Students receive a truly global education at the high-performing NIST International School, which offers the full International Baccalaureate programme alongside some exclusive academic programmes in leadership, business and education, and a substantial world languages programme.
NIST International School is one of only three full IB international schools in Thailand – and it’s the only one that’s a not-for-profit school. If you’re looking for a truly global approach to education, then this school is certainly worth your attention.
As well as offering the Primary Years Programme (PYP), Middle Years Programme (MYP) and Diploma Programme (IBDP), NIST hosts a range of academic and extra-curricular programmes in partnership with Chelsea Football Club, Harvard Business School and the Global Citizen Diploma.
Located at the heart of one of Bangkok’s busiest business districts, Watthana, NIST was founded in 1992 by a parent-elected team working hand-in-hand with the United Nations. Today, the school has a student population of 1,500 from more than 50 countries. It teaches children from nursery through to Year 13, and is frequently listed in top ten lists of international schools in Thailand.
This is a school that has all the benefits of a 25-year history in Bangkok, the continuity of the IB programme from primary through to college years, and an offering of unique programmes in sport, leadership, languages and business. Head teacher Brett Penny sums up the school’s progressive and innovative approach to the curriculum, saying:
“I believe that one thing that has defined NIST throughout its existence is a desire to continue to develop and never to be complacent. Just as we expect our individual students to learn and grow and pursue excellence on a daily basis, it is our job as educators to make the commitment to developing NIST and building upon our success.”
An IB World School
While there are plenty of international schools offering a part of the IB programme, NIST is one of the few to teach all three programmes to children from three to 19 years old. An education at NIST starts with the Primary Years Programme (PYP) for early years through to Year 6, which the school says, “frees children to be children”.
Primary students explore subject areas including languages, maths, visual arts, performing arts, social studies, science, information and communication technology and personal, social and physical education through six cross-disciplinary themes that provide the framework for study. In line with the PYP structure, learning focuses on Knowledge (What do we want the students to know?), Concepts (What do we want the students to understand?), Skills (What do we want students to be able to do?), Attitudes (What do we want students to value?) and Action (How do we want students to act?). All subject areas are integrated rather than being taught in isolation, and students are encouraged to become confident and independent learners through play, inquiry and exploration.
The Middle Years Programme (MYP) runs from Year 7 to 11 and focuses on the “creative, dynamic energy of adolescence”. All students study individuals and societies, language and literature, language acquisition, maths, design, arts, sciences, and physical and health education. In addition, students take Thai studies and various curricular and pastoral activities through the Advisory and Advisory+ programmes. The curriculum is as focused on developing social and emotional skills as it is academia, and learning is centred on developing intercultural awareness, communication, service to the community, and an awareness of local and global issues.
In Years 12 and 13, students study the IBDP, which includes the humanities, at least two languages, experimental science, maths and the arts. Other core requirements of the IBDP include an extended essay, the Theory of Knowledge course, and Creativity, Action, Service (CAS) activities. Students who choose not to take the IBDP, can study NIST high school courses, which are based on US-based learning standards and provide a grade point average equivalent that is used for college or university applications.
Unique learning opportunities
When it comes to education, one size does not fit all – and NIST clearly understands the need for variety in learning. The school offers various specialist programmes that challenge students with different interests and abilities.
This three programme IB World school offers college students an optional qualification, the Global Citizen Diploma (GCD), which complements the IBDP and NIST High School Diploma. NIST, which is the only school in Thailand to offer the GCD, strongly encourages its students to complete this qualification and “showcase their talents in leadership, management, community engagement, global citizenship and other areas not measured through traditional grades”.
NIST is also the only school in Asia to offer the Harvard Business School’s Credential of Readiness (CORe) programme, which focuses on business analytics, economics for managers and financial accounting. Typically offered only at university level, this 11-week programme is open to select NIST students with a passion for entrepreneurship. Another initiative that will appeal to enterprising leaners is the school’s TEDx Youth@NIST event.
NIST has established itself as a learning hub, both for children and educators. The Student Teacher Education Programme (STEP) is a student apprenticeship scheme that invites Years 10-13 to experience and explore education as a career path. Working with a teacher mentor, STEP students plan, organise, and conduct lessons to classes in Years 4-6. The school also runs the Professional Learning HUB, which provides numerous professional learning opportunities for educators throughout the region.
A well-rounded education
NIST describes itself as taking the “lead in educational technology” in Thailand, citing its early adoption of wireless classrooms to Thailand's first 1:1 laptop programme. It’s reassuring to know that the school has a very up-to-date technology policy; primary and secondary students produce their own news programmes using the school’s green screen room, explore robotics through ClickRobot, and experiment in the on-campus Makerspace. All primary students use school laptops and iPads while in school, and secondary students are each issued a MacBook Air to be used at school and home.
