After his victory in the Asian Faldo Golf Series in Vietnam, a student from the British International School, Phuket (BISP) was invited by Sir Nick Faldo to play in a team competition in the USA. No one at his school batted an eyelid at the news.
It seems that BISP is used to such exceptional success. In the same month, another pupil won the China Boys HSBC Open Golf Tournament in Guangzhou by 11 clear strokes, and a single swimmer won 10 Gold medals in the Penang State Championships. More recently, three students took part in the Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires, one of whom won a gold medal.
The school’s sport academy structure provides the model for countless other international schools in the region. The sincerest form of flattery is imitation, but very few schools can provide facilities or match the quality of professional coaching needed to launch successful sporting careers directly from school.
BISP boasts some of the most impressive sporting performances of any school worldwide, but this isn’t solely what the school is all about. This is far from the truth, and Headmaster Neil Richards argues that sporting success is merely the most outwardly visible manifestation of the school’s approach to education.
In addition to impressive sport academies, there are also academies for STEM, Business, Digital Media, Design Technology and the Arts. The purpose is to harness the passion that’s so important in providing opportunities to develop learning and experiences beyond the realm of external examinations. At BISP, impressive examination success is viewed as a consequence of a good education, not as its purpose.
The curriculum is geared towards producing well-rounded individuals and every Middle School student here learns to play a band or orchestral instrument and to read music, also undertaking annual external Voice Examinations of the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts (LAMDA).
Bands and choirs are established throughout the school (including a parent choir), and it boasts an impressive calendar of artistic events including Secondary and Primary productions, choir and instrumental concerts and art exhibitions. The school concert band has played, by invitation, at Disneyworld in Hong Kong and also on the deck of Rainbow Warrior. In recent years, two BISP students have won Top in the World awards in Art and Design in the Cambridge Outstanding Learners awards programme.
In 2018, a team from the school won the MIT Launch X Challenge for the Asia/Pacific region and competed in the global finals in Boston, while another student represented Thailand in a British Council sponsored Public Speaking competition in London, the second year in a row that a student from the school has represented Thailand there.
Surprisingly, BISP is not a big school; there are fewer than 470 secondary age students out of a total school population of 840 and just for good measure, it has an outstanding academic record in IGCSE and International Baccalaureate examinations, with university matriculation averaging 95 percent over the last five years.
In 2017, its senior class of 61 students entered universities across 13 countries, with the highest percentage going to the UK and Australia, with US universities also well represented.
The beating heart of the school is a philosophy called the Triple Helix, recognising that a complete education requires not only an emphasis on learning, but also the development of both mental and physical well-being, and finally, of equal importance, the recognition that passion is a critical motivating force for young people. This provides a unique perspective and guides the school towards its goal of a holistic and caring education for all students.
As the Headmaster explains, “It certainly helps to have a beautiful 44-acre campus and some outstanding boarding and sporting facilities, but there is a vibrant pulse to this school that is very difficult to explain. With an extremely low staff turnover, among the lowest of any international school in Asia, it is easy to develop and strengthen shared values across our community. It is a very happy place.”
But even he would have to agree that it’s hard to get away from the school’s shining sporting statistics.
In all, 42 students have been selected to represent their countries in major international competitions over the past four years in such sports as football, tennis, golf, triathlon, swimming, martial arts, ice-skating, wakeboarding and Alpine skiing!
In football alone, 12 students have signed professional contracts directly from school with clubs such as Benfica, Sporting Lisbon, Desportiva and Anadia FC in Portugal, Angelholms in Sweden, Johor in Malaysia and Cueta FC in Spain, while 7 others have obtained soccer scholarships for American universities.
Universities are certainly attracted to the school. In the last academic year alone, over 151 universities from 17 countries sent representatives to the BISP campus, with both Russell Group and Ivy League institutions choosing to attend. As the Headmaster has been quoted saying, “I don’t believe this is all solely to do with its tropical location, but I have no doubt that it helps.”
It’s this happy mix of realism and idealism that grounds the school’s unique philosophy. For the young people in its care, it also seems to make all manner of good things possible.