East Asia Regional Council of Schools—EARCOS: Fifty Years of Direct Support to International Schools and Students

Endeavoring to honor two histories written about EARCOS served as a clear reminder that a team of determined professionals in 1958 knew the importance of a “regular system of exchange between overseas schools”. Of course, their commitment and eagerness to provide an annual opportunity to “refresh knowledge and improve ability” led to what we know as the annual EARCOS Leadership Conference. As EARCOS celebrates its 50th anniversary, it recognizes those dedicated professionals whose insight and understanding helped place EARCOS in the most favorable position it currently enjoys among a worldwide group of international education service organizations.

“A Brief History of EARCOS” written by Rev Charles W. Mock of Brent International School, aided this undertaking significantly. Compliments go to Rev Mock. It is suggested that the reader access this entire history at this link [click here]. Below Rev. Mock’s history is excerpted, which begins with the founding background (1958-1968) followed by the three sustaining decades (1968- 1990), and concluding with the services expansion and membership growth years (1990-2018).

Founding Background (1958-1968)

There had been an American presence in Southeast Asia since the latter part of the nineteenth century; however, in the wake of World War II and the subsequent dismantling of the European Empires in the region, that presence became particularly significant. English-medium schools had existed in the region since the coming of the British, but the vastly increased military and commercial American presence in the early postwar era saw the birth of a ‘golden age’ of English-medium education which, with the gradual emergence of English as the language of science, industry and commerce, continues to this day.

As the number of such schools grew, it was not long before the need was felt for some sort of cooperation between the schools in the region. Communications in the 1950’s were a far cry from what they are today, and, given the distances that separated them from their home countries, and the particular problems they faced functioning in a foreign setting, it is hardly surprising that these schools should feel isolated.

The first formal move toward a regional organization began in October, 1958, when “The First Conference of International Schools in Asia” was held in Baguio, Philippines. The Conference was sponsored by the International Schools Foundation and co-hosted by the US Air Force, (which provided delegates with lodging at Camp John Hay), and the American Schools of the Philippines who, we are told in the report on the meeting, “invited the international group to hold its conference before and during the third annual meeting of American teachers and school principals in the Philippines.” The report goes on to say that, “The Conference was further aided by a timely and generous grant from the New World Foundation in Chicago.”

Philippines who, we are told in the report on the meeting, “invited the international group to hold its conference before and during the third annual meeting of American teachers and school principals in the Philippines.” The report goes on to say that, “The Conference was further aided by a timely and generous grant from the New World Foundation in Chicago.”

The eleven schools that participated included some founded before World War II, and others that were established in its aftermath are listed below.

1. The American School in Japan, founded in 1902
2. Brent School, Baguio, founded in 1909
3. The American School of Manila (currently The International School of Manila), founded in 1920

4. Taipei American School, founded 1949
5. The International School of Djakarta, (currently Jakarta Intercultural School) founded in 1951
6. The International School of Bangkok, founded in 1952
7. The International School of Rangoon (currently The International School of Yangon), founded in 1955
8. Singapore American School, founded in 1956
9. The Civil Air Transport Colony School, Tainan, Taiwan (no longer in existence)
10. Del Monte School, Cagayan de Oro, Philippines. (no longer in existence)
11. The Lincoln Schools of Sumatra (no longer in existence)

The Report on this Conference makes for fascinating reading. On the one hand, one is struck by how many of the problems faced by these schools are similar to those that schools of the region face still; on the other, one cannot help but marvel at the changes that have taken place since that time – principally, of course, in the realms of technology and communication but also in the growing internationalization of the English medium education community that has taken place since the late 1950’s.

The Conference closed on a high note, resolving, among other things, to move towards closer collaboration in the areas of curriculum, accreditation and inter-school cooperation, as well as to hold a second conference the following year in Bangkok. Whether or not that meeting ever took place cannot be ascertained at this point; if it did, it left no trace either in the files of EARCOS or on the Internet.

