The commitment to establish high-quality educational institutions embedded in the DNA of Denla Kindergarten’s founder 40 years ago is still very much alive and continuing in the family’s second generation. Today, the Denla Group’s development is not limited only to kindergarten schools, but it responds to our changing societies. Hence the expansion to Denla British School (DBS). DBS enrols students from pre-Early Years to Senior Year levels. More importantly, DBS implements an enhanced UK curriculum from the best practice of independent schools in the UK, and it is the only international school in Bangkok that implements this enhanced curriculum with the Extended Day system – an additional period of 1.5 hours to the school day. Asst. Prof. Dr. Toryos Pandejpong, DBS Board Director, recounts the origin of DBS. It all started when Denla Kindergarten was built in 1979 on Petchkasem road from the determination of Aj. Arn Pandejpong, DBS Chairman and his father, who wanted to build the school for his daughter, his family and neighbours. In the first year, there were only 17 students and the plan was to close the school when everyone graduated. However, students enrolled more and more each year because of its reputation of home-school curriculum and high-quality teaching and learning. Denla school was in high demand in that area.
The school expanded to Denla Kindergarten on Rama 5 road in 2006 – which was when the family’s second generation came to run the business with Total Quality Management (TQM) 10 years ago. It was probably the only kindergarten school that was fully managed by TQM. Each year, Denla Kindergarten schools will hold a TQM Symposium (organised by TQM of Thailand Foundation) to show high-quality and continuous development on the educational management system.
Dr. Temyos Pandejpong, DBS Board Director, explained the reasons for implementing the TQM system. He said it was because the first branch of Denla Kindergarten was growing up as a family business. When teachers wanted to climb up their careers’ path, they, at that time, had to be teacher trainees and teacher assistants for over 10 years before they could become class teachers. However, in today’s changing society, people cannot wait that long and also because Denla Kindergarten Rama 5 was in need of developing more personnel to support the school. It was necessary to install a new system to strengthen the whole organisation to the same standard, including teacher recruitment and training systems.
“The reason we’ve decided to develop our own training programme is because some parts of the teacher training program designed by the Ministry of Education are not practical and cannot be applied to real situations, and also it is not enough to respond to parents’ demands that have already changed. So, we’ve developed our own training programme by reinforcing techniques from other institutions, and by improving the programme every year. We’ve started by setting the learning objectives and then adapted the teaching methods accordingly to encourage students to be happier, and have a deeper understanding of their learning. We also schedule periods allowing students to practise and we also adjust the assessment accordingly.”
This is the origin of the extension of the Denla Group to Denla British School (DBS). DBS comes from a realisation that the Thai educational system is too limited and inflexible. Many Thai students, even though they have excellent education, are still not competent in English language enough and are lacking in confidence, creativity, and talents in arts, music, and sport.
“We’ve seen changing trends in Thai society. 40 years ago, Thai families had 3-4 children and they usually let schools take care of their children. Today, 50%-60% of Thai families have only one child. Challenges have switched from schools managing their own teaching and learning methods to parents contributing in designing those methods because they want their children to grow up to excel and be happy, unlike in the past when they just let the schools nurture their children. Also, technology keep developing. Designing teaching and learning methods that are high-quality, modern, and adaptive to changing society is our challenge. And we don’t believe that what we are doing today will be suitable for tomorrow or the coming academic years. So, Denla Kindergarten schools, and also DBS, must built on the basis of the adaptation to the demands of society. To nurture our children to excel and be happy is what we will develop more and more every year. We want children in Thai society to grow up successful and able to compete on the world’s stage, so we’ve decided to launch a new school by putting all the best things here at DBS on Ratchapruek road.”
DBS is built on the desire to have the best curriculum. After discussions with many international experts on education, the two executives have concluded to implement the UK independent school curriculum for DBS. This is because the UK independent school curriculum gives importance to a personalised teaching approach, and not only focuses on the academic excellence, but also on a well-rounded education where students can discover their own talents.
“That is the reason why DBS has to expand to 60 rai of land because we realise the importance of facilities. Indeed we want to have the best facilities among British schools. The facilities are designed to respond to the curriculum’s teaching and learning strategy. DBS’s classrooms are 50% larger than classrooms from other international schools, which encourages a better teaching and learning atmosphere, and also encourages students to fulfil their potential. Also, almost 50% of school’s area is built for activity purposes such as a full-size football field with FIFA-preferred 2 Star turf, 400-metre standard athletic tracks, indoor salt-water swimming pool, gymnastic studio, tennis courts, golf training facility, long-jump pitch, rugby field, 3 playgrounds, sand pitch, 3 performing arts studios, music rooms, 13 private music rooms, computer lab, 2 science labs, library, art studio, exhibition room, and a large 650-seats theatre for student’s showcases.
The fact that DBS is unique amongst international schools implementing this curriculum, making DBS even more distinctive, including the additional 1.5 hours added to the timetable every day called The Extended Day. A longer learning period and rich activities, under a close supervision of expert teachers, means that students can focus more on what they truly like, and to join clubs and homework groups to prepare themselves for the next school day.
Dr. Toryos explained the reason DBS decided to develop the school without using the model from franchised schools. In the short term, having a famous branding to the school can quickly make the school well-known. However, there are serious limitations to the school’s flexibility and management. If you want to improve the school’s teaching and learning strategy, you have to ask for permission from the parent school, and some designated rules are not suitable for the Thailand context. So, DBS decided to develop the curriculum from the best practice of leading independent schools in the UK. DBS has gained membership of the International School Association of Thailand (ISAT) and the Council of International School (CIS), well-regarded institutions in evaluating and recognising the standard of international schools worldwide. Moreover, DBS’s development comes with IT infrastructure and modern networking in teaching and learning as an aim to become an Apple Distinguished School.
“We chose to grow organically, which is more sustainable in the long run. Additionally, we already have a foundation in education business. People already know our brand, so we use our own brand because we want to distinguish DBS as having academic excellence along with activities that are suitable within the Thai cultural context. We deliver Mandarin and Thai languages in the curriculum to contributing to future demands, as well as encourage students to maximise their academic potential, develop and plant an entrepreneurship mindset including creativity, confidence in decision-making and cooperation, which are necessary skills for the future. We also promote communication skills, leadership skills, and strong global and Thai cultural perspectives to students.”
DBS’s ultimate goal is to become the best international school in Asia and rise to one of the world’s leading educational institutions.
“Many may have seen that we have changed a lot in the past 40 years. However, these changes are a result of improving continuously, and everything cannot be built overnight. The key principle of our family in doing business is this continuous improvement. This year, we might improve 2-3 things, next year, we might do another 2-3 things. However, we have been developing for 40 years now, so we have made hundreds of improvements. We are trying to deliver the most modern and high quality teaching and learning. What is considered good and new to education, we will bring it and develop it to strengthen the Denla Kindergartens and DBS.”