The saga of decline at a once-renowned international school in Bangkok should serve as a warning for all education institutes.
Two decades ago the highly ranked school taught about 1,000 students, a mix of mainly Indians and Thais. Today the intake is down to a mere 100 students. There are many reasons for the decline at what we could dub the Thai Sick School, but they share one thing in common: mismanagement. If there were a world record for the turnover of teachers because of work pressure, this school would be in the Guinness Book.
The school’s adviser claims to be a great educationalist, but does nothing except blame the teachers. Frequent meetings which last deep into the night are mostly taken up by this adviser’s preaching, as the rest of the staff listen in silence. Teachers are now considered of lower status than students, parents and other school staff. Their holiday entitlement has been cut by one month, and reporting back just one day late results in a salary cut.
The result of the high turnover and low status of teachers is chaos in the classroom, where discipline is in a mess. The teachers feel helpless, and management turns a blind eye to the situation. The headmaster appears to be a puppet of the higher administrators and thus powerless to halt the decline.
Among the higher-ups is a businessman who has done much to aid the decline by arrogantly treating teachers like bonded labourers. The staff welfare fund appears to have been looted, since teachers are no longer refunded their contributions when their term of service comes to an end. The school was even collecting a Bt120 fee for use of a phone at the teachers’ accommodation – despite there being no phone at the condominium in question. Meanwhile those responsible for accreditation of the school’s Cambridge IGCSE curriculum have turned a blind eye to these various matters, apparently happy to sign off on the paperwork.
These days we hear plenty about the world’s top schools in places like Finland. Receiving much less publicity are international schools at the other end of the spectrum, which are failing through mismanagement. I hope this letter goes at least some way to raising public awareness of one such sorry saga right here in Bangkok.