(Finley P. Dunne, Jr., Associate Director for The International Schools Foundation, filed this comprehensive report, which is referenced above. He did so following The First Conference of International Schools in Asia, which took place in 1958. The report is an important artifact, as it supplies an understanding of the original mandate, which led to the birth of EARCOS in December 1968 followed by the inaugural conference held 24 – 28 November 1969 at the Hong Kong International School. The reader will find Mr. Dunne’s report at this link )

Sustaining Decades (1968-1990)
Few records are available for the first two decades of EARCOS’s existence, and one must be content to rely almost exclusively on the memories of educators who were working in the region almost forty-five years ago and the occasional reference to the past in later documents, so much of what follows in this section is subject to correction and revision.

The years following the Baguio conference saw rapid growth in the number of international schools in the region, and the pressure mounted to create a regional organization that would foster and coordinate closer collaboration and cooperation. A key role was played in these efforts by International Schools Services (ISS) and the U.S. State Department’s Office of Overseas schools (A/OS), which sponsored conferences in the area. It was in December 1968, at a regional workshop sponsored by A/OS at the American School in Japan, that the East Asia Regional Council of Overseas Schools (EARCOS) was finally born. There, delegates from the nineteen schools participating in the workshop, signed a memorandum in which it was agreed to establish a conference for administrators that would meet the needs of the region’s international schools by developing “supportive, collaborative relationships coupled with the deliverance of professional development activities to member schools.”

No time was wasted. The first EARCOS Conference was held from the 24–28 November 1969 at the Hong Kong International School. At this meeting, a constitution was officially adopted that articulated the mission and established the structures of the new organization. EARCOS set up shop in Broomfield, Colorado where it was to remain for the next two decades. A six-member board was elected and an executive secretary (which title would later be changed to executive director) was appointed who would oversee the work of the organization in the region.

To meet the needs of teachers, four sub-organizations were set up: The Japan Council of International Schools (JCIS); the Korean Council of Overseas Schools (KORKOS), the Central East Asia Regional Council of Schools (CERCOS), which served schools in China, the Philippines, Hong Kong and Taiwan, and finally the South East Asian Teachers and Counselors Conference (SEATCCO) whose conferences were hosted by the “Big Four” – the International School Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta International School, Singapore American School, and the International School of Bangkok.

(Neither CERCOS nor SEATCO exist as discrete entities; however, their interests continue to thrive under the EARCOS Teachers’ Conference (ETC) umbrella, which is explained in a detailed summary found, linked herein on page 06.)

The first EARCOS Board president was reportedly Stuart Phillips who served two years from 1970 to 1972; the next of whom we have notice was Robert Gaw who served from 1977 to 1978. The earliest executive secretary on record was Mark Crouch, who worked part-time out of the International School of Manila and who served from 1978 to 1979; his successor, Barbara Liester, served from 1979 to 1986. Two names from those times stand out in particular: that of the A/OS Regional Officer (REO) Paul Luebke, who, according to what records we have, served in that office from 1971 to 1984, and his successor in that position, Dr. Vincent McGugan. Both remained active in the region in one capacity or other long after their retirements in 1984 and 1997 respectively.

We have no further records until 1987 when, in the earliest EARCOS Quarterly (EQ) we have on file, Guy Lott Jr. (Headmaster at Taipei American School) is listed as Board President; he was in office for at least three years. Serving with him on the board at the time were Milton D. Jones (International School of Bangkok) as Vice President, Don Bergman, (Headmaster of Nagoya International School) as Secretary/Treasurer and Sister Asuncion Lecubarri, (Head of the Seisan International School in Tokyo), John Magagna (Jakarta International School) and Edward D. Adams (Headmaster, Seoul International School) were Members at Large. That same year, Edward C. Killin is listed as serving as executive secretary.

The Spring ’88 Issue of the EQ reports that the previous decade had seen a significant increase in membership: from 48 schools serving 19, 257 students in 1981, to 64 schools serving 27,069 students in 1988, which, along with seventeen institutional and two individual members, brought the total membership to 88. This meant a significant increase in dues, though grants from A/OS and OSAC totaling $130,100 formed 75% of the EARCOS budget.

The ‘Tentative EARCOS Calendar -1988” is the first such Calendar to appear in the files in the Biñan office. Events organized, facilitated or participated in by EARCOS included, an Association for the Advancement of International Education (AAIE) meeting in San Diego, the EARCOS Spring Board Meeting in Bangkok, summer staff development projects, clinical supervision programs over the summer, the EARCOS ’88 Sub-Regional Meetings in Bangkok and Taipei and the fall EARCOS board meeting also in Bangkok - a far cry from the 40 odd such events on the current EARCOS calendar!

