A former banking lawyer, Stephanie Cheah switched her focus to education in 2014, establishing Waypoints, a boarding schools consulting firm, which assists parents to navigate the intricacies of picking and applying to top boarding schools in the UK. As a one-time boarding school student herself, Cheah is intimately aware of the value of firsthand intelligence and how vital detailed research is for parents to make informed decisions. Having come across many students who struggled to cope and fit in once they started school, during her own time as a teenage boarder, she made it her mission to help parents pick the right school for their children to ensure a successful boarding school experience.
Besides providing one-to-one consultations and guidance to parents, Cheah also initiated the British Education and Schools Show in Asia (BESSA), an exhibition featuring a carefully curated selection of British boarding schools. Showcased annually in Malaysia and Singapore, BESSA provides parents the invaluable opportunity to survey, seek information, and talk to senior representatives of the boarding schools.
Tatler speaks to Cheah about what to expect at BESSA and the growing interest in British boarding schools among parents in Asia:
Why are more parents choosing to send their children to British boarding school?
One reason is that they believe in the philosophy of a more holistic education where everything is on site, with an environment that enables their children to explore their academic journey fully. It is also a stepping stone into the top UK and US universities. Students will learn to be more independent, and how to adapt and be flexible from living with students of different cultures and countries.
In what ways can parents go wrong in picking a school?
There are actually many scenarios. For example, you might want your child to go to the top-performing academic school but once they get there, they struggle fitting in because the culture of the school is maybe not what they were expecting. Sometimes they can’t keep up academically. I’ve actually seen quite a few students getting into top schools because they prepared well for the admissions exam but once they get in, they constantly feel like they are trying to catch up. Another example is of parents not being aware of the distance of the school from the main cities, which some schools might not be forthcoming about. Sometimes, parents don’t look properly at the academic curriculum that’s being offered; for example, their child wants to study architecture, but that particular school they chose is not strong in design technology, therefore it is not the best place for the child to prepare for his university course.
The other thing that is happening now is students wanting to further their studies in the US but not every school has the support to prepare them for the US applications. So it’s really important that parents need to know the right schools to pick.