Thailand attracts a lot of Scandinavian tourists, visitors and residents. The reasons are obvious: The climate, the beautiful scenery of Thailand’s mainland and the islands with bounty beaches, the low price level, business opportunities and the smiling and welcoming Thai people. Of course, the Scandinavian children need somewhere to be while their parents are at work and therefore, many Scandinavian children attend preschools all over Thailand – but where do they go?
The Swedish children
Swedes are the only Scandinavians who have established themselves so good in Thailand that they have opened several Swedish schools, some of which have preschools attached to them. You can find Swedish preschools in Hua Hin, Huay Yang, Pattaya and on Koh Lanta.
Sanuk – Svenska skolan Thailand on Koh Lanta opened in 2004 and is the first Swedish school abroad in Thailand. In 2011, they opened a school in Huay Yang, and in 2012, their third school opened in Hua Hin. On their website, Sanuk writes that they want to make it possible for families with children to take a break from the daily grind in Sweden but still have access to high quality education in Thailand. At their preschool, they offer educational activities with learning through playing. In daily operations, they work with the children’s Swedish language development. They play with the language doing chants, rhymes and singing songs. They work with mathematics and science in a concrete way by taking it into their daily lives.
On the preschool of Sanuk, Swedish, Norwegian and Finnish-Swedish children are welcome, and children from these nationalities attend the preschool together.
“Sanuk is a Swedish preschool and school, but every year we also have a few Norwegian children attending our preschool,” Tina Ståhle, who is the principal of Sanuk on Koh Lanta, says. She explains that they do not have any Danish or Finnish children because of the language differences.
The teachers at the Sanuk preschool are Swedish, but if many children with the same native language are to enter the preschool at the same time, Sanuk will make groups with trained teachers from each country.
The Swedish elementary school on Phuket, QSS, also has an associated preschool attached to it. This preschool is aimed at children in the age of 2-5 years, and the team consist of trained preschool teachers and additional staff if necessary.
On their website, QSS writes that their preschool aims to offer a pedagogical activity where playing is in focus. They want to create an environment where every child feels joy, stimulation and inspiration and is given wide scope for pleasurable learning.
This preschool is open between November and March since the demand is minimal the rest of the year, and especially in September and October where there typically only will be one child.
QSS accepts 13 2-5-year-old children to their preschool at the same time. They also have the opportunity to take in other nationalities provided that the child understands English. But, according to operations manager at QSS, Birgitta Green, it is mostly Swedish and Thai-Swedish children that attend the preschool, and to her, it seems like it will be that way again this year.
“In the current state of our knowledge, Thai-Swedish and Swedish children are the only nationalities who have applied to start out preschool in November, but right now we cannot say since the applications for the preschool usually come around the beginning of the school year,” Birgitta Green says.
The Danish children
Mai Ellegaard, Thailand representative for Danes Worldwide, believes that there are three main factors that come into play when Danish expats have to choose a preschool for their children. According to her, they first of all look for something convenient and international. But also the school system of the preschool determines the choice.
“Danes do not want their children to start reading at the age of 3, since we are used to the Danish system where playing is a bigger part of the learning,” she says and explains that the IB system is popular due to its similarity with the Danish preschool system. Mai Ellegaard explains that the IB Primary Years Programme is taught at the preschools of NIST and KIS.
Danes also have their children at ISB and Patana, but other than that the preschool choices are very widely spread throughout the country. The most important factor is the location of the school near where the family lives.
In connection with the testing of a Danish language playgroup project, Danes Worldwide did a survey on which preschools Danish parents chose for their children. This emphasised that it really is different from family to family, but it also showed that there was potential and demand for Danish education for children in Thailand.
So since the beginning of the summer of 2016, Danes Worldwide along with the Danish Thai Chamber of Commerce and the Embassy of Denmark to Thailand have had a Danish language playgroup every Saturday at NIST International School. Here, both Danish children and part-Danish children in the ages between 3-5 years can learn and practice their Danish while living in Thailand which Mai Ellegaard believes is very crucial for the children’s possible future in Denmark.
“It is very important to be able to speak Danish if you have to go back to Denmark after your stay in Thailand,” Mai Ellegaard says.
The Finnish children
Jyrki Markkanen, who is the Pastor to Finns in Thailand and father of two, agrees with Mai Ellegaard when it comes to the importance of the school’s location. According to him, there is not really a pattern to which preschools Finnish parents choose for their children. His impression is like Mai Ellegaard’s that it depends on where the families live.
“Most Finnish parents decide for them selves where to put their children,” Jyrki Markkanen says and explains that the reason for this can be that the Finnish community in Thailand is not very large and therefore, their influence on each other’s choices is minimal.
However, since 1997, Finnish parents have organised a language playgroup at the Finnish school Bansku where their children can practice their Finnish while living in Thailand.
Bangkok’s Finnish School Bansku is a language and culture education focused on school which is intended to Finnish children or children with Finnish ancestry from the age of 3 years.
Their goal is to maintain and develop their students’ Finnish language skills by providing them with the Finnish language basics, inspirational learning activities, as well as the opportunity to have a fun time together with other children interested in the Finnish language.
“It has been very helpful to us,” says the Finnish Pastor, both of whose children have attended the playgroup. Now, they both speak Finnish fluently and one of them has moved to Finland.
This language playgroup meets every Monday at NIST International School from 16.45 to 18.
The Norwegian children
According to the Norwegian Seaman’s Church in Pattaya, some Norwegian children attend the preschool at Burapha English Programme School, BEST. According to their website, this school aims to educate their students to be bilingual in Thai and English and to understand and appreciate the cultures behind these languages. They strive to play a leading role in imparting knowledge and nurturing good citizens and to provide their students with a healthy and balanced understanding of the skills they believe they will need to lead a successful and fulfilling life.
According to Tina Ståhle, the principal of the Swedish preschool Sanuk on Koh Lanta, some Norwegian parents also choose Sanuk’s Swedish preschool for their children. She explains that they have had Norwegian children attending their preschool before who have been very satisfied and who have come back.