The Federation emerged as an information-sharing and discussion group among international schools offering a British-style curriculum in regions far removed from “home base”.
In 1988 Ronald Stones OBE, then Principal of the British International School Jakarta (now British School Jakarta), established the group.
The first Heads’ Business Meeting took place over a long weekend that same year at the inner-city campus in Permatau Hijau, and the attending Heads were hosted by the school’s Governors. His Excellency, the then British Ambassador to Indonesia, showed his support for the initiative by joining its reception event, which was attended by Ms Abidin from the Kota Kinabalu School (now Kinabalu International School), Mrs Goodban from Singapore’s Tanglin Trust School, Mrs Clout from the British School Manila, Mr Thomas from Bangkok Patana School, and Mr Eales from The Alice Smith School in Kuala Lumpur.
The inaugural meeting was judged a success, and it was agreed that the experience had been of benefit to all, so much so that it was decided the meeting should be held annually and hosted by a different Member School each year. This enabled the Heads to visit other schools and, in the process, gain new insights into what was being offered across the region.
All schools were unique in their own way, but the common thread among them was the fact that they all offered a British-style curriculum outside of the UK.
By the early 1990s the group had expanded to include 20 Member Schools and by 1992 the Federation’s first Constitution was adopted, the first Chair was elected, and the first Leadership Conference was convened.
By May 2002 the Federation of British International Schools in South and East Asia (FOBISSEA) was registered with the Registrar of Societies in Singapore, with 19 Founding Members. By this time, the Federation had established coordinated sports events (now called The Friendly Games), music festivals, and professional development opportunities, as well as meetings of counterparts across the region.
By 2004, FOBISSEA established its first Secretariat in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and in 2011 FOBISSEA appointed its first CPD Coordinator, based in Bangkok, Thailand. This enabled the first of many Job Alike Workshops (JAWS) to be held at Harrow International School Bangkok, and the first CPD Handbook to be published.
By 2009 FOBISSEA had extended its membership into China, which shifted the focus from South East Asia to the wider Asia region, and the name-change to the Federation of British International Schools in Asia (FOBISIA) was approved by the Registrar of Societies in Singapore in 2013.
By 2011 FOBISIA was a membership of 32 Member Schools across 10 countries, with a HQ staff of two across two countries. Today the Federation is a family of 76 Member Schools across 18 countries, with a HQ staff of six consolidated in Thailand.
FOBISIA's significant growth trajectory over the last decade has required HQ to follow suit to ensure it is fit for purpose to continue to provide a high level of support across the breadth and depth of the membership into the future, including its Member Schools and Affiliate Members.
By 2018 FOBISIA launched an online Community Forum exclusively for its Member Schools, and in 2019 FOBISIA welcomed the Federation's inaugural CEO - John Gwyn Jones MBE to the FOBISIA family. John just happens to have also been FOBISIA's inaugural Chairperson in the early 1990s, as well as long-standing Head of St. Christopher's International Primary School in Penang, and more recently, Managing Director, of Panyathip International School Laos in Vientiane, both FOBISIA Member Schools.
With more than 30 years of shared history, the FOBISIA family is a diverse and inclusive community of British international schools across Asia and supporting educational organisations globally.
FOBISIA Founding Members 1992, Singapore
FOBISIA Board Members 2019, Bangkok