Growth Years (1990-2018)
In 1990, Robert Brewitt (Superintendent, International School of Bangkok) succeeded Guy Lott Jr. as President of the Board of EARCOS; he served until 1993 and was succeeded briefly by Richard T. Krajczar, (International School of Kuala Lumpur) who passed on the position to Monica Greely in 1994. Monica Greely remained in the post until 1998, when Dr. Peter Cooper (American School in Japan) was elected to succeed her.

1990 also saw the appointment of Dr. Fred Brieve as interim Executive Secretary of EARCOS to replace Ed Killin who had passed away in September of 1989; he was confirmed in this position the following year. Also new on the scene early in the decade was Dr. Carlton Bentz, who took over from Vincent McGugan as REO. Dr. Bentz would stay on the job until 1999.

By 1991, EARCOS had transferred its office from Broomfield, Colorado to Fall Church Virginia. It did not remain there long. In response to a growing demand that the ‘head office’ should be located in the region, the new Executive Director, Dr. Richard T. Krajczar arranged for the headquarters to move again, and on August 1, 1996. EARCOS set up shop in Kuala Lumpur where Dr. Krajczar had arranged for rent-free office space on the Melawati Campus of the International School of Kuala Lumpur. Dr. Krajczar was charged by the Board with setting up an office and taking on Director responsibilities – hence the change in title. The operation was run on a tight budget - indeed Dr. Krajczar supported his housing and initial transportation in 1996/97.

As things turned out, the sojourn in KL was short-lived. Difficulties in obtaining work permits, permission to operate, and other obstacles such as having to wait for two years for the installation of a landline, prompted the search for a new headquarters in the region. Dr. Krajczar explored several possible venues. One major requirement was the need of two telephone lines that insured fax capability.

Finally, on the recommendation of Dick Robbins, Headmaster of Brent International School, Manila, and at the invitation of Headmaster, Fr. Gabriel Dimanche, the Board, on Dr. Krajczar’s recommendation, settled on the campus of the Brent International School of Subic as the ideal location. Located in the former US base of Subic Bay, the site provided all the facilities needed to run an office; moreover, the costs were low when compared to other sites in the region, and government regulations did not present a problem. As Dr. Krajczar puts it in the ‘From the Editor’ section of the Spring Issue, 1998 of the EARCOS Quarterly: Subic Bay is wonderful, with clear air, little traffic, friendly people and great communication hookups” With the matter of location settled, it was time to hire new staff: the first on the job was Rovita “Vitz” Baltero, who was joined in 1999 by Elaine Repatacodo, both of whom remain with EARCOS today. Also instrumental in facilitating the move and the setting up of the office was Dr. Krajczar’s wife, Sherry who, among other things, served as bookkeeper, office manager and editor of the EARCOS Quarterly. Accounting, during those years, was in the hands of an accountant in the US hired by EARCOS.

In 1997 at a sub-regional Conference in Kuala Lumpur, it became clear that a closer relationship between the sub-regional conferences would cut costs through joint planning and the sharing of speakers and other resources. The discussion that followed led to the formation in 1998 to a joint EARCOS SEATCCO task force to study the future of SEATCO. The hosting of conferences was becoming an increasingly heavy burden on the four schools that alternated as hosts for the event. It was decided that EARCOS would henceforth take over the running of the SEATCCO conferences. At the SEATCCO ’98 Conference, the last managed by that organization, a ‘handing- over’ ceremony took place, and a new entity formed: the SEATCO-EARCOS Conference (SEEC). EARCOS then became, for the first time, responsible for organizing conferences for teachers and administrators - a milestone had been passed.

