International schools vs bilingual schools: What’s the difference?

There are many choices of bilingual and international schools in Chonburi, Pattaya. However, some parents often get confused about the differences between the two, making it hard for them to choose. Naturally, parents want the best standard of education possible in a school where their child can easily fit in, make new friends and be happy. To help them choose the best school for their child, this article will discuss the different types of international schools, and their difference from bilingual schools.

What is an international school?

International schools offer a curriculum different from those offered by local schools in their host country and are usually independent of any national system of education. For example, British international schools like Rugby School Thailand use a British curriculum, while an American international school follows an American curriculum and so forth. International schools are divided into three categories:

    1. Original expatriate
      Original expatriate international schools are what most people think an international school is — a British school with a British curriculum and British students taught by British teachers — just in a country outside of England. These schools are often well-known and well-established and often charge parents tuition fees at the top of the regional range.

    2. Broadly international
      Broadly international schools can be found in regions with a large number of expatriates such as Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates, Singapore and China. While these schools follow the curriculum of a specific country like England, they often work with multicultural teachers and are open to parents and children of different nationalities. So, it’s normal to see a lot of ethnic diversities and hear different languages spoken on these schools’ campuses.

    3. Local international
      Local international schools are the fastest-growing and largest segment of the international school landscape. These schools use an international curriculum and language of teaching different from the host country’s. But compared to other international institutions, local international schools cater more to parents and children from the host country.

Benefits of an international school

Here’s a list of benefits if you choose to send your child to an international school:


  1. Holistic development
    A top international school such as Rugby School Thailand will offer a more dynamic education that helps nurture the mind, body and spirit of students, allowing them to grow holistically and prosper in all aspects of life. International schools nurture every aspect of a child’s development using advanced standards of teaching and employ instructors with the highest level of qualifications.

  2. Academic excellence
    Because international schools follow a curriculum different from their host nation’s, students have access to subjects not offered by local schools. The rigorous curriculum of international schools tend to produce more well-rounded students.

  3. Cultural diversity
    Studying in an international school exposes your child to students and teachers from various cultures and backgrounds. This will help them develop an international mindset and allow them to easily adjust to different cultures in the future.

  4. Advanced facilities
    The facilities found inside international schools are equipped with the latest technology to create an inspiring learning environment. Because extracurricular and co-curricular activities are a big part of an international school’s curriculum, they often have Olympic-sized pools and state-of-the-art sports halls where students can enjoy various sports and activities outside of their classes.

What is a bilingual school?

Bilingual schools, on the other hand, follow most or all of the host country’s national curriculum. Subjects are taught in both the local language and second language — usually English — to encourage students to learn the latter. The level at which the native and secondary language is used depends on the bilingual education program model used, which includes:


  1. Transitional bilingual education
    This involves teaching students in their native language for no more than three years so that they don’t fall behind in core subjects like science, mathematics and history while learning English. The goal of this model is to help students shift to English-only classes as fast as possible.

  2. Immersion bilingual programs
    This model focuses on immersing students into classes where all subjects are taught in English or another secondary language.

  3. Two-way immersion
    Also called dual language immersion, the two-way immersion model offers subjects that are taught in two languages, usually English and another partner language. This model helps native and non-native English speaking students become bilingual and biliterate.

  4. Late-exit
    In late-exit or developmental bilingual education, students are taught mostly using their native language, accompanied by brief lessons in English. The goal of this model is to help students develop literacy in their native language first. They can then transfer those skills to the second language afterwards.

Benefits of a bilingual school

Just like an international school, bilingual education comes with benefits such as:

  1. Improved cognitive development
    Students who know a second language have shown improved performance when it comes to tasks involving creative thinking, problem solving and pattern recognition.

  2. Enhanced memory
    Bilingual students tend to have an easier time remembering names, items and directions than those speaking only one language.

  3. Greater academic achievement
    Because their minds are challenged to communicate in multiple languages, bilingual students achieve more academic success than monolingual ones.

Which is best for your child?

Choosing whether to enroll your child in an international school or bilingual school comes down to what you want for your child and what your child needs. Both provide benefits that promote intellectual, emotional and social development.


If you want something more specific for your child’s education in Chonburi, Pattaya, such as a world-renowned British education, then your best choice is Rugby School Thailand. Our goal is to develop academically apt, kind and well-rounded students through academic excellence, traditional values and co-curricular activities drawn from our 450-year-old legacy. Feel free to contact us for any enquiries, we’re looking forward to hearing from you.

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