Berkeley International School is founded on US standards of education, has invested heavily in music and technology, and welcomes students to join a small, close-knit community.
Founded in 2010, Berkeley International School offers an American-based programme from Pre-K through to Grade 12. This is a small school located on the outskirts of Bangkok with just 450 students, the majority coming from North America and Europe. A teaching team recruited from the US, the UK and Canada delivers a curriculum that is based on popular US frameworks but with a "truly international perspective".
The curriculum follows the American Common Core State Standards for language arts and maths, NGSS Standards for science, and AERO Standards for social studies. It's a rigorous academic programme that uses MAP testing in English and maths to measure students' progress throughout the year.
The kindergarten programme takes a hands-on approach to learning English, maths and social science, and there are specialist classes in art, music, Thai language & culture, PE and swimming. At elementary and middle school level, students take classes in the core subjects, social studies, IT, PE, art, music, Thai language & culture, and a choice of Mandarin or drama.
The high school at Berkeley, which had its first graduating class in 2017, offers college-prep elective courses including business management, Mandarin, Spanish, publication and design, psychology/sociology, and creative arts design. High achieving students can take Advanced Placement classes, and from August 2018 Berkeley will start offering the IBDP programme. To prepare all students for the next steps and university, there's a college counselling programme.
"We have a new high school principal coming in who will focus on implementing the IB diploma and improving our AP courses on offer."
Standout features in the Berkeley curriculum include its IT programme. Step into any kindergarten and elementary class and you'll see students working on iPads, creating films on a green screen and using programmable robots to learn basic programming. From Grade 6, you'll find students working on their own laptops inside and outside the classroom. There's no STEM or STEAM programme here, but instead a focus on "bringing technology resources right into the classroom for projects and study".
The school also encourages a love for music with twice-weekly classes in elementary school and an orchestral string programme in middle school where all students have the choice of learning the violin, viola, cello or double bass.
The school says:
"An education in the arts is an essential element of a high quality education."
Beyond the classroom
The school's extra-curricular programme includes a broad spectrum of activities from Mandarin to soccer to yoga to Thai dance. There's also a packed calendar of sports events, arts performances, educational visits and charitable events that involves all grades within the school.
Berkeley has a very active PE department and fields teams – vey successfully – in various competitive sports. The school's passion for sport is highlighted by its founding of the GBAC sports league in 2014, which includes other international schools including St Andrews Dusit International School and the Australian International School. In 2017, Berkeley also joined the newly founded AISAA league to "facilitate better sporting opportunities for our rapidly expanding sporting activities".
As it's a small school, we would expect students to find it easier to participate in extra-curricular activities, and there should be more opportunities for the children to take on an active role in student clubs and societies.
The head teacher is US-born Lisa Johnson, and teaching staff are primarily from the US, Canada, and the UK. As a small school, the teachers can really take the time to get to know all of the students. With small class sizes of 18 or fewer students, there are strong peer connections and close interaction with teachers here.
Berkeley is owned by the wealthy and "very philanthropic" Thai Junrangkool family, who have invested a great deal in providing large-scale facilities for a small-scale school. The school nearly doubled the size of its campus with new facilities in 2017 as part of a THB 1 billion project – so there is clearly an investment in your child’s education here without increasing the size of the student body.
Berkeley has a small student body of just 300 students, and around 40% of the student body is Thai, the rest being international students from around the world. Class sizes are small by Thai standards – 16 in kindergarten, 18 in elementary school and 15 in high school. There's a very American feel to this school, from the architecture through to the everyday talk of recess and semesters.
The school offers a full snack and lunch programme, serving vegetarian and non-vegetarian international and Thai cuisines, which is served in a modern dining area and charged at THB 21,835-24,050.
As a school that only opened in 2010, Berkeley still feels like one of the new kids on the block on Bangkok – and it's hard not to be impressed by its new, modern and well-maintained campus. The school was extended in 2016-17 with some outstanding sporting and performing arts facilities, including an Olympic-sized swimming pool, soccer field, covered tennis centre and a theatre.
Read more about our tour of the campus here.
Admission and fees
Annual tuition fees ranges from THB 585,698 in Grade 1 up to THB 689,575 in Grade 12, making Berkeley one of the more expensive schools in Thailand – but certainly not the most. If you're looking for small class sizes, a varied international student body, a close-knit community and state of the art facilities, this could certainly be a price worth paying.
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