The Covid-19 pandemic has cast a slew of uncertainties over education in Thailand. Here’s how King’s College International School Bangkok responds.
When Covid-19 hit Thailand, we found ourselves flung into a drastic change of affairs — cue city-wide closures, curfew restrictions, and the need for a “new normal” way of life. As the nation grappled with flattening the curve and offering help where help was needed, a particular industry has been steadily bearing the brunt of the pandemic’s effects, while trying to stay afloat — our schools, and the educators behind them.
With schools and institutions forced to close under the country’s social distancing mandates, Covid-19 has brought about an uncertain future for education in Thailand. Educators must now use technologies to replicate the programs of a school, without an actual place where students and teachers can gather. The challenges have led to a host of pressing questions. What is to become of students for the ongoing academic year? Is remote learning actually possible for everyone? And, perhaps most importantly: What role do educators, institutions, and parents play? We spoke to Thomas Banyard, Founding Head of King’s College International School Bangkok about the school’s response to Covid-19, and how they’re stepping up their game to keep education going strong.
How has King’s College International School Bangkok been responding to the pandemic?
This has been a very difficult time for everyone and we have done our best to support our community, and meet the needs of our parents and students. For example, we have opened up online admissions for families who do not yet feel safe to come into the Admissions Office.
Have you also been carrying out any CSR initiatives to help the community?
Under the leadership of Ajarn Sakorn Suksriwong, the chairman of our executive committee, we launched the “WeCare & WeShare” campaign. This has involved providing ventilators to local hospitals and promoting social distancing, and we will continue to help our community in any way we can.
Now that schools may be reopening soon, how are you preparing?
Our whole team has been working incredibly hard to ensure that we are ready to welcome our first families for tours next month. This is well ahead of schedule and we were fortunate that the delaying of Songkran enabled us to finish the buildings much quicker than we had ever hoped.
We have been working incredibly closely with King’s College School, Wimbledon to adapt their curriculum to our school, and to build an outstanding co-curricular programme and pastoral care system which ensures that children’s wellbeing is at the heart of everything we do. We have finished our recruitment of teachers and feel so lucky to have outstanding ones who will make a huge difference to our students. We are so excited to be able to welcome families to our site and see all our hard work paying off!
Are there any specific measures being taken to ensure the safety of students, especially younger years?
We do not want to make decisions on the exact measures to take as the situation is changing very quickly at present, but so far we’re amazed by how thoughtful and considerate the Thailand community has been in ensuring that the virus is kept under control. The hard work that has been done will ensure that our children are kept safe. However, we must not be complacent and do all we can to protect the King’s Bangkok community.
We are incredibly confident that we will be allowed to open at the end of August and have been working hard to ensure that our students and staff are safe when we do. The highest standards of cleaning will be implemented, all our overseas staff will be tested for COVID-19 and quarantined according to government advice, and we will also look at the best way to undergo temperature checks on site. On top of this, there will be two nurses working at the school to help us deal with anyone who shows symptoms of COVID-19. When the time comes to open, we will look at what is best for the children and strike a balance between their health and their education.
What are your thoughts on e-learning?
I think that teachers from around the world have done their best for their children in incredibly difficult circumstances. However, as a father of two young children, I realise how difficult it is to do e-learning for the youngest and how much of a burden this has placed on parents. I think we have all learned a great deal from what has worked well in this time and we feel very fortunate to have the support of our partnership schools in Wimbledon, Hangzhou and Wuxi to help us shape our approach if we have to use e-learning in the future.
Does King’s College International School Bangkok have any specific approaches to online classes?
We are incredibly confident that we will not need to use online classes during this pandemic but we need to be prepared for the future. If we have to use online classes, we will place people at the centre of this, as with everything we do. With the children, we will focus on both their academic progress and their wellbeing, helping them to manage their time and working environment and to deal with the emotional side of working away from school. We would also work with parents to give them support to help manage their children and to look after themselves in a potentially stressful situation.
What are some things educators and parents should be mindful of to ensure that students continue to receive proper education from their classes during times like these?
We should all realise that, while children may appear happy, they may be very anxious under the surface and scared about the future. We should do all we can to support our young people by asking them how they are, encouraging them to speak with family and to socialise remotely to keep in touch with friends. As parents, we need to devote time to asking them about their work and doing family activities with them in the evenings to build a sense of community which can be missing from the daytime routine. If we focus on maintaining a strong base of emotional wellbeing, then our children will thrive when they go back to school.
How do you think the COVID-19 pandemic will influence education in the future?
This is a very good question and I am sure it will be the subject of many articles in the next few months. From a teacher’s point of view, it has forced us to use new technology and to integrate ICT solutions into our teaching. This is like adding extra tools into the toolbox of a professional. We feel that the essence of good education lies in developing social skills which come from teamwork and face-to-face conversation, so we will not see students spending their school lives on devices. However, I hope we see technology being used more effectively in the classroom such as for collaborative documents and slideshows to allow students to work together on some pieces of work. I also think we will appreciate much of what we have after this time and I hope our children realise how lucky they are to have friends and teachers who care about them so much at school.
To find out more about King’s College International School Bangkok, visit kingsbangkok.com.