'In Thailand, I genuinely enjoy teaching again'

In Pattaya, this assistant head teaches children from 52 countries – and is constantly impressed by how hard they work

Mike Harrowell

What's it like to teach in Thailand?

An average school day for me in Pattaya, Thailand, is not too dissimilar to teaching in Britain. The school I teach at, Regents International School, is really busy and we are very thorough in our approach to academic rigour. However, we are also involved with the Round Square philosophies of Kurt Hahn to ensure that our children are developed as a whole.

We run eight 40-minute periods during the day with the vast majority of lessons being taught in double sessions. The thing that I absolutely love about our school is the attitude of the students. They are hard-working, ambitious and display a genuine desire to work with their teachers. They often ask if they can come and see me during lunch breaks and after school to go over extra work they have been doing, and show a desire to be successful in everything they do. During the school’s 24-year history, it has created a culture where students and teachers work together and it’s a pleasure to be part of it. This is the one thing that staff always say they miss once they’ve left.

Supportive school staff

Our school runs a huge extracurricular programme and every teacher in the school must offer at least one club a week. In total we have nearly 200 clubs and it’s great to see the variety of activities offered – there’s everything from sports to skateboarding to sewing. Four times a year we compete in overseas sports tournaments as part of FOBISIA (Federation of British International Schools in Asia). Students compete in swimming, athletics, football and basketball, and competition is brilliant. It’s definitely the highlight of our sporting year and is enjoyed as much by the staff as it is by the 30 students who travel to each tournament.

Pattaya Thailand

One of the key challenges in our school is ensuring that our educational philosophy is embedded in everything we do. With students coming from 52 different countries, all with a different set of values and educational beliefs, it’s important that we teach (and model) a set of international values that create well-rounded individuals who are prepared for a constantly changing world.

Teaching in Thailand is an amazing experience and myself and my wife (who works in the PE department) have reclaimed our work-life balance. But there are downsides – we miss having the support network of our friends and family. Thankfully, we’ve found that the staff at Regents International School have been like an extended family, with everyone understanding the strains that living so far away from home can bring. We really have been blown away by the supportive community formed at the school.

Teaching overseas is an adventure and it allows us to genuinely enjoy our profession once again, but it can be an isolating experience. My advice to anyone thinking of doing it would be to do your research and ask the school lots of questions. They are integral to you enjoying the job and your new life in a foreign culture.

Mike Harrowell is the assistant headteacher of secondary at Regents International School in Pattaya, Thailand

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Mike Harrowell

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