Special Scoop: Prem’s Head Start

 |  February 9, 2015


Prem Tinsulanonda International School is stepping into a new era, focusing on more independent and explorative learning under cutting edge theories and experiences shared by their newest head of school, Mr. Alun Cooper.

This world renowned International Baccalaureate (IB) boarding and day school is the first in all of Asia to offer all four IB programmes, from primary to diploma level courses and also the IBCC, the International Baccalaureate Career-related Certificate. Located in Mae Rim, just north of Chiang Mai, Prem boasts excellence in the first degree, offering outstanding services and levels of education and even a one to one MacBook programme.

Mr. Cooper grew up in both Warwickshire and London, before he moved to Argentina in 1978 and began his career in the world of international schooling. He soon found himself chairing key events and meetings held by the International Baccalaureate Organisation, and being a key member in the continuing development of the IB programme. Through these opportunities and the skills he has developed, Mr. Cooper has found himself working at some of the most noteworthy schools in the world.

Mr. Cooper was inspired to explore the world while he helped improve curricula and empower learners in schools across the globe. The last two years saw him working for an experimental programme where he was head of the world’s first Travelling Boarding High School. With no fixed campus, this school encouraged globalised learning by visiting three countries a year, such as Bhutan, Tanzania, India and United States with a focus on technology as its main basis of education.

His time working in various locales inspired Mr. Cooper to explore all digital technology programmes that encourage cross-border learning. Prem’s one to one MacBook programme ensures unlimited access to the world. Teacher and student exchanges have be set up through applications such as Facetime and Skype, and now Prem has direct contact to schools in the US. Examples of what can be achieved are demonstrated through his students’ work, such as research conducted cross-borders and study sessions set up via live stream connections. His views on individual learning, greatly influenced from his time as a nomadic head of school, have broadened too, focusing on learning through enquiry rather than sticking to a rigid curriculum that can often leave certain students behind.

Now, after several months at Prem, Mr. Cooper is already making leaps and bounds to encourage teachers to let go of more traditional roles in place of flexibility. The fear is that this will create lower standards, but in fact, it empowers learners and raises standards across the board.

Students learn best when what they are learning is interesting to them, and it is great teachers who make learning interesting. Teachers in Prem now invest in student ideas, letting them “give it a go” – often resulting in surprisingly good results.

This transformational process has removed more traditional top down school structures in place of an open-door policy, where all who are at Prem, be it teachers, students or other staff members, can contribute and become part of this transformation. All have been taught to be forthright in suggestions and any errors found must be fixed to the highest standards. Classrooms have all the resources one could dream of, and nothing is impossible. Boarding rooms must be kept to the standards of five star hotels and sports pitches must be mown professionally, according to what sport will be played.

Prem is one of the top IB schools in the world, and as such must reflect that in all it achieves and provides. Yet what makes Prem so special is that, in the words of Mr. Cooper, “It is a hidden gem inside a hidden gem, the north of Thailand.” Not only is Prem opening itself to the world, but is now making steps to open up to the surrounding community too. Artists, authors and other skilled people of Thailand are being taught alongside international figures in the classroom, encouraging a wide range of understanding and a greater respect for the local community and the beauty that is Thailand.

What is certain is that Prem is making new steps towards a more modern, intellectual and unlimited form of education, with every option possible and no opportunity overlooked. Mr. Cooper’s fresh ideas have already transformed Prem, and he has promised only greater and greater things to come. Prem has been given an opportunity to gain a head start in the international school community, and with one of the best at its helm, the only way is to go is up.

Prem Tinsulanonda International School
234 Moo 3, T. Huay Sai, A. Mae Rim
053 301 500