International schools are coveted for many reasons. Apart from offering an academically challenging curriculum with a strong emphasis on college and university preparation, they are also known to be extremely resilient, ensuring students benefit from an uninterrupted educational and social experience — even in light of an unprecedented pandemic.
While some schools are welcoming students back for on-campus learning, others are still keeping them engaged virtually. Regardless of the ways curriculums are being delivered, many schools in Asia are ensuring its students that it’s full steam ahead for their academic progress. Many have continued to identify areas for improvement and tweaked their offerings accordingly.
Some schools have come to realise the benefits of hybrid teaching methods. Others have found new ways to keep students feeling cared for, entertained and engaged. Most are leveraging technologies that will help them to protect the health and safety of their students, pandemic or not.
One realisation schools in Asia have in common? The importance of banding together in times of uncertainty. Here are three international schools in Asia that prove it:
Tanglin Trust School
Optimism is in the air at Tanglin Trust School. In times of uncertainty, the smiles of its learners — between the ages of three and 18 — could provide anyone with a glimmer of hope. And they have their school to thank.
Tanglin, located in Singapore, is a school that UK inspectors repeatedly describe as outstanding. It offers a British-based curriculum, with an international perspective. They are the only international school in Singapore to offer both IB and A Level at Sixth Form, ensuring that students can follow the pathway that best suits them. Their students have achieved exceptional exam results that exceed global averages, in addition to matriculating their students to top universities worldwide. In 2021, 97% of its graduates were admitted into the first or second university of their choice.
At various times during the pandemic, the school swiftly adapted to online platforms and applications in light of last-minute movement restrictions, while online classes and counselling sessions became a norm. In addition, study resources have never been more accessible to students.
“This flux has left us a greater capacity to embrace change gracefully and the lasting ability to be robust and adaptable in the face of uncertainty,” explains Claire Holmes, Senior Counsellor at Tanglin. “This experience continues to help us support others to smoothly flow with the unknown.”
As a result, students have remained engaged. Stroll through campus and you’ll hear passionate discussions about how the pandemic has strengthened their relationships, both at home and within the Tanglin community. Others enthuse over their newfound passions and hobbies. The rest gush about how good it feels to be back at the school they know and love.
The mental and physical wellbeing of students are key priorities, with Tanglin’s signature pastoral care system helping ensure every student feels like their best self. “The pastoral care team is often the driver of initiative, tracking and monitoring student wellbeing,” explains Richard Sellers, Director of Pastoral Care at Tanglin. The school has also adopted PERMA, a well-being model used internationally to promote positive emotions, engagement, positive relationships, meaning, and a sense of accomplishment.
The pandemic has also highlighted the need to teach students about resilience in practise. Outside the classroom, students enjoy the physical, social, and emotional benefits of sport. The school’s new strategic direction partially focuses on improved Movement Freestyle, a parkour-style activity with roots from the military. This has been integrated into a fun-filled curriculum where students get to maintain athleticism, manoeuvre through obstacles and develop problem-solving skills. Through Movement Freestyle, students step out of their comfort zones and explore a range of skills — from running, vaulting, and rotating — as they learn to adapt and adjust, all essential life skills. To begin your child’s undisrupted journey to academic excellence, learn more about Tanglin Trust School here.
International School Ho Chi Minh City
At International School Ho Chi Minh City (ISHCMC), the community comes first. The investments it has made over the past couple of years to safeguard its students and faculty — as well as to adapt to COVID-19 — is exemplary in their depth and breadth. This stems from ISHCMC’s deep-rooted culture of care to balance academic outcomes with the social and emotional needs of the community.
With the support of an experienced Student Support Service team, a number of Wellbeing Guides were developed to keep parents and students engaged and empowered through challenging times. Emotional support was available to caregivers and learners virtually as needed.
This holistic response was well-received by both ISHCMC’s students and parents alike. They are grateful to have compassionate leaders at the school who have put measures in place to keep the community spirit alive. This is particularly true for Grade 12 students who are about to embark on university life and beyond.
Mindfulness is also a big thing at ISHCMC. The school has hosted lessons for students, teachers and parents through its longstanding programme that embeds tranquil daily practices for 10 minutes a day. Activities range from weekly mini-meditation workshops to eight-week introductory programmes for parents new to the fundamentals of mindfulness. The result? Positive, balanced individuals who are free of stress, depression, and anxiety.
ISHCMC Secondary School Principal Will Hurtardo said, “We are defined as humans not by the situations put in front of us but by the way we face them, respond to them and overcome them. More than ever, you have faced adversity with courage and resilience in a way we find truly humbling. The future is full of optimism and hope because you are the people shaping it.”
Thanks to assistance from ISHCMC counsellor Amy Thompson, every student benefit from personalised help in selecting colleges and universities that best meet their personal, social, academic and financial requirements.
The Advisory Programme lends a helping hand too by providing students with valuable information about career choices, resume-building, summer opportunities, and general wellbeing.
At ISHCMC, the college application process officially begins in 11th grade. Despite the pandemic upending life as we know it, the Class of 2021 still managed to secure stellar results. Their graduates can be found in top universities worldwide, including Brown University, IE University, Penn State University, the University of California, Northeastern University, McGill University, University of Oxford, and Boston University, to name a few.
Bangkok Patana School
It didn’t take long for Bangkok Patana School to spring into action to keep its campus community safe when the pandemic struck. From mandating temperature scans to providing face masks, the school knew it had to prioritise its students’ and faculty’s safety first.
They turned an event that upended the world into an opportunity to bring the best of both worlds — e-learning and face-to-face teaching — together. The school identified the relationship between student characteristics, teaching styles and outcomes — finding its strengths and fixing its weaknesses. It’s a reflection of its commitment to nurturing lifelong learners — “patana,” after all, means development in Thai.
“Despite the school being physically closed, the learning still goes on in the form of our Continuing Student Learning (CSL). What it looks like, is very different to that of a typical classroom model environment, as it has been flipped and turned on its head,” says Mark Verde, Primary Assistant Principal for Learning and Curriculum.
Various efforts are in place to ensure the safety of its community. This includes leveraging its CSL home and online learning platform to ensure every student enjoys an undisrupted education. Campus access is currently only being granted to Year 11 and Year 13 students who need to undergo examination. Once the school is allowed to fully open again, Bangkok Patana will continue to prioritise the safety of its pupils by abiding by the Thai government’s safety guidelines.
“We are confident with all of the extra health and safety procedures/resources we have put in place at our school to protect your child at all times. We are also confident that we have a high-quality online learning programme that we can revert back to at any time that it is required,” says Matt Mills, Head of School.
Bangkok Patana maintains its commitment to academic excellence. The school has remained at the forefront of education in Thailand as the country’s original British international school for students from two to 18 years old. Close to nine in 10 of the faculty members at the school come from the UK or British international schools.
It follows a modified English National Curriculum up to Year 11 and the International Baccalaureate in Years 12 and 13. These are paired with comprehensive arts and athletics programmes. The result of this broad-based and rigorous combination of study, play and exploration develops reflective and inquisitive students with a love for learning.
*Some of the institutions featured in this article are commercial partners of Study International