Local and international dignitaries, including past heads of school, teachers and parents packed the ballroom of Centara Grand Mirage Beach Resort Pattaya to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Regents International School Pattaya Oct 5.
Heading the distinguished line-up of dignitaries was none other than Dr. Virachai Techavijit, Founder, Owner, Chairman and Licence Holder of Regent’s International School Pattaya & Bangkok. He was accompanied by his wife Thiphavan and his son Kanet (Nick), his daughter Kwanshanok (Noon) and grandson Puno.
In an emotional introduction, Sarah Osborne-James, Regent’s International School Pattaya Principal said, “The Regents Pattaya began with one man. With the support of his loving family, he founded our school in 1994 and Regents Bangkok in 2000 … Dr. Virachai Techavijit.”
Dr. Virachai said, “I wanted to start my speech with something stunning, but when I look back these past 25 years, it seems that everything was stunning. I will therefore speak from my heart.”
He went on to thank his wife Thiphavan who he called “a great woman who is always at my side” and his children for supporting him throughout the years.
Dr. Virachai thanked Sarah Osborne-James and her amazing organizing team for arranging the grand 25th Anniversary celebration. He thanked all the teachers and staff for their dedication and hard work and even pointed out that one of the staff has worked for the school for the past 24 and a half years.
Dr. Virachai said that the relationship with Nord Anglia education has proven to be most beneficial to all parties because it offers academic, social and personal success for every student.
“Through opportunities to learn from the best, experiences beyond the ordinary, and the encouragement to achieve more than what they thought possible, we help our students succeed anywhere through our unique global educational offer. We do all this by investing in our people, our schools, and above all, our students.”
He reiterated that the mission of the Regent’s School is to ensure a safe environment for students. “We will not tolerate bullying and this also helps the teachers do their work effectively by concentrating on educating the children rather than spending precious time resolving conflicts.”
Dr. Virachai’s keynote address was followed by special performances, an international buffet dinner, presentations, prize draws, a live band and dancing in celebration of the Regent’s success.
An educator’s story: Bringing London to Bangkok
Reaching a milestone of any organization or institution usually calls for a celebration. But to fully enjoy and appreciate their achievements, one must learn about the origins and events and the sacrifices made by so few for so many.
So, let’s look at the life and times this remarkable man, to learn about his past, the present and future of education in the Kingdom.
It takes some people decades to discover what their passion is in life. For Dr. Virachai Techavijit, he stumbled into his passion for education at an early age. At just 19 years old, he became the headmaster of Joseph Upatham School in Sampran, Thailand, managing over a thousand students and 35 teachers.
“Most of the staff were older than me,” Dr. Virachai recalls, smiling.
At 21, Dr. Virachai left the Kingdom to study in the United States, where he earned his Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD degrees in accountancy, including a CPA. The newly minted doctor worked as professor at universities across the US for six years, eventually setting his sights on the West Coast.
“I heard the old advice: young man, go west,” he said.
He landed a highly prestigious position in 1981 as an MBA lecturer at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) when tragedy struck. He came home during his holidays and asked his father, when was the last time he had a physical examination?
“I knew that he had been smoking like a chimney when he was younger,” said Dr. Virachai.
He convinced his father to get an X-ray and the results revealed terrible news. A ping pong ball-sized tumour had formed in his lung. A biopsy showed the tumour was cancerous.
“I had a big decision to make. Coming from a Chinese background, you needed to be with your family.”
He deferred his position at UCLA and returned to Thailand to be with his father, a move that would end up transforming his life and the lives of countless students in Thailand.
Back in Thailand, Dr. Virachai spent the next 12 years working in a variety of sectors putting his western experience and negotiating expertise to use. His former bosses include CP’s Dhanin Chearavanont (he helped in penetrating the Chinese market in 1982), former Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun (he helped in easing pressure from the US Congress’ Textiles and Farm Bills), and Bangkok Bank’s Chatri Sophonpanich (he helped in fixing the 200,000 baht fee ceiling for loan mortgage registration).
