As well as upholding many of the Harrow traditions and pursuing academic excellence, this all-through British school has a mission to educate leaders of the future and train the athletes of tomorrow as part of its DNA.
There’s more to Harrow International Bangkok than the famous public school name. Here’s a school that was ‘built’ on the foundations of the original 450-year-old British all-boys’ boarding school. While it has all the hallmarks of the Harrow brand, from strong academic results to a reputation for excellent extra-curricular activities, it has also developed a strong identity of its own. In its bid to match the quality of the original British school in academic and other areas, Harrow Bangkok combines its offering of IGCSEs and A Levels with an inspirational Leadership in Action programme and four sporting academies.
Harrow Bangkok follows the National Curriculum for England, with students taking their IGCSEs in Year 11 and A/AS Levels in Year 13. Since opening in 1998, the school has grown to a total of 1,600 students, the majority being Thai nationals. This all-through school for 2 to 18-year-olds was one of the first in a wave of international schools to be set up by some of Britain’s most traditional private schools – and it has certainly stood the test of time.
Head teacher Michael Farley says,
“Our school blends the heritage of the 450 years of Harrow’s high academic standards, traditions and service to community with innovative educational methods in a vibrant Thai setting.”
Despite its city centre location in north Bangkok, Harrow Bangkok’s spacious and green 35-acre lakeside campus has the feel of an archetypal British public school in the countryside. The Harrow-ness that defines one of the world’s oldest and most famous all-boys boarding schools is felt throughout the corridors and classrooms of this Thailand franchise, from the Harrow straw boater and blazers to the house system and traditional Harrow songs heard in assemblies. It also differs from Harrow UK in several ways: it is co-educational, it is open to children as young as 2, and it offers a choice of day and boarding places.
A very British education
Harrow Bangkok is a school of two halves. The Lower School includes an early years’ centre (18 months to 5 years) and the pre-prep school (Years 1 to 5). The Upper School includes the preparatory school (Years 6 to 8), the senior school (Years 9 to 11), and the sixth form (Years 12 to 13). Students receive a well-structured education at Harrow Bangkok; while there is a strong emphasis on reading, writing, speaking, and listening in English, maths, and digital literacy, the curriculum also embraces science, sport, and the creative arts.
It all begins with the UK-based Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) curriculum, which includes specialist teaching in music and PE. Located in a separate building from the main school, the early years’ centre has playgrounds, a soft play area, music room, dining room, Thai studies room, adventure playground, and outdoor classrooms. Years 1 to 8 follow the UK primary curriculum, which sees class teachers taking lessons in English; maths; science; history; geography; art; design technology; and Personal, Health, and Citizenship Education (PHSE). Specialist classes include music, PE, ICT, swimming, Thai, and modern foreign languages. All students have the opportunity to study a musical instrument.
The transition from primary to secondary school (or pre-prep to prep school) is a big one; there are changes in daily routine and teachers, new subjects to cover, and an increase in homework. Harrow Bangkok puts its Year 6, 7, and 8 students through a pre-prep phase that is designed to make this transition smoother and easier. Year 6 students stay in the Lower School building, which allows them to study their first year of prep school in familiar surroundings; they are assigned a personal tutor to offer them support when needed; and they are encouraged to take on leadership roles, such as house captaincies, green monitor, and prep circle reps, to help them mature.
At Harrow UK, students start school in Year 9 and enter the historic Shell, Remove, and Fifth (SR5) Phase; Harrow Bangkok has adopted this model for Years 9, 10, and 11. In short, this is the build-up to IGCSES and involves “strong academic challenge, focused pastoral support and opportunities to participate in a wide variety of extra-curricular activities”.
All students study the core IGCSE subjects of English, maths, and science, and choose their option subjects from Thai, Mandarin, French, Japanese, Korean, biology, chemistry, physics, art, history, religious studies, business studies, economics, drama, statistics, English literature, music, geography, ICT, computer studies, and PE. Selected students can study for additional IGCSEs in development studies, astronomy, or classical civilisations as an extra-curricular activity.
In the sixth form, students typically study four AS Levels in Year 12 and three or four A Levels in Year 13. The curriculum includes core and traditional subjects, as well as options in new subjects such as psychology, media studies, economics, and travel and tourism. The school makes no secret of the fact that expectations are high here, and students are encouraged to work towards a place at leading universities such as Oxford and Cambridge in the UK and Berkeley and Cornell in the US. The school prepares students by saying that, “The workload is demanding and requires both commitment and motivation.”
Technology is central to learning throughout the school, which has interactive whiteboards, PCs, and iPads in all classrooms; from Year 4, students are required to have their own iPad or laptop. Outside of lessons, devices are only allowed to be used in designated e-zones across the school.
Leadership for a better world
While it may be steeped in tradition in so many ways, Harrow Bangkok has not lost touch with the modern world. This school is just as dedicated to delivering A-grades as it is to producing future leaders, sports players, musicians, and all-rounders. It offers an impressive choice of extra-curricular activities (ECAs) for all students as part of its Leadership in Action programme. Built around the themes of service, charity, teamwork, creative expression, leadership, and challenge, this programme includes team and individual sports, music, art, drama, expeditions, community service, and academia. Most activities are held at the end of the school day, and from Year 1 onwards all students are expected to participate in at least two sessions per week; boarders need to do four.
The school offers an insight into the incredible variety of ECAs on offer, saying,
“Whether it be building a raft and spending 24 hours on the Harrow lake, trying to earn the minimum wage by cutting sugar cane, acquiring new skills such as first aid or lifeguarding, or conquering a 40 metre Tyrolean rope climb, pupils are increasingly able to develop and demonstrate the six leadership attributes.”
