The Ekamai International School in Bangkok was close enough to visit whilst we were at the Educating with Neuroscience 2017 Asia conferences in November.
This Seventh Day Adventist school has over 1,300 K-12 students who come from 33 different countries and English is typically not their native language.
I was intrigued to see the focus of Ekamai school’s leaders on the importance of English. Students can’t miss the prominently displayed signs proclaiming:
Be Competitive Globally, Speak English Fluently
Ekamai has become a leading innovator in how it develops English language skills.
Thailand education consultant Naresh Indewhat of Advance Ed introduced a neuroscience-based technology to the school over 10 years ago to help build English language skills fast and simultaneously improve academic performance. At that time Naresh arranged for Dr Steve Miller, one of the four neuroscientists who created the Fast ForWord123 (FFW123) program back in the mid 1990’s, to explain to the school leaders and staff how the cognitive exercises literally build the neuro-biological connections - “wire the brain” - for learning in the English language.
The 76 students who participated in 2007 showed statistically significant improvement in their reading skills and academic achievement with improvements of 5 months to 1 year in Reading, Language, Math, Social Studies and Science, during the 4 months between assessments.
Following these accelerated learning results, the school has used this educational neuroscience technology every year of the last decade and has seen first hand how it builds the English language brains of its students, creating a strong, enduring foundation for all the instruction in English.
Students now make use of the FFW123 technology in one of three dedicated 50-seat “ Fast ForWord Labs”.
Ekamai school has shown that by investing in technology one teacher can deliver individualised learning to 50 students at once. Within the first few clicks of the student engaging with FFW123, each student is delivered the optimal level of challenge that the research has validated will build the brain’s wiring to improve their capacity to learn and accelerate English language development.
Thanks to the schools’ conviction that English language mastery is vital for success in today’s world, Ekamai International School has had the most students use the FFW123 program anywhere in the world outside mainland USA schools.
Professional development for teachers
Naresh Indewhat and Dr Miller accompanied me, my LearnFast colleague David Stanley, Peter Carabi from Scientific Learning Corporation and Cheryl Chia, founder of the Singapore based BrainFit Studio network, on the school visit.
While we were there, Dr Miller and Cheryl Chia presented a professional development session for about 100 Ekamai teachers.
Dr Miller is currently Executive Vice President – Innovation with the Platypus Institute, a scientific research organization that leverages neuroscience to optimize human performance.
He presented "The Future of Accelerated Learning - How Biotechnology Can Double Learning Speed” and explained some of the latest developments from brain science being used to speed up learning, accelerate foreign language acquisition and increase team creativity.
Cheryl Chia, a pediatric physiotherapist who established the global learning franchise BrainFit Studios, explained the most recent research about the connection between the body and the brain and how physical exercise can improve attention and the way students learn. She gave the teachers practical tips to use in the classroom to strengthen students’ attention and focus.