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Rev Cassandra Lee, MMS Missionary in Chiang Mai, Thailand. She is also a VMS School Board member and VMS Finance Committee Chairperson.

Vineyard Methodist School has its humble beginning as a childcare centre in year 2000. The founder of the school, Sungwan Yeo (affectionally known as Tuk), started the childcare centre at Sanphranet to cater to the needs of working parents with young children. In July 2004, the Vineyard Nursery was established at Sansainoi subdistrict in Chiang Mai, near to where the then newly completed Shineforth Methodist Church building is located.

Sungwan Yeo Tuk teaching in Vineyard Childcare Centre at Sanphranet in 2001

Sungwan Yeo Tuk teaching in Vineyard Childcare Centre at Sanphranet in 2001

The nursery was later expanded into a kindergarten, which was officially opened and dedicated to God in March 2005 by Bishop Dr Robert Solomon with the Governor of Chiang Mai as the Guest of Honour. Five years later, in May 2010, Vineyard Primary School was officially launched after frequent requests were made by parents of the kindergarten students. The school was re-named Vineyard Methodist School, Chiang Mai (or VMS for short) in May 2011.

The plan for the school’s future is to pace its growth to offer Secondary level education. If it is the Lord’s will, we may consider expanding the school to the equivalent to that of a junior college in Singapore.

Vineyard Methodist School, Chiang Mai.

Vineyard Methodist School, Chiang Mai.

The vision of VMS is to develop life-long learners and God-fearing citizens, while its mission is to create an innovative community with strong Christian principles.

In this academic year 2021/22, VMS has a student enrolment of 304 students (both kindergarten and primary levels). Since its formation, the school has achieved good results for the Onet examination, which is a national level examination for primary six students. The Onet results for the school have always been much higher than the national average for all primary school subjects. In view of its good academic performance, the school has achieved a silver medal from the Office of Private Education in Chiang Mai for the last two years.

Many parents are confident of the school’s academic performance, care, and moral education.

Every year, many of the primary six students in VMS were able to gain entry into famous schools in Chiang Mai, such as Yupparat School (the best government school in Chiang Mai), Wattano Payap School, and Prince Royal School. Many parents are confident of the school’s academic performance, care, and moral education.

One of the greater challenges faced by VMS is student enrolment as there are many well-established private schools besides VMS that are competing for the dwindling school-going population. VMS, being a relatively newcomer, will have to develop its own unique characteristics, strengths, and robust curriculum in order to stand out among the older and better established private schools. Another challenge faced by the school is the recruitment and retention of quality teachers and staff as this will have a direct impact on the quality of education being provided. Many teachers and staff in the private sector aspire to join the government schools as the Thai government schools provide lighter workload, attractive pay, and pension benefits which the private schools are unable to match.

With the current COVID-19 pandemic and its ensuing economic woes, the challenge of getting higher student enrolment is made even more difficult as some parents have had to transfer their children from a private school to a government school as they could no longer afford to pay private school fees due to a drop in incomes or loss of jobs. School income is thus directly affected due to a drop in student enrolment as well as some parents becoming unable to pay the school fees in full. Lessons have often had to be taught online for several months in a row, instead of on-site, due to government restrictions and the fear of the spread of COVID-19.

This inevitably affected the quality of education given. Even with the opening of the school, lessons have had to be taught in dual modes (both on-site and online), so as to cater to the needs of those parents who are concerned about COVID-19 infection. This has caused additional burden and stress on the teachers.

VMS Graduation in 2020.

VMS Graduation in 2020.

Despite the challenges faced by VMS, we praise God that He has enabled the school to overcome many of these challenges, and that the school is able to sustain its operations with minimal financial loss thus far. In the coming years, more emphasis will be given by the school on Christian outreach amongst the students, parents, teachers and staff in the school, and people in nearby community, with the greater involvement of Shineforth Methodist Church’s pastors and staff in the school’s outreach efforts. Also, more financial resources from Singapore will be given to provide bursaries for poor families who want to send their children to study in VMS, and to help the parents of existing students who are struggling to pay school fees. We pray that more educational professionals from Singapore will come on board to help VMS establish a more robust school curriculum and management system.

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