Then in 1993 he became Senior Executive Vice President of Bangkok Metropolitan Bank before the Cabinet appointed him the chairman of the board of the Mass Rapid Transit Authority in 1994 (he reversed a cabinet resolution so the government was able to build the country’s first subway train, the Blue Line).
By 1996, he was serving as an official advisor to the Prime Minister, a position which he left a year later to commence a year-long process to become the Honorary Consul of Republic of Estonia for Thailand.
Dr. Virachai invested in real estate in Pattaya in 1988 whilst serving as advisor to Thai Bankers’ Association, setting off a chain of events that put him on a track back into the world of education. First, he developed homes for three major US companies in North Pattaya. The residents of those homes were concerned for the future of their companies that wouldn’t be able to recruit valuable talent without proper education options for families. They implored the former educator to solve their crisis. The decision by the Thai government under Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun in 1992 to allow local children to attend international schools was most timely – one may say it was a key factor of Thailand’s successful globalization.
“To decide to invest in a school is a huge, huge job,” Dr. Virachai says, “but of course what really scared me was that we would have 32 empty houses.” Dr. Virachai took over a small international kindergarten in Pattaya and opened its doors in 1994 as a full scale international school with just 75 families. Two months later, the number grew to over 140. He then moved the school to its current site in 1995.
Regent’s International School Pattaya, now operating as a day and boarding school, caters to 1100 students and boasts 11 buildings on 70 of his 450 rai.
Six years into the school’s history, parents pushed Dr. Virachai to open a Bangkok campus to ease the pain of being apart from their children. The chairman obliged, and in 2000 brought his esteemed school to the capital, which at present caters to over 700 students.
Regent’s International School alumni began going on to graduate from Oxford, Cambridge, Stanford, and other prestigious schools including Stanford, UCLA, Cornell, National Singapore University and Seoul National University. Many went on to complete doctorate degrees from top institutions, including Cambridge University. Some went on to become politicians, including the Deputy Minister of Energy and Natural Resources in Armenia.
With Dr. Virachai’s reputation in Thailand, it became easy to recruit world class teachers. (We have had) “graduates who went to study Law at Cambridge University, Economics at University of Chicago and other noted subjects at LSE, UCL, and Imperial College,” Dr. Virachai proudly says.
While the schools’ reputations soared, Dr. Virachai saw another opportunity to offer students in Thailand. “We were looking for something stunning to bring to Bangkok,” he says, and that’s how we started the University of London International programmes.”
“The one major feature is that the curriculum is set by the University of London and London School of Economics (LSE),” Dr. Virachai says. “LSE actually dictates what students study.”
UOL-LSE provides the curriculum, supporting literature and final exams to students working toward their Bachelor of Science degrees in Economics, Management, Science or Social Science. Students can even participate in the graduation ceremony in London.
With passionate leaders in education like Dr Virachai pushing for young people to not only earn prestigious degrees, but become naturally curious, lifelong learners; everyone seems to win.
In 2016 Regent’s International College started another option of higher education with emphasis on employment demand driven curriculum. The College became the first and still the only one in Thailand that is licensed by the Thai Government to teach foreign vocational curriculum.
Dr. Virachai’s vision was fully supported by the then Education Minister, General Da-pong, the current privy councilor, who proposed and the cabinet approved to allow the teaching of international vocational curriculum in the Kingdom.
The College then proceeded to apply for the required training and certification to BTEC qualifications. Not only BTEC teachers what the industries need but the approach of learning is focusing on critical thinking and problem solving without memorization nor closed book exams. Over the years, this sort of learning approach has been recommended to Thai Ministers by so many critics and this BTEC approach is exactly what they were searching for.
Courtesy of Prestige Magazine, published with the kind permission of Dr. Virachai Techavijit.