Britain's old school tie heads East

Education is becoming a multi-million pound service industry, with some of our most famous public schools exporting their prestigious names to Asia. Ben Russell reports

A NEW crop of pupils will arrive for their first day at Harrow this month, donning the straw boaters and dark blue and grey uniforms which have been worn by Harrovians for generations. The youngsters will receive the traditional English public school upbringing and education, which have been part of Harrow's history since it was founded by Royal Charter in 1572.

Little will have changed since the school days of famous old boys like Winston Churchill, the Duke of Westminster and Pandit Nehru, the first prime minister of India, all raised on classics, rugby and cricket.

But rather than beginning their school careers strolling across 360 acres of chilly north London parkland, these latest recruits will embark on their education in the wet heat of a Thai spring.

Around 130 pupils are expected at the first classes of the new Harrow International School in Bangkok, to receive intensive tuition in English ready for the beginning of the school year proper in September.

Eventually the school hopes to attract 1,800 youngsters from across the Far East, who will doff their boaters to the beaks at a purpose-built site outside the Thai capital, designed to be a little oasis of old England.

Michael Liddiard worked at Harrow for 18 years before moving to found the international school. "The aim," he says, "will be to take a child at any time during his or her schooling and swap them with a child at Harrow without them being able to tell the difference."

The school will have an English head and staff, and will teach the full range of GCSEs and 25 A-levels currently enjoyed by Harrovians at home. Pupils will not be spared the compulsory Latin, but there will be additions. Girls will be welcome (the original Harrow is all-male) and the new school will also break with the original's tradition of boarding by offering places to day pupils.

The new school is just part of the multi-million pound industry which has grown up to capitalise on the academic reputation and social standing of Britain's public schools and universities. Until recently, that meant thousands of school and university students would come to Britain for their education, but Harrow's Far Eastern branch is part of a trend towards exporting our expertise to other countries.

The new Harrow school aims to draw in children from across the Far East - the sons and daughters of expat diplomats and businessmen, as well as locals. The proportion of Thai youngsters will be kept to 30 per cent, partly to satisfy local legislation and partly to ensure that English is used outside lessons as well as in class.

"The ethos, discipline and the Harrow education will be the same," Mr Liddiard said. "In the senior school the children will wear boaters and the uniform will be like the summer dress at Harrow.

"We are going to play cricket and rugby We will have an all-purpose sports ground with football and rugby pitches.

"People are looking for an old-fashioned schooling which provides their children with the impetus both to learn and to take part in learning. Local schools have 50 or 60 to a class and teaching is by rote. We will be providing classes with a maximum of 25 and children will be encouraged to take a full part in their education."

Fees will run to pounds 3,750 a year, about one third of the cost of a place at Harrow in England. Staff say the collapse of Asian currencies may have helped the school's prospects, by inflating the cost of sending children to England.

As many as 20,000 foreign children board at private schools in Britain, and demand is growing. One in five comes from Hong Kong and the Far East, but substantial numbers hail from mainland Europe and North America. ISIS, the Independent Schools Information Service, estimates that three-quarters of the foreign children at independent schools end up at UK universities.

It's a valuable trade: universities say that the 154,000 full time foreign students - 17 per cent of the total - bring in pounds 575m a year in fees, and spend pounds 756m a year while they are here.

Head teachers put their schools' popularity down to educational standards, and the desire to learn the international language of business. Privately they admit that public schools have become chic among the moneyed international classes.

Harrow is joining a minor invasion of the Far East by the public school fraternity. Dulwich College, which schooled PG Wodehouse and Raymond Chandler, opened a school on the Thai island of Phuket last year. The buildings, a Thai interpretation of Dulwich's Victorian premises in South London, are designed to evoke the English public school atmosphere.

Graham Able, master of the original Dulwich, said: "There is a perceived quality in English education, both at secondary and tertiary level, and certainly some people would rather go English than American."

Dulwich, founded in 1619, has employed business tactics pioneered in the world of the burger bar and set up the International College as a franchise, using the London school's curriculum and name.

Franchising has become something of a dirty word in education after a series of high-profile scandals involving university courses licensed overseas. Mr Able admits that such ventures are a risk for an ancient institution, and has taken responsibility for checking his colleagues in Asia once a year during a personal visit to the new school.

At Pocklington School in Yorkshire, staff have opened up a foundation course for foreign students in collaboration with Hull University. Given the praise heaped on education abroad, it is perhaps surprising that the greatest growth is in students from France and Germany. Head teacher David Grey believes he that it is the breadth of our education which has great appeal. "It prepares children to be independent and go out into the world with a head on their shoulders. But I do think there's a certain social cachet about it."

The spirit of the stiff upper lip will certainly live on at the new air-conditioned Harrow, which will transplant the team sports of rugby and Harrow Football, an ancient game said to be suited to the Middlesex clay, to the heat. Michael Liddiard said: "It does get fairly hot here, but during the rainy season it's almost as muddy as it is in England."

News
The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised
people
Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

Sport
Louis van Gaal at the Hawthorns prior to Manchester United's game against West Brom
football

Follow the latest updates from the Monday night Premier League fixture

News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister
news

Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and no-one was arrested

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010
films

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Voices
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'
voices

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

News
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)
news

Concerns raised phenomenon is threatening resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
gaming

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Year 5 Teacher

    £80 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Year 5 Teacher KS2 teaching job...

    Software Developer

    £35000 - £45000 Per Annum Pensions Scheme After 6 Months: Clearwater People So...

    Systems Analyst / Business Analyst - Central London

    £35000 - £37000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Busines...

    Senior Change Engineer (Network, Cisco, Juniper) £30k

    £30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...

    Day In a Page

    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
    Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

    How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

    'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

    Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

    Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
    Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

    Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

    After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
    Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

    Terry Venables column

    Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
    The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

    Michael Calvin's Inside Word

    Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past