There are plenty of opportunities to excel in sport, business and the creative arts – as well as academic studies – at this day and boarding all-through school on the beautiful island of Phuket.
British International School Phuket (BISP) is as focused on developing young athletes, entrepreneurs, and artists as it is academics. First and foremost, you can expect a solid British-style education here. This 20-year-old all-through school offers the National Curriculum for England with an international slant, and it has consistently achieved high results in IGCSE and IBDP exams. However, it’s BISP’s aspirational curriculum that really gives this day and boarding school the edge. Typically offered to students in the final four years of school, this specialist curriculum is delivered by academies in business, art and design, and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths), as well as sporting academies in swimming, golf, football, triathlon, and tennis.
Head teacher Neil Richards says the school produces,
“young people with the necessary skills to meet the challenges of a fast-developing world”.
Founded in 1996, BISP is Phuket’s largest international school. Students have every right to feel smug about studying at BISP. As well as enjoying all the benefits of living and working on a tropical island, they can enjoy the outstanding facilities on BISP’s 44-acre campus. From Olympic-sized swimming pools and a short game golf centre to an athletics track and even a trapeze rig, BISP feels as much like a training athlete’s paradise as it does a school.
BISP is home to 870 day and boarding students and it’s a truly international school with 45 different nationalities represented, although the majority of teachers are British. The academic year runs from August to June.
BISP takes students aged 18 months to 18 years through its pre-school, primary school, and secondary school. The early years section follows the UK’s Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) for children aged 18 months to 5 years, which means you can expect a wide variety of fun, play-based activities, held both indoors and outdoors. Nursery and reception classes are primarily taught by class teachers, although young learners do have weekly specialist lessons in swimming and music.
With around 470 students, the primary school offers the National Curriculum for England to Years 1 through to 6. The classroom teacher takes lessons in English, maths, science, geography, history, PSHE (Personal, Social Health, and Economic Education), design technology, and digital literacy. As part of the Key Stage 1 and 2 curriculum there are specialist classes in languages (Thai, Mandarin, and Spanish) and PE (including swimming), as well as music, drama, and art in Years 3 to 6. Thai students have five weekly Thai lessons, while all non-Thai students attend one weekly Thai lesson.
Although BISP is very much a British school, it does embrace the International Baccalaureate (IB) programme and include IB’s’ Approaches to Learning skills in the primary curriculum. As well as preparing students for the International Baccalaureate Programme in Years 12 to 13, these skills teach children to be “researchers and investigators, thinkers, communicators, self-managers and team members.”
To give you some insight into the well-rounded education offered at BISP, primary school principal Kenneth Page says,
“We value academic learning – and our children attain great results – but we also value creative areas such as the arts and sport.”
The British-style of education continues in the first few years of secondary school, from Years 7 to 11. The curriculum includes English, maths, science, geography, history, PSHE (Personal, Social Health, and Economic Education), design technology, digital literacy, languages (Thai, Mandarin, French, and Spanish), PE, drama, music, and art. Students take their IGCSEs in Year 11, and typically select 7 to 10 subjects from a choice of 23.
Learning then switches to the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) in Years 12 and 13. There’s a wide choice of IB courses in subjects including art and design, business and management, design technology, economics, environmental systems and societies, music, psychology, and theatre arts. Students can also graduate with the BISP High School Diploma.
BISP is wired for learning, and classrooms are equipped with MacBook Pros and iPads. All secondary students are expected to bring their own MacBook Pro to school.
Sport and the creative arts
There are plenty of opportunities for students to excel in sport at BISP, and the school’s expansive campus is home to some enviable sporting facilities. As well as encouraging a love of physical activity and sport in its compulsory PE lessons, the school encourages students to “pursue their passion for sport at the highest level” and become part of the BISP sports academies.
BISP has established itself as a sporting hub by hosting the annual BISP Soccer Sevens; this attracts more than 900 players from international schools across Asia. It also offers a variety of sporting scholarships and runs the respected BISP Flying Fish programme, which progresses from infant up to competitive swim squads.
BISP also encourages its students to perform, create, and play. Music, art, and drama are an important part of the curriculum until the end of year 9, and then they are offered at IGCSE and IBDP level.
In the school’s own words,
“We insist that drama is as important as maths, history, science, business or any other subject.”
