A Look Back at the Development of the French School of Pattaya

In just a few years, David Micallef has transformed Pattaya School from a class in a villa for a handful of children into a beautiful establishment that will welcome 160 students at the start of the 2022 school year.

David Micallef, a teacher in France since 2004, decided in 2009 to take a year off in Thailand. At the time, he was far from looking forward to becoming the principal of an international school in Pattaya! Soon he met the French community of Pattaya and several French families whose children were receiving distance learning through the CNED asked him to teach.

From a makeshift school in a villa for less than 10 students to an establishment recognized by France and Thailand, there is only one step or almost! Lepetitjournal.com met David Micallef to revisit the history of the EFIP (International French School of Pattaya), whose student body continues to grow.

How do you end up opening a French school in Pattaya?

There was a small French school then where there was quite a bit of friction. A group of families had left this school and they asked me if I could give lessons to their children who were enrolled in the CNED. I thought to myself why not! We settled in a villa, I had 6-7 students to start with and others joined later. Soon there were about twenty students and we recruited an extra teacher because there were children from kindergarten to university.

For this first school year in 2009-2010 I was ’employed’ by these families, but again there were tensions between the families. So at the end of the school year in June 2010 I said: where do I take the reins or stop! The parents agreed to entrust me with the school and I became principal for the year 2010-2011, I set up an administration department and I started the process of obtaining French and Thai approvals.

David Micallef – Photo Catherine VANESSE

When did you get these approvals?

In 2013, we were approved by France and joined the AEFE network for kindergartens and primary schools. That same year we moved to larger premises because we now had about sixty students.

In 2015, I bought the land where the school now stands, in Huay Yai in Pattaya’s Ban Lamung district, and we started work. In order to have an international school license in Thailand, you must have a minimum of 8,000 square meters of land. It took us three years to build the first building. It was done slowly because I couldn’t get funding, so we funded everything ourselves through tuition.

In September 2018 we were able to go back to school in the new buildings for the first time. The second part of the buildings came out of the ground at the end of 2020.

We have obtained the International School License in two phases. In 2018 we had the license for nursery and primary school and in 2020 until university.

Are you planning to extend French certification to high school?

Currently high school students are registered with the CNED, I would indeed like to get a French certification, but there are quite a few criteria, especially in terms of the number of students and there is also a cost involved. Today we only have 2 students in Terminale, 7 students in Première and 7 in Seconde, so we can’t submit the request yet. However, I plan to try to get certified for college next year.

How many students do you have today?

We have 145 students and there should be 160 at the start of the school year in September 2022. We also have a team of about fifteen secondary and five primary school teachers.

View of the French-speaking school of Pattaya
thanks to EFIP

How do you explain this increase?

I don’t really have an answer, but I have the impression that expats, not only in Thailand, are developing more and more. We have new families settling in Thailand as well as French families leaving Bangkok for Pattaya. We see a new phenomenon, we have more and more non-French speaking families. Many nationalities do not have a course in their language, so they have the choice between Thai schools or international schools, the latter being between three and five times more expensive than us.

How do you ensure attractive prices?

Staying cheap is a pretty personal choice. There are many families that I have known from the beginning and I know that if we increased our registration fee tomorrow, these families would not be able to follow. The population in Pattaya is not the same as in Bangkok or Phuket. In the French community there are many retirees with small pensions, so I try to provide quality education that is accessible to everyone.

Have you registered an increase in the number of departures within the French community?

Many children left during the Covid-19, there was a large turnover, more than usual. The numbers are increasing every year, but behind them are many departures and many arrivals.

This has been the case before, and it is being exacerbated by the Covid-19, we see a lot of families who arrive in a somewhat utopian way with the idea of ​​​​settling, working, etc. in Thailand. In general, these families for a year and leave as soon as their savings are used up. With the Covid-19 we saw some families who had been able to make it for several years and who had to return because of the economic crisis, some left us with unpaid tuition fees.

We are seeing an increase in the number of stock exchange holders. Previously, 25% of our students benefited from a scholarship, that’s now 45%, it’s not negligible!

How do you see the future of your school?

My goal from the start was to have enough students to open one class per level and to have between 150 and 200 students. There we are, I am very satisfied. In retrospect, I realize that having classes of less than 10 students in the high school is a bit complicated economically because more teachers are needed, so I would be so eager to develop the high school if the school can accommodate a maximum of 250 students.

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