(A detailed explanation of the emergence of ETC is contained in the EARCOS history written by current executive director, Richard Krajczar, Harlan Lyso, long-serving EARCOS board member and head of school, and Joe Petrone, former Jakarta International School principal and curriculum coordinator, who most recently served as EARCOS assistant director. This narrative provides a snippet of EARCOS’s early days. However, it primarily follows the emergence of sub-regional educator conferences: KORCOS (Korean Council of Overseas Schools), CERCOS (comprised of schools in China, Philippines, Hong Kong and Taiwan), JCIS (Japan Council of International Schools), SEATCO (South East Asia Teachers Conference (comprised of the “big four” schools – at the time – ISKL, JIS, SAS, and ISB). The history discusses the early beginnings of each and explains the evolution of these sub-regionals to what we know today as, EARCOS Teacher Conference (ETC), which was inaugurated in 2003. The reader will find this history at this link)

Growth continued apace throughout the 90’s. By 1998, the number of EARCOS members had risen from 64 schools to 88 schools in one decade. Revenues also had grown considerably, and not only due to increased membership. A/OS had asked EARCOS to be responsible for $210,000 dollars it received from a school in the region that had closed. EARCOS housed this fund and continued to receive interest from it until the entire fund was reduced to zero in 2004/05.

The EARCOS 1997/98 budget was $475,126, a significant increase over the approximately $175,000 budget of 1988. In addition, A/OS grants now amounted to about 6 % of the budget, rather than the 75% of ten years earlier.

Millennium Decade Plus Four
The first decade of the new millennium witnessed several important changes. There was the usual succession of Board presidents: Mark Ulfers (Taipei American School) followed by Dr. Peter Cooper (American School in Japan followed by Harlan Lyso, (Seoul Foreign School). He in turn was succeeded by Tim Carr in 2008. In 2007, in order to increase diversity, the number of Board members was increased from six to nine.

At the EARCOS Annual General Meeting in November of 2001, strong support was evident for a proposal that had been raised at a sub-regional meeting earlier in the year to the effect that EARCOS should henceforth take over the organization and management of one joint educators’ conference for all the East Asian schools. As a result, as Dr. Krajczar wrote in the Fall ’01 Issue of the EQ: “ In March, we will be organizing the final SEEC Educators’ Conference ... in Kuala Lumpur. In 2003 we will organize the first all-EARCOS conference for teachers in Kota Kinabalu. After years of discussing, working with all the EARCOS board and teacher representatives ... and with the support from all the heads of schools and regional organizations it will become a reality.”

In 2002, the EARCOS office moved from Subic Bay to office space in Brent International School, Manila, in Barangay Mamplasan, Biñan, Laguna, south of the capital; it has remained there till today. Faithful staffers Vitz Baltero and Elaine Repatacodo moved to Mamplasan with the office. Over the next few years other members were added to the staff: Ver Castro in 2004, Edzel Drilo in 2005, Robert Viray in 2006 and driver Rodz Katubig in 2010.

Dr. Carlton Bentz ended his stint as REO in 2000 for Southeast Asia and was replaced in that post by Beatriz Cameron, who continued the long history of close cooperation between EARCOS and the State Department until 2004 when Dr. Connie Buford took over and relations between A/OS and EARCOS remained strong. In the same year, Richard and Sherry Krajczar announced that they would be retiring. That year the EARCOS Board named Robert & Linda Sills to replace them, with Linda to serve as Associate Director. The handover took place in 2005 and it looked like a new era was beginning for EARCOS. However, Robert Sills died unexpectedly at the end of 2006, and the position passed on an interim basis to Linda Sills. She held the fort for a year until Dr. Krajczar returned to take up the job of Executive Director once more. He remains in that position today. Ms. Sills continued as his Assistant until 2009 when Bill Oldread, a former Shanghai American School and Brent School Administrator took over from her.

Growth during the first decade of the 21st Century was remarkable: by 2006 EARCOS membership had risen to 105 schools and institutions serving approximately 7,700 faculty and 70,000 students. By 2010 that number was 116 schools, serving 9,800 faculty and 83,000 students. David Toze became President of the EARCOS Board in 2013/14 and would see EARCOS membership reach a total of 138 schools serving 12,000 faculty and over 102,000 students.

As noted above, EARCOS began in 1968 serving 19 member schools in nine countries. And, now serves 165 member schools – both regular and affiliate – in 19 countries in the east Asia region to include: Brunei, Cambodia, China, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, United States of America, and Vietnam. Almost