instinctively, and they have an attitude toward learning which is, at best, horrible. Not all are like this, of course. But a disproportionate number can be classified in this category. I would heartily endorse parents who have Thai-speaking children to try to get them into the better Thai schools. Judging from the graduates with whom I am familiar, they will get a far superior education, at a fraction of the cost, and have a better chance of turning out as decent human beings as well. The students I teach were at the very top of their classes in high schools, and there is no doubt that, on average, the Thai high school graduates are far superior to the international high school graduates.
He earned his beer!
I was on my way back to my apartment (5,000 per month job, 1 sleeping security guard, reception shuts at 9 PM etc) at 11 PM when I realise I have lost my keys. Sitting downstairs enjoying a few Changs is Robert (laundry man) and Ping (motorbike taxi). I explain my predicament to them – no problems they say. Two phone calls later they have tracked Lek (office receptionist) to a Karaoke pub about 5 kms away. Apparently he has a master key for all the rooms on him. Ping takes off to get the key and has me in my room about 20 minutes later. He won't accept any money for his services however i do manage to talk him into a few extra beers the next night!
Would you pay $5 for a Big Mac if the usual price was $3.95?
I was glad to see in your 2/2/03 weekly the input from a reader below, "Overpaying Pushes the Prices Up." He's really right, I learned quite some time ago living out in this part of the world. My lady barber always worked so hard for so little, cutting, shampooing thoroughly, and massaging. Hence, I gave her a tip. But the next time I partook of these services, she responded to my inquiry of "How much?" by asking for what I'd paid last time, including the tip! Now that really burned me up, and I fired her for a spell, but I learned something about their mentality. Never would I tip again, for what you are telling them is their cheap price is insufficient and they should charge more. And knowing their mentality, rather than appreciating overpaying, they think you're a fool, and they tell their friends what fools Westerners are.
A university education?
i had a Ramkhaemhaeng student g/f for 10 months last year. She was studying a degree in Political Science. In 10 months she never once had to complete a piece of written work, she went to 'lectures' but never had any notes from the lecture, she had no text books as such, just thin flimsy pamphlets. Some of these had English translations…the content was trivial at best. She would usually start 'revising' for exams the day before, sometimes the night before. She passed about 70 per cent of her exams. No doubt she will soon be a 'Political Science graduate'.
Hi Papa!
Perhaps 30 is the 'magic age'. A good friend of mine who has been coming to Thailand for many years remarked on how strange it was that one time the BG's were shouting "sexy man" and when he returned only a few months later he was "Papa". I meanwhile have been "Papa" for many years and my presence rarely causes a BG to glance away from the bar TV. However when my grandson aged 15, who is currently visiting, walks down the street the screams rend the air and the grabbers run out en masse. So don't worry old boy, it comes to us all, but you can still have fun. I know I do.

Following in the steps of Stephen Leather who kindly gave us the superb Bangkok nightlife novel, "Private Dancer", Christopher Moore is offering one of his books available online as a free download at http://www.cgmoore.com/ebook.html The first in the Vincent Calvino series, it is worth checking out.

Marc, the friendly Frenchman who does a great job trying to make the Eden Club in Sukumvit Soi 7 one of the most fun places in Fun City is currently under attack from someone who is doing their best to make his hair go grey. The Eden Club's website, www.edenclub-bkk.com has been hacked a few times over the last two weeks, with someone incessant on taking it down. What is interesting is that it all stems from a change in Marc's policy over whether or not customers could photograph the girls. In the past, customers were free to ask the girls if they could take snap away. If the girls said yes, some guys went crazy, firing off shot after shot after shot, filling up the memory card on their digicams. Being fully aware of the dangers that digital cameras pose in terms of posting pictures online, Marc, in an effort to protect the dignity of his staff, introduced a policy whereby any customer who wanted to photograph the girls had to pay a fee. It seems that someone got most upset at this change in policy and has been hell-bent on running the Eden Club's name through the mud by way of making bogus posts on various Bangkok online discussion forums, hacking the website, and generally making a right ass of themselves. My guess is that whoever this is may well have had something commercial going. My guess is that it may have been someone whose modus operandi was to frequent the Eden Club and photograph the girls ­ all with a view to peddling the naughty pics online, or perhaps adding these girls’ pics to an existing site. This might then help to explain why Eden's website has been hacked i.e. the person in question had the necessary skills to create a website (actually, a ridiculously easy thing to do) might also have some idea about how to hack a site too.

Lumpini Police have issued papers to Nana bars, the net effect of which all the Nana Plaza bars will be closed on July 13th and 14th. This Saturday night is the last night of Hollywood Rock Bar and the end of an era. The Clown Group are then taking over and no doubt building work will commence very soon, most likely next week.

And talking of building work, once again Nana is looking like a building site, with Vixens having been gutted and the second floor window completely knocked out. The back of Casablanca Bar is being gutted for the building of a new two storey bar mentioned in previous columns and Carnival is currently having a large part of its interior ripped out. Playskool was ordered closed by the boys in brown and the management have taken the opportunity to get renovations done. With what is still known as Hollywood Rock (now doubt its name will be changed) to shortly join the list of Nana bars having the builders in, that will make five bars in Nana currently being worked on.