As well as having a rigorous academic curriculum, NIST encourages students to perform well in the arts, sport and music, both during and after the school day. The school offers more than 300 extra-curricular activities (ECAs) in areas as diverse as sports, drama, music, art, technology, academics, language, and social and environmental activism; there is even a decent choice of clubs for early years’ students, including wacky science and construction club. Also, it’s good to see that teachers supervise these ECAs, which really helps to build strong relationships with the students.
A gem in the ECA programme is the NIST instrumental music programme, which offers an opportunity to learn a wide variety of musical instruments and work towards an Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music diploma, or Trinity Pop & Rock exams.
In terms of sport, the school fields NIST Falcon teams in school leagues across southeast Asia, taking part in volleyball, tennis, basketball, football, cross country, badminton, rugby, golf, swimming and gymnastics. The school is also home to the Chelsea FC Soccer School Bangkok, which offers training and coaching sessions to young players. Every summer, the NIST hosts the National Basketball Association’s Thailand Junior NBA programme.
A global education
While NIST is not an official United Nations (UN) school – and it does not receive official support (financial or otherwise) – it does have a strong connection with the UN. This is definitely reflected in the school’s globally-focused daily curriculum.
Many of NIST’s teachers have experience teaching, learning, working, and living around the world, and we can see them bring this global knowledge to the classroom. NIST has a good reputation for the strength of its teaching and, as head teacher Brett Penny says,
“Schools are about people, and great schools attract the very best teachers”.
NIST’s global education really comes to the fore in its world languages programme. The school offers courses in more than 12 languages, including English, Dutch, French, German, Hindi, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Swedish, Thai and Spanish. Students can study both Language A (mother tongue) and Language B (additional or learned languages not spoken at home). The school also runs a fee-paid Community Languages Programme (CLP) in languages not offered by the school, such as Hebrew.
Some aspects of the school are distinctly American, such as the high school counselling programme, homeroom teachers, and offering of academic and sports camps during the summer vacation.
Beyond the class walls
As Penny says on the school website,
“A leading school must also consider the learning and social opportunities that exist beyond the classroom.”
Far from being confined to the classroom, NIST students take part in various field trips throughout the academic year, as well as short, overnight camps. Action Week takes Years 7 to 11 to various locations across Thailand; the International Award for Young People (IAYP) for ages of 14 and up develops service, physical recreation, adventurous journey and skills; and the Challenge by Choice programme arranges adventure activities that focus on problem-solving and teamwork. Other optional activities include the NIST Falcon Fishing Club, which is open to Years 7-13.
NIST also has more than 20 service groups, co-led by student leaders and adult mentors, in everything from environmental protection through to human rights advocacy. Groups are divided between nature, economy, society and well-being, and include the GreeNIST Rooftop Gardening club, which sees green-fingered students working in the school’s own rooftop garden and selling their home-grown organic produce. The Microfinance group is an arm of the student-run NIST Development Bank (NDB) that gives out micro-loans to NIST support staff; Art Relief members use their artistic skills to help children in need; and the Dreams We Believe In group organises activities such as beach fun days for children living with HIV/AIDS.
NIST’s long-standing experience in the IB programme is there for all to see in its impressive IBDP exam results. The 2017 cohort achieved an average of 36.3, which is one of Thailand’s highest scores and is well above the global average of 30. 41.4% of students earned 38 or more points, and 30.6% earned 40 or more points. 100% of graduates went straight to university, predominantly in the UK and the US.
NIST has been renovated over time to bring its facilities up to date – and the envy of rival schools. It’s located in the Watthana district within downtown Bangkok, which is a popular neighbourhood for expats and home to several international schools.
The campus has more than 90 classrooms and dedicated, purpose-built early years, primary and secondary buildings. There’s also a creative arts building, a sports complex including sports courts and a FIFA-standard pitch, science labs, counselling lounges, tech centres, several multi-purpose halls, theatre, performance studio and recording studio. All classrooms are wireless and equipped with SMART Boards, digital projectors and FrontRow sound systems.
The primary school’s library, the Mechai Learning Commons (MLC), is home to a collection of picture books, easy chapter books, junior fiction and non-fiction books, as well as digital resources such as PebbleGo, PowerKnowledge, InfoBits and Tumblebooks. The secondary school library houses a collection of junior, young adult and adult fiction, non-fiction books, magazines and newspapers, and online subscriptions. The school has a cafe and kiosks serving food and drink, all managed by NIST’s in-house catering team.
NIST is overseen by the parent-elected NIST International School Foundation, which appoints an Executive School Board to oversee the school on its behalf. The majority of the members of the foundation must be parents or guardians of children who attend NIST, and thus represent the interests of the entire community through their governance. It is supported by a very active PTA that organises social and fundraising events and activities, hosts parental networking events, and promotes the NIST Falcon sports teams.
Admission and fees
Approximately 29% of the student population at NIST is Thai, while the remaining 71% represents 50 nationalities; special consideration is given to families with UN employees.
NIST is one of Thailand’s most expensive school. Fees for Year 1 start at THB 617,400 and increase to THB 753,900 for Year 7 and THB 893,200 for Year 12.
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