Jiraorn Assarat, Ed.M.'04, is excited about the future.
Since she was a teenager, Jiraorn Assarat, Ed.M.'04, has dreamed of creating a perfect school. One that feels more like a second home than an institution to its students; one in which exceptional academic programs are balanced with a curriculum of moral development. Now, back in her native Thailand after pursuing her own education at Yale and Harvard, she not only has started one "dream school," she has started two.
At Ivy Bound International School the instruction is conducted in English; at Anubaan Assarat, the instruction is in Thai. "The two schools complement each other quite well," Assarat says, "sharing knowledge and expertise . . . to enhance the children's experiences and achievements." One goal of the two programs, she says, is to tailor methods and practices conceived in the West to be culturally appropriate for children living in Bangkok, where the two schools are located.
"It concerns me that many educators merely apply Western developed school programs blindly without considering the cultural context in which these programs take place," Assarat says of the many international schools that have popped up around Bangkok in the last few years. "Surely, it is easy, quick, and profitable to import the whole program, but is it optimal for children living in Thailand? I think not."
Her current team consists of five Ed School graduates -- including Assarat, who is principal and codirector of curriculum and instruction, and her sister, Sikan Assarat, Ed.M.'08, who serves as teacher and assistant principal -- and 10 Thai teachers. (The Assarats' brother, Chatiporn, also serves as assistant principal in charge of enrichment programs.) The small staff has its advantages. "For now, we are a relatively small community," she explains, "which means we are quite flexible and can adapt and respond more quickly to new situations or ideas."
Though she hopes to one day expand to include more grade levels, presently the focus of both schools is early childhood. "The older a person is, the less malleable he or she becomes," Assarat explains. "Since the mission is to create well-rounded, morally good citizens of this world, I think that early childhood is the most appropriate place for this type of intervention." The expansion of the school continues in other ways, as a new, one-of-akind early-childhood facility is under construction in Bangkok to open in fall 2010.
Assarat welcomes the day-to-day challenges of establishing a school "with open arms," she says, and even finds them stimulating. And, she remains certain that her dream schools are worth every sacrifice. "I knew that it was not going to be easy, especially since my nature is to decide on something and make it happen immediately," she says. "The school occupies almost every aspect of my life, but it is satisfying and fulfilling to see as the project grows."