As an entrepreneur and educator, she shares her ethos towards education.
By Tom McLean
As the poet W.B Yeats wrote “Education is not the filling of a pot but the lighting of a fire.” This insightful attitude towards schooling is perfectly exemplified in Laxmi Dangmaneerat’s professional career. From humble beginnings as a teaching assistant, to founding and directing the highly esteemed International School of Chonburi, Laxmi’s unbridled passion for the welfare and growth of children has been her guiding light across the hurdles of entrepreneurship, in a mission to provide the finest possible education for young students.
Laxmi’s philosophy towards education is profound and inspiring, with emphasis placed on the importance of compassion, kindness, and empowerment. Harkening back to Professor Howard Gartner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences, Laxmi believes in catering to student’s individual strengths, rather than working within rigid systems. “No child should be defined by their IQ or EQ.” Laxmi explains. “Imagine if you had a classroom with Madonna, Obama, and Einstein as students. They’re all people who are brilliant in their own fields so expecting them to learn the same way would be ridiculous.”
Laxmi credits her idyllic kindergarten experiences as a big influence in the development of her professional ethos. “Every time you go to a teacher training course, the instructors ask what kind of teacher you would like to be. There’s always one teacher that comes to mind for me.” Laxmi fondly recalls. “Sitting in the garden and going through books with her, she taught me how to read. I have wonderful memories of playing in the sand pit and singing along to this brilliant teacher as she played her guitar. That kind of learning made such an impact on my life. That’s the kind of environment I feel is right for kids.”
After finishing school and graduating from Assumption University of Thailand with a business degree in general management, Laxmi landed her first job as a teaching assistant at ELC International School Bangkok. Laxmi elaborates: “That job made such a positive difference in my life. Not long after I joined, I was offered a position with the United Nations but I had such a connection with the children I didn’t want to leave. I had truly found my calling.”
With her career ambitions realised, Laxmi decided to go back to university to complete a master’s degree in education and soon after began work at Helen Doron English. “The business was just starting up in Thailand and my boss was looking for someone with experience in education to help grow the company in Bangkok. I had a lot of control and it was my first foray into building a learning environment from scratch.” Laxmi reminisces.
Upon getting married to husband and soon-to-be business partner Deepak Dangmaneerat, Laxmi settled down in Pattaya, believing the relaxed atmosphere and spacious environment to be an ideal setting for raising children. Upon securing a plot of land at a very reasonable price, however, their focus was divided between building a family and more entrepreneurial pursuits. “It was at this point that we started outlining and designing what would become ISC.
We were only 28 but we really believed in our concept: a cosy and welcoming learning environment that helps children transition from home to school while encouraging them to grow on a personal level.” Laxmi remembers with a smile. “We had the opportunity to build our image of the perfect classroom. We flew to California, bought all these resources from an American teacher supply store called Lakeshore, and started crafting what we believed to be the best possible schoolroom for two year olds – our first age group. It was like painting on a blank canvas. There was no restrictive upper management with their own plans or budget constraints.”
By the time the first building was finished, Laxmi’s second son was born and her eldest was ready to start school. The first students who would join the newly founded International School of Chonburi would be Laxmi and Deepak’s own children. The journey to success, however, would take time and patience and Laxmi looks back at those slow early days: “It wasn’t easy. Every day we were waiting for the phone to ring from parents wanting a tour of the facilities.”
Families from the local area eventually took notice of this happy, close-knit school and began enrolling their children and from that point, the school’s reputation began to grow. “ISC feels like a community which attracted a lot of parents from overseas. The school stands out from the rest because when we say every child matters, we mean it. We tell our teachers to praise the children’s efforts, not just results. For the first eight years we didn’t spend any money on marketing. Whatever money we had, we invested back into the classroom.” Laxmi clarifies.
ISC has since expanded into a fully-fledged early learning facility and primary school, adhering to the UK National Curriculum. The school and its facilities developed gradually, with additional year levels being introduced annually since its inception.
What began as a single building grew into a large and modern learning institution, with a new competition-size swimming pool and sports field currently on the way. Laxmi shares her perspective on the school’s ongoing expansions: “We make the improvements and renovations we do because it’s right for the children. Largescale investments are not always possible because of the inherent risk. We would never want to put our employees’ jobs on the line. So you have to learn how to say no when parents make certain demands. It’s all about communication. If everything is clear and transparent it solves a lot of problems. It’s important to us that ISC maintains a family-like environment where everyone knows each other.”
While the COVID-19 epidemic and resulting lockdown posed an obstacle for ISC, Laxmi worked through the crisis with a composed attitude. “No matter how ruffled you are, you have to try your best to be calm.” Laxmi says confidently. “When the building was closed, we decided that a blended learning model aligned with our ethos. We used online platforms, our teachers were available to speak to students from 8am to 3pm. What was missing was that personal touch but it was the best solution at the time.”
What does the future hold for the school? Laxmi has big plans: “I want ISC to have a bigger role in the local community. I want to reach out and share our practices with public schools and change attitudes towards education. I’ve never been one to chase money. It’s always been my goal to follow a deeper calling. You have to live a life where you can look back and say what you did made yourself and other people happy.”
For more information about Laxmi’s work and the International School of Chonburi:
Tel: 03 824 1085 or 087 141 4448