For the past 19 years, Cameron has served the American International School (AIS) in Hong Kong, as a teacher, vice-principal, principal, and since 2005, as the Head of School. As the school’s senior administrator, Cameron has a deep knowledge of the educational and operational requirements of a dynamic international school community. He is also an experienced Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Chair and regularly leads accreditation visits to international schools across the East Asian Region.
Cameron is originally from Scotland where he completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Strathclyde in Politics and Industrial Relations. He moved to Hong Kong in 1993 and did a master’s degree through the University of York in the UK in Teaching English to Young Learners. This was followed by a post graduate diploma in Education at the University of Hong Kong, where he received his full teaching qualification.
The starting point for VERSO International School began in 2014 with a simple question: How can we design a new international school that will truly prepare its students for a world that is changing faster than at any other time in human history?
When my team and I sat down to answer this question, we realized that this was a challenge because as educators, we were conditioned by years of being in a traditional school environment.
I decided to approach IDEO, one of the world’s leading design and innovation firms in San Francisco, with this same question. IDEO is recognized globally for using Design Thinking, a methodology that uses a human- centered design process to find solutions to a problem in a creative an innovative way.
I took this question to a group of people whose job was to innovate, create, and look at things from a different angle. I asked them to help reimagine what a school of the future could and should be,” Cameron explained, adding that the intention was to get a different perspective from non-educators on what a future school could be like.
Intrigued and challenged to design a new kind of international school, IDEO formed a team comprising their designers, and together with me and a group of international educators, we spent 4 months in Bangkok, New York, San Francisco, Hong Kong and Singapore, visiting more than 25 innovative schools, doing extensive field research, and looking for powerful insights on how to design a school for the future.
Using this research data, the IDEO team tested a number of school design prototypes with students, families and educators in Bangkok. This feedback and insight shaped VERSO’s unique purpose pillars, the mindsets and behaviors that our students will develop, as well as our signature learning experiences. The construction of the school began in 2017 with the hiring of the architects, interior designers. Contractors and landscape artists. Many of our teachers, who we call Learning Designers, joined in 2018 to help develop VERSO’s innovative curriculum, approach to teaching and assessment.
VERSO is located close to Suvarnabhumi Airport (15-minute drive) on a total project space of 168 rai, or 66 acres, making VERSO the largest school in the Bangkok metropolitan area. The school is divided into three sections which we call loops: Lower Loop (Early Years 2 – Grade 4), Middle Loop (Grades 5-8) and Upper Loop (Grades 9 -12) with a total capacity of 1,800 students.
What is the school’s philosophy?
VERSO is built on three simple beliefs. We are an international school that supports learners to develop a strong sense of personal and cultural identity along with a deep understanding of, and an ability to actively engage with the world around them. Our students will gain the confidence to lead their own journey and pursue any path they choose.
VERSO is the first international school in the world to be designed in partnership with IDEO. VERSO’s unique DNA fuses human-centered design with a progressive future-ready international school education.
VERSO is designed to give students a much more meaningful and personalized school experience. Our goal is to give students an international school education that empowers them to achieve their full potential. We see VERSO as offering students and teachers a highly creative and collaborative environment where kids are active participants because learning has relevance and purpose. When our students graduate, they will be confident young men and women who understand how to navigate the world around them, and that’s really what VERSO is all about.
What is the school’s chosen curriculum?
VERSO delivers an innovative American curriculum from Early Years 2 to Grade 12 that is aligned to New York State Education Department Standards with an emphasis on learning that is interdisciplinary, project based and increasingly personalized.
We chose the New York State Education Department Standards because they’re comprehensive, research based and internationally recognized. They also provide clear learning progressions for all students, outlining what learners should know and be able to do.
The key components of our curriculum include immersive language-learning, human-centered design, digital media arts, and a holistic approach to health, physical activity and well-being.
VERSO students will be organized into cohorts instead of single grade levels. A cohort combines two grade levels and is served by a dedicated team of teachers coordinated by a Cohort Leader.
