Ruamrudee International School (RIS) is a well-established, all-through suburban school that teaches an American curriculum to families living in and around Bangkok. This Catholic school is best-known for its dual offering of the Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate Diploma Programmes, as well as its religious and values-based education.
Ruamrudee International School (RIS) offers students an American education – with the choice of the Advanced Placement (AP) programme or International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) – in a lush green suburban setting. The first thing to strike you about this Catholic school is its 28-acre campus that feels worlds away from the hustle and bustle of Bangkok. Compared to the inner-city schools just a few kilometres away, the air is fresher and the noise levels quieter. It all provides the perfect setting for an international education that takes children from nursery through to Grade 12. This will be extended to two-year-old when RIS opens a purpose-built Pre-K early years centre on campus in 2018.
One of Bangkok’s oldest and most established schools, RIS is a 50-year-old not for profit school with around 1,200 students. Founded and still led by the Redemptorist Fathers of Thailand, RIS is first and foremost a Catholic school that promises to provide “an interfaith, inclusive, and academically rigorous education for students”. That said, students of all faiths attend the school, which teaches more than 25 nationalities; while the majority of students are Thai nationals, the school is popular with Americans, Indians, Japanese, Taiwanese and Koreans.
The academic year runs from August to June and is divided into two semesters: August to December and January to June. At the helm is head teacher Dr Shalee Cunningham from the US, who leads a team of international faculty.
An American education
Ruamrudee is a Thai word meaning ‘Union of Hearts’, and there’s strong sense of community, service to those in need, and moral development at the school. The school offers religion classes for all Catholic students; these focus on faith development, biblical knowledge and Church history. Non-Catholic students take ‘values’ classes, which look at, “analysing philosophies, cultures, religions, and the traditions of global societies, as well as encouraging the need to engage in community service activities”.
RIS’s inquiry-based curriculum starts in pre-kindergarten. This “fosters growth through play in the areas of social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development, as well as literacy, communication and language.” The school’s youngest learners focus on dramatic play, writing, art, sensory activities, computing, PE, music, and Thai language classes. RIS’s elementary school has a “rigorous curriculum” that is focused on reading, writing, maths, science and social studies.
The school day is also filled with lessons in visual and performing arts, PE, Thai, values, and health and wellness.
Moving on to the middle school, and students study maths, science, language arts and social studies. The curriculum for Grades 6-8 also includes PE, Thai language courses for both native and non-native speakers, and world languages such as Mandarin, Japanese, Spanish and French from Grade 6. Beyond the core lessons, students study technology, PE, religion, values and advisement. Advisement is a personal and social development programme that includes daily homeroom time and an annual field trip; these ‘lessons in life’ look at how to handle peer pressure, anger, stress etc.
In line with the American curriculum, middle school students have a choice of elective courses, including 21st century technology skills, band (with a choice of woodwind, brass and percussion instruments), broadcast media, choir, discovery science, drama, 3D art, digital photography, the school yearbook, and music. It’s a varied programme that will appeal as much to academic students as it will to those with a creative streak. The school’s global learning really comes to the fore in its Model United Nations course, which is a fantastic opportunity to learn about research, public speaking and rules of debate from a young age.
When students enter the high school, they can follow one of two paths – Advanced Placement (AP) or the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme. Modelled again on the American system, the high school curriculum focuses on English, maths, social sciences, science, technology, modern languages (French, Japanese, Mandarin and Spanish), Thai, the performing arts, religion and values and PE. RIS students can choose to take up to six AP courses (three in Grade 11 and three in Grade 12) or six subjects for the IBDP. This flexible curriculum allows students to work their way towards a university or college place, whatever their academic ability.
There’s a 1:1 laptop programme for all students from middle school onwards, leadership opportunities include the student council, and the school participates in various community service projects. Students are offered the support of on-campus counsellors, psychologists and learning support teachers; to help prepare students for university applications, RIS offers college counselling services.
There’s been a rise in the opening of pre-schools across Thailand, and RIS is about to follow suit. In 2018, it plans to open a new Pre-K programme for two-year-olds at a purpose-built early years’ centre – giving students an even earlier start at RIS. The early childhood curriculum will centre on the research-based Creative Curriculum, Reggio Emilia principles and Montessori methods.
As the school says,
“From the large foam puzzle shapes to the music room to the tiny sinks and the rubber race track with its tot-sized scooters, this is a place that ignites little ones’ imaginations and inspires learning through hands-on exploration and play.”
RIS has a strong track record in both the IBDP and the AP. The latest results posted by the school are for the 2016 cohort. In the IBDP, the RIS average score was 35, which places it way above the global average of 30. Out of the 49 students who took the IBDP, two earned the maximum score of 45 points.
In the AP Diploma, 85% of students scored a 3 or higher, and there were 36 perfect maths and science scores.
Beyond the classroom
The school’s PE and arts programmes extend far beyond the school day. RIS belongs to the Bangkok International School Athletic Conference (BISAC) and fields 70 teams in both domestic and international athletic competitions. Sports include badminton, cheerleading, basketball, cross country, swimming and football. Students are given plenty of opportunities to tread the boards in school productions and festivals, and showcase their talents in art exhibitions. The school also has a variety of choirs, orchestras and bands to students to join.
Learning doesn’t stop when the school bell rings, and RIS runs an extended day programme (EDP) that includes sports, visual arts, performing arts, creative curriculum, language classes, and more. You’ll also find high school students meeting during lunch and after school for one of the many clubs; many of these focus on community service and charity work, such as the Habitat for Humanity and UNICEF clubs.
RIS embraces its multiculturalism, which is reflected in its calendar of events including Songkran, Chinese New Year, and the international food fair celebrations. Many of these events are organised by the very active (and welcoming) Parent Auxiliary group.
RIS is one of a few schools in the area to offer boarding facilities. Students in Grades 8-12 can move into The Residence, which has apartment-like living spaces with private amenities, refrigerators in each room and 24-hour security. Located on campus, The Residences has communal facilities including a dining room, study hall and recreation areas. There’s a choice of boarding for five or seven days, and boarding fees are inclusive of meals, laundry, housekeeping, activities, and the use of campus facilities.
RIS is well-known for its expansive and beautiful campus. Surrounded by tropical plants and greenery, the campus is certainly an attractive place to study and board. While some parents may be deterred by the long commute to the centre of Bangkok, others will be drawn to its fresh air and natural scenery. Since first opening in 1957, the school has moved sites and been renovated to include modern classrooms, a recording studio, art studios, performing arts centre, science labs, a students’ residence block, two libraries, a Thai language and culture centre, and play areas/courtyards for the elementary, middle and high schools.
Sports facilities include a multi-purpose air-conditioned hall, two full-sized covered gyms, two tennis courts, two squash courts, a fitness centre, a FIFA-certified football pitch, an Olympic-sized outdoor swimming pool and basketball courts. And, there’s no need to go hungry with a school canteen that serves up 20 different food options, from pizza to sushi.
Admission and fees
Fees for Grade 1 start at THB 577,400 and increase to THB 608,800 for Grade 6 and THB 672,400 for Grade 9.
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