Amnuay Silpa School in Bangkok is more than a school; it is a “thinking community”, says its CEO, Petchuda Kesprayura. With rote-learning and teaching-to-test on the increase around the world, a school that focuses on enabling its students to think around subjects – to be analytical and expansive in their approach – is not only refreshing but also vital in order to encourage the innovators, inventors and entrepreneurs of the future.
From the moment Kesprayura took up the reins, Amnuay Silpa has embraced innovation. In 1995, the trust that runs the co-educational private school was looking to modernise. “At the time, the education system was so traditional in Thailand,” says Kesprayura. “I knew exactly what the school – and Thailand – needed, so I agreed to take the project on.”
The thinking school model, which was developed in the UK in the 2000s with the aim of raising student attainment, motivation, concentration and independent learning, now spans the entire school – from nursery to the end of secondary. “It’s an approach to teaching and learning for the whole school,” says Kesprayura. “All of our teachers share the same goals: we expect them to be open to questions, giving students enough time and techniques to think. We celebrate ideas.”
Representing a third generation of educators in her family – Kesprayura’s grandfather, Chitra Dansuputra, founded the school in 1926 – and growing up in an increasingly globalised world, she was determined to offer pupils an international outlook. Learning English to a high level would be key, and research showing that bilingual children do better in memory and intelligence tests than their monolingual peers bolstered Kesprayura’s resolve. A study at the University of Strathclyde, for instance, found that bilingual children have improved mathematical and problem-solving abilities and are better able to think creatively. For a school that aims to inspire innovation, that was crucial.
A pioneering dual-language education approach was adopted at Amnuay Silpa, and it is now Thailand’s leading bilingual school. Each classroom has two teachers – one speaking Thai, the other English – teaching two different curricula. “We ended up having children in very small groups,” she says. “We give students the opportunity to become global citizens. They are Thai and learn the traditions of their country, but they are also international, and that is unique.”
Not content with advancing the prospects of their pupils alone, the school’s educators have been training staff across Thailand since becoming Asia’s first accredited thinking school in 2015. “There is a need to reform the way schools in Thailand teach, and we have the knowledge and expertise to help them achieve this,” says Kesprayura, who was awarded the Outstanding ASEAN Women Entrepreneurs Award 2016 for her efforts.
With six Prime Ministers among its alumni, Amnuay Silpa has enjoyed great success since its inception. A trailblazer of both the child-centred thinking school approach and the bilingual dual-curriculum model in Asia, the school has revolutionised its facilities, teaching methodology and approach to education in the first 20 years of its modernisation programme. And with a new 10-year plan focusing on innovation just beginning, its future looks just as exciting.