This passion is reflected in the school’s offering of private music tuition, after school activities, regular Arts Showcase concerts, school productions, plays and art exhibitions, Artist in Residence Week, and excursions including the annual Bangkok art trip. The school goes the extra mile by bringing in drama interns from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) and the Paris Academy of Theatre. It also offers externally assessed programmes by LAMDA, and an in-house Rock School exam.
BISP’s Aspirational Curriculum
BISP has become a breeding ground for sporting talent. As part of its Aspirational Curriculum, the school runs five sports academies – in swimming, football, tennis, golf, and triathlon – which aim to develop and produce world-class athletes who can compete at the highest level. Here’s a school where you walk from your last lesson of the day to a coaching session with expert international coaches. It’s a huge step above a typical after-school sports club.
Each sporting academy offers full scholarships (which can include boarding) for outstanding students. The BISP Cruzeiro Football Academy offers training that’s based on the Cruzeiro academy in Brazil; the BISP Swim Academy focuses on swimming and dry land training; the BISP RPT Tennis Academy trains junior players for tournaments where they can receive Thai ranking points; the BISP Golf Academy trains students at BISP and other local golf courses; and the BISP Triathlon Academy focuses on the disciplines of swimming, cycling, and running.
BISP’s Aspirational Curriculum is not restricted to sport. The BISP Art & Design Academy is for students who have a passion for art; the BISP Business Academy aims to inspire “business-minded young people to dream big and achieve their potential”; and the BISP STEM Academy sees students from Years 7 to 13 work on projects including robotics, drones, and micro-farming.
Beyond the classroom
Movie making, street dancing, Thai cooking, touch rugby, German, and flying trapeze are just a few of the extra-curricular activities on offer, many of which are run free of charge by BISP teachers; there is also a paid activities programme. There is also a dedicated activity programme for Years 12 and 13, offering students ample opportunities to complete the Creativity, Activity, and Service requirements (CAS) of the IBDP.
Students learn about the life-changing benefits of community service from a young age. It all starts with the Making a Difference (MAD) projects in primary school, which range from watering the plants in the school playground to working with students at the SOS Children’s Village in Phuket. Secondary students are involved in beach clean-ups, act as peer mentors throughout the school, and work closely with local service organisations. Perhaps the favourite service activity is helping to build Schooner IXDOS, a yacht that is being modified by the school to offer medical help to children on remote islands. Whatever the activity, the end goal is “for our children at BISP to become compassionate and socially responsible leaders for the future”.
Senior students are also given various opportunities to learn about leadership, from seats on the Student Council to the activities of the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award.
BISP takes various steps to create a close-knit community of both day students and boarders. Its house system runs from Reception to Year 13, BISP’s cultural parent reps support new families from various countries, and the school newsletter BIS Update is published every fortnight. In an effort to create “a learning community”, the school offers English and Thai classes to all BISP parents at its new International Learning Centre (ILC).
In 2017, there was a 97% pass rate in the IBDP and the average score was 33, which is only slightly higher than the global average of 30. In the IGCSEs, 49% of students scored A* – A and 91% were graded A* – C, which is really impressive.
There’s no denying that BISP has one of the most beautiful campuses in Thailand. It is located on the idyllic island of Phuket after all. BISP is more than just stunning scenery, fresh air, and greenery though. The 44-acre campus has a main teaching block with classrooms, science labs, a 300-seat auditorium, a refectory, and art and music centres; some of these facilities are due to be refurbished. There’s a primary school with clusters of classrooms and four boarding houses – named after famous Phuket beaches – which are home to around 100 BISP students from Years 3 to 13.
The real talking point here, though, are the sports facilities. There are 11 grass playing fields; a sports hall and gymnasium; outdoor basketball court; outdoor 25m and 50m swimming pools; 6 tennis courts; an athletics track; and a fitness, strength, and conditioning centre. Pro golfer Nick Faldo opened the BISP Golf Centre in 2016, which has two large greens, bunkers, varying lengths of rough, driving bays, and a classroom. There’s even an onsite trapeze rig, which is operated by Mid-Air Circus Arts (MACA) for ECAs, and plans to open a full-sized ice rink in the future.
Admission and fees
The school offers various academic (at IGCSE and IB levels) and sporting scholarships in swimming, tennis, golf, and football. Alternatively, you’ll have to foot the bill for tuition which ranges from THB 559,000 in Year 1, THB 715,000 in Year 7 and Year 11.
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