Students will work in a variety of group settings, including one-on-one, small groups, and larger project teams. Our student to teacher ratio ensures that each student receives a high degree of personal attention and individual support. This is an essential piece of VERSO’s educational philosophy.
VERSO will be fully accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) and our high school diplomas will be accepted by universities around the world.
VERSO is a joint-venture partnership between U City Plc, an affiliate of BTS Group Holdings and a private investor from Hong Kong.
Tell us about the school’s architecture.
The architecture at VERSO is inspired by our research into the design of learning spaces as we understand the critical role our physical environment plays in the way we behave and learn. Our unique looped buildings are intentionally designed to promote a sense of flow, movement and an underlying sense of continuous learning.
The loops enable learning to transcend the confined nature of traditional classrooms. Students and teachers work together in a variety of uniquely designed spaces that support independent learning, group work, and full-scale projects, as well as quiet spaces for focused instruction, coaching and mentoring. Our campus has been designed as an ecosystem that interconnects buildings and spaces with the natural landscape.
Where else in the world can we find VERSO schools?
VERSO is the only international school of its kind that is located in Bangkok, Thailand.
VERSO is the Latin word for the left-sided page in an open book, and alludes to the idea that we have 'turned the page' in school design.
We are committed to delivering a highly personalized educational experience for each student that will ignite their inner passions, inspire creativity and purpose, and develop the skills and mindsets needed for their future.
What are the benefits of an international education?
An international education is rich in its diversity and gives families and students a much broader vision of the world. Families invest in their children’s education, so we have a huge responsibility to deliver a high quality school experience. Standards and expectations are high which attracts great teachers. International education is a highly dynamic and attractive sector to be in. At VERSO, students work with highly experienced teachers in wonderful facilities, getting an incredible experience.
On what basis does the school select its teachers?
At VERSO we intentionally call every teacher a Learning Designer. They are passionate and highly qualified international educators hired for their experiences working in progressive educational models around the world. They work collaboratively in Design Teams, using their diverse talents and skills to create and deliver high impact projects and deep learning experiences for every student.
How can you assure Thai parents that their children will fit back into Thai society once they graduate?
One of our purpose pillars is for children to develop a strong sense of personal and cultural identity. VERSO students will explore their Thai cultural heritage through experiences and interactions with a diverse background. Time will be spent communicating and reflecting on the origins of their beliefs in relation to each other. Thai language will also be fostered throughout their time at VERSO, allowing for children to transition to the Thai society.
How do you support Thai students who come from Thai schools with limited English language and international students who come from traditional schools?
Supporting the transition to VERSO for all students, regardless of their background and educational experiences will be a priority. We recognize that each child is unique and how they transition to VERSO will vary.
Learning designers will get to know students on a close and individual basis to build a complete understanding of each child. Working with families is key in supporting a successful transition. Open communication with families about previous experiences and updates about progress during the transition is important to us. During the school day there will be multiple opportunities to foster peer relationships through collaborative learning experiences and social interactions.
How important are extra-curricular activities, and what does VERSO offer?
As VERSO’s curriculum is project- based and interdisciplinary, extra-curricular activities will play an important role in what our students do. Some of our sports facilities include Thailand’s only 50m climate-controlled Olympic-size indoor swimming pool with a salt chlorination system and 10 competition lanes, a 2000-seat arena consisting of basketball court, gym, climbing wall, yoga, stretching area, lockers and changing areas, a 1,000 seater outdoor athletic stadium with hybrid grass soccer pitch for competitions of football, rugby, and track and field, an all-weather multi-purpose outdoor training pitch, tennis courts and basketball courts. Our arts facilities include art rooms, exhibition spaces, multimedia production and large recording studios, a black-box theatre, dance studios, game design studios, and multiple makerspaces throughout the school.
For more details on
VERSO, please visit www.verso.school or call +66 2 080 6200