Weekly Local Biography

  Keith Wecker

The new headmaster at the American Pacific International School and Kindergarten (APIS) is an affable Australian, Keith Wecker. He is a man who was introduced to the life of an expat overseas, and realised just where he felt most at home. He is also a man who has continually developed his career, taking his own education much past that of being just a pedagogue.

Keith was born in Melbourne, Australia. He went through the government schooling system, but with his academic prowess won government scholarships to allow him to continue through to tertiary education. He went to Monash University where he studied chemistry, before embarking on his government bonded service.

By this stage he was interested in making teaching his main career, but before knuckling down, he and his wife took a year off to see the world, as so many young Aussies did in those days. A backpack and a VW Kombi were all that were required, and a wife that was in agreement. Keith’s wife was more than agreeable to this, in fact could have been the initiator!

On their return, Keith began working in schools in Victoria, and might have stayed there if it were not for the offer of a fellowship to an International Baccalaureate (IB) school in Lesotho, South Africa. Again Keith admits that it was at his wife’s instigation that they took off for South Africa.

He was there for four years, rising to become Acting Head of School in a country under military rule in Black Africa. It was an interesting time. In his school of 500 students were the children of ANC guerrillas. “Interesting but dangerous,” was how Keith described it!

They returned to Australia and Keith described the next few months as ‘reverse culture shock’. Having had a taste of international life, he found parochial Melbourne far to stultifying. He needed to get out. Quickly.

They had come to Thailand some years before on holiday, so when a position was advertised in Bangkok with the New International School of Thailand (NIST), he took it. When he arrived there were 500 students enrolled. By the time he resigned this year, there were 1,350.

During the eleven years he was with NIST, his own focus began to change too. He had achieved the academic results that he wanted for the school, but realised that the campus itself was physically poor. The need was to build - and fund - a new campus. To make this happen, the school needed a CEO style Head of School. As Keith puts it, “To look after the business of international education.”

He went on to say, “I needed a challenge. I had reached 45 years of age and I was looking at the next career move.” He listened to people who knew about business, and since his own interest was now far greater than just running a successful academic program, began to apply his own talents in that direction.

I suggested to Keith that perhaps he had been ‘winging it’ and was taking a huge risk in this venture, but he denied it. “I’m not a ‘gung ho’ personality. I have learned to slow down my ways, though I still talk very fast (he does), but I’ve learned a lot from Thai business people.”

He certainly did learn, and quickly, because the CEO Head of School found funds and built the new campus that was required. He had risen to that challenge very successfully. However, he felt that he did want to learn even more about this new aspect of education - business administration.

“I wanted a year off,” said Keith. “I was supposed to be a kept man this year, while I did my doctorate in business administration.” His wife was well settled in her career and was in agreement, but when the education industry in Thailand heard that Keith Wecker was ‘unemployed’ the offers came rolling in.

After all, this was a man who had a very heavy involvement in the IB program, and who had led IB accreditation teams for Thailand. He had gone overseas on recruitment tours, and was well known for his promotion of the education business in Thailand, and even Thailand itself. “I’m almost like an ambassador for Thailand. I get so tired of the biased foreign press. I support Thailand in what it is trying to do in education. Did you know there are 87 international schools in Thailand?” he announced with conviction. A man with these credentials was educational hot property!

He finally acquiesced to the offer from APIS who in return agreed to his taking three days off every week to further his own studies, to complete his doctorate.

Keith is a very deep philosopher too, when it comes to looking at how expats can fit in to the life in foreign countries, and Thailand in particular. He has much personal experience in this matter, now being the longest serving expat Head of School in this country. From this you can see that Keith Wecker does believe in Thailand, and is not just using the country as a springboard to some where else. “We have to understand Thai ways,” he says, and firmly believes that the future will be in bringing in the products of the international schools to be administrators. These people have the education, the understanding of the world outside Thailand, and are of course, very acceptable within Thailand.

For the academic, turned business administrator, there is not much time left for hobbies, although he was once a first grade footballer who had played in competition at the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground). He also used to play squash, but that has gone too, but he still has a great interest in sport.

His interest now is much more family minded, and he finished the interview saying, “I wouldn’t be where I am now if it weren’t for my wife. She has pushed me all the way!” Hopefully he will not have to use that as his epitaph!