On the same subject, there is little doubt that the ever decreasing size of digital cameras is going to become a large problem for both the naughty bars and the girls themselves, particularly when they return to a customers hotel. These mobile phones with built in cameras are all the rage in Thailand at the moment though for now, the images taken with them are a little rough. However, they'll improve and it won't be that long before you'll see phones taking sharp, one megapixel shots.

Sogo Tower was once upon a time the flashest shopping centre in Bangkok, and for that matter, in Thailand. But I bet that was before the days of foreign tourists because when nature calls, one is faced with squatting. Yep, while there may be many expensive tailor's stores, a Starbucks and the upmarket Snax amongst others, you have to master the art of squatting to empty out your bowels in Sogo.

A reader kindly sent in a photo with this pic taken on Asoke. It seems as though someone stuffed up because the translation isn't quite right… The correct translation should be "temporary parking" – so where the hell did they get "kiss and ride" from?!

In an unsuccessful effort to make out that it is some sort of innocent chatroom for fans of Thailand, the powers that be at Bangkokchat have introduced new rules for the nicknames that the chatroom participants can use. Citing the Thai government's decision to block certain websites, it seems that the naughty names of old such as FarangWantsFuck and LickMyPussyTonight (a colleague of mine contacted her and he did) are no longer allowed. It seems that the team at Bangkokchat know that they need to clean their act up but just how can they do it? I wonder how they implement this? Do they have a list of words that are not acceptable, or do they have a moderator online 24 hours a day whose job it is to kill inappropriate names? What is amusing is that they seem to simply ban an IP number of anyone who does something to piss them off! Given that most local ISP use dynamic IP addresses (every time you log on, you have a different IP address) means that you might be someone who has always been on their best behaviour, but if you connect through a banned IP address, you cannot access Bangkokchat. Hmmm, it would seem that it is a system that needs to be looked at more carefully. Bangkokchat has rapidly become the number one place for Westerners resident in Thailand to non-prostitute find sexual partners. If you thought that young Thai women remain virgins until marriage, a short amount of time in this chatroom will show you otherwise.

Mrs. Stick's Corner

Each week, Mrs. Stick will answer questions about Thai / farang relationships and general issues that baffle the average Westerner in Thailand. Mrs. Stick is an open-minded Thai lady who is happy to answer your questions. Please send questions for her, via me, at the usual email address. Two or three questions will be chosen each week and answered in the following week's column. The responses are hers and NOT mine although I may attempt to correct her English from time to time. Note 1: I may not necessarily agree with what she says! Note 2: Unfortunately, she doesn't have time to reply to your inquiries via email.

Question 1: The line that actually constitutes prostitution in Thailand seems somewhat blurred, what I would like to know from you is where to do you actually draw it? Who in your eyes is definitely a prostitute, and how do you define one?

Mrs. Stick says:

A prostitute obviously does it for money, not personal satisfaction. Once that you sleep with a girl and you have to pay for it directly, she is a prostitute. But some prostitutes who you sleep with may develop feelings for you and may be happy to do it for free. She might do this for her personal satisfaction. But if we consider the modern Thai girl who wants to have fun, a sexual experience, this is different. If they don't do it for money directly, I don't think you can call them a prostitute. In my opinion, once a girl sleeps with a man and expects tangible things in return, though not necessarily money, but things which must be procured with money, then yes, she is a prostitute too.

Question 2: My previous girlfriend stated that in Thailand girls are taught that their virtue must be exchanged, exchanged for something. So when a girl consents, something in some form or fashion must be exchanged, and under no circumstances must be given away free. In this culture of inequality that is how the fairer sex balances the books here, do you agree?

Mrs. Stick says:

Women who have their first sexual experience before marriage can be divided into three groups. The first group might be termed "typical Thai women" who feel that they would like to show their love to a guy who they feel they truly love. The second group could be considered those who want the freedom to live their life as they please. The third group may be those who are confused. Women in this group who lose their virginity beore marriage may be making a mistake but can look back at this as a lesson, a way to learn. If they keep repeating the mistake, they are in fact likely in group two. With the way the world is changing so fast, there are many temptations out there for Thai women, including curious farang guys like you! Some may be harmful, some may not. In terms of the last group, it seems hard for modern, young Thai women to follow the same path that previous generations did…

Just because it has been more than 30 minutes and I haven't replied to your email doesn't mean that I am not going to reply. And just because the column is half an hour late does not mean that I am an asshole. This week it is almost 36 hours early, so I guess that means that I am the opposite of an asshole (any cunning linguists want to tell me what the opposite of a-hole is?) If you're going to abuse someone by email, expect to get a similar level of abuse back. Anyway, I have been so busy at work recently that recent columns have been rushed. When I get my shit together, hopefully the column will improve.

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

Special thanks go out to Dave The Rave