February 22, 2008

Srifuengfung Family Branches Out

By Kanana Katharangsiporn, Bangkok Post, Thailand

Feb. 21--The Srifuengfung family has moved into the education business, investing 350 million baht to develop Heathfield International School on the Eastern Outer Ring Road and expecting to break even within 10 years, according to owner and school manager Artitaya Niumpradit.

She said her family entered the business four years ago by starting Lord Shaftesbury International School, which later become Heathfield International School, Bangkok, in partnership with the 350-year Heathfield School of England.

"My family wants to operate an educational business and will focus on it over the next five years as it needs a long-term and huge investment," said Mrs Artitaya, the youngest daughter of Em-orn Pibuldham Srifuengfung, a lecturer at Chulalongkorn University.

The school began as an investment of family funds held by Mrs Em-orn, with an initial outlay of 50 million baht. The family has further plans to develop an international university and a bilingual school in the next five years.

"We need to expand the education business to add value to the international school business," said the 32-year-old manager. Last year the family acquired St Theresa Inti College on Rangsit-Nakhon Nayok Road.

Over three decades the family has accumulated more than 3,000 rai in Chon Buri, 1,000 rai in Rangsit, 100 rai in the the Suvintawong area and tens of rai in Thon Buri. It has office buildings on Rama IV Road and the Bangkok Royal Country Club golf course in Nakhon Nayok, which generate millions of baht a month in rents.

Heathfield International School, Bangkok, is located on an eight-rai plot on Sukhaphiban 3 near the Eastern Outer Ring Road. The family originally owned four rai at the site and invested 150 million baht to acquire another six rai.

With a total cost of 200 million baht, construction is now in the final stage with a secondary building and gymnasium being built. Work will be finished in six months.

Demand for quality international schools in Thailand has been growing sharply as more parents are disappointed with the Thai system. There are now about 20,000 students enrolled in 58 international schools.

"Thai parents who want their children to study in an international school tend to choose one in Thailand since they want to stay close to their children," said Mrs Artitaya.

Besides a nursery for babies from three months old, the school will accept students up to 16 years old. It will charge between 200,000 and 400,000 baht per academic year. All teachers are British.

Currently, the school -- offering a British-style curriculum -- has 200 students and will limit the total to 600 despite a capacity of up to 1,000 because it aimed to focus on quality, she said.


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