With a legacy of Old Harrovians including Winston Churchill and King Hussein of Jordan, Harrow takes its motto – Leadership for a better world – very seriously. As well as running the Leadership in Action programme, the school offers various leadership opportunities; senior students, in particular, are strongly encouraged to take on a role of responsibility.
Sport and the arts
Sport and the creative arts are an important part of the ethos at Harrow Bangkok. “It's worth noting that our approach is not to academically 'hot house'. We admit children with a range of abilities and provide a 'broad' education with emphasis also placed on the arts, sport and development of attributes such as integrity, resilience and compassion.”
In terms of sport, all students have weekly PE lessons in games, gymnastics, dance, outdoor activities, athletics, and swimming. The school’s ECA programme covers sports as varied as tae kwon do, kayaking, Thai boxing, ballet, archery, and trampolining, to the more traditional sports of swimming, football, table tennis, cross country running, volleyball, basketball, and badminton. Harrow Bangkok has recently launched four sports academies in football, gymnastics, swimming, and tennis, which offer training to “nurture athletic talent”. The school fields the Lions’ sports teams at U9, U11, U13, U15, Junior Varsity, and Varsity level, and it has more than 120 teams that represent the school in events such as the Federation of British International Schools in Asia (FOBISIA) games.
Music, art, and drama are all taught as part of the curriculum until Year 9, and there are various options to continue these subjects at IGCSE and A Level. Art classes focus on traditional portrait painting through to architectural model making and digital media, and drama lessons range from European theatre to African dilemma tales; the school also stages various annual productions. In addition to its music lessons, the school offers an instrumental music programme. To further encourage creative talent, the school runs various competitions throughout the academic year.
The Harrow name has a reputation for academic excellence, and Harrow Bangkok is no different. In the 2017 A Level results, 61% of A Level exams were graded A*/A and one in three students were awarded A* or A grades in all of their subjects. In the 2017 IGCSE results, 64% of exams were graded A*/A.
The Harrow way
A boarding ethos is part of the Harrow DNA, and day and full boarding options are available to Bangkok students in Years 5 through to 13. Since opening its four boarding houses in 2016, the school has the capacity to board 40% of its students. Boarders have a short walk across the playing fields from the junior and senior boys’ houses and girls’ house on the school grounds. As well as having the opportunity to sign up for supervised study sessions after school, boarders can enjoy some R&R in the Hub; the sports hall is open every evening; mountain bikes can be hired to explore the campus; and common rooms are equipped with pool tables, table tennis tables, board games, and projection rooms.
Harrow Bangkok is one of four international schools within the Harrow family, all of which follow the house system. As the school says, it is “at the heart of the students’ lives”. Both boarders and day students are members of one of six houses, (Byron, Churchill, Keller, Nehru, Sonakul, and Suriyothai), which are each presided over by a house master or mistress who is responsible for their pastoral care. There are plenty of house events including art, poetry, short story, chess and Scrabble competitions; football, badminton, volleyball, and golf tournaments; the annual swimming gala, sports day, and annual dragon boat race. Students also wear their house colour with pride every Thursday. You get the feeling that boys and girls develop a strong sense of belonging and allegiance to their house over time. It also helps to create a ‘small school’ atmosphere within this large school.
Students are expected to do daily homework – or prep as it’s called here – from Year 1. And boarders have the added advantage of having tutors on hand when doing their evening prep in the study rooms within each house.
Beyond the classroom
Harrow Bangkok often takes students out of the classroom – and out of their comfort zone. The aim is to challenge, teach, and inspire its students in Expedition Week, SR5 House Camps, the Model United Nations, and the Exchange Programme for Shell students at other schools in the Harrow family.
Harrow Bangkok runs charity and community service trips locally and internationally. Students are required to complete various voluntary activities as part of the ‘Harrow Diploma’, the Duke of Edinburgh International Award, and the annual House Award.
The lakeside campus in the capital’s Don Mueang district has been home to Harrow Bangkok for the past decade. Most recently it has opened new facilities including an extended early years centre, the Rayleigh Sixth Form Centre, a new boarding complex with two new houses, an infant performance hall, and The Hub recreation centre.
These are the latest additions to a well-equipped campus that features the pre-prep school, prep school, and upper school buildings, libraries, dining hall, school café, play areas, and assembly hall. Harrow Bangkok has a really impressive suite of sporting facilities, which include the new multi-purpose athletics centre called The Den.
There’s also a sports hall, gymnastics hall, rugby, cricket and football pitches, swimming pool, fitness suite, climbing wall, tennis courts, and rugby, cricket, and football fields. A key feature of the campus is the lake, which is used for activities including sailing, kayaking, wake boarding, water skiing, dragon boat racing, adventure races, and raft challenges. The Harrow Bangkok golf academy training facility is located just outside the campus main gate.
Admission and fees
At Harrow Bangkok admission testing varies depending on the year group, but generally includes an English and maths test as well as an interview.
“Priority is given to native English speakers, students with siblings already in the school, students who also apply for Harrow boarding, students who are already studying in an English language international school, students studying in a bilingual school or on an international programme.”
The school offers various scholarships, which offer a fees discount of up to 30% to students who excel in academia, music, or sport. Its fees are at the top end of the scale for Thailand international schools, and range from THB 672,000 for Year 1 and THB 752,000 for Year 6 up to THB 905,000 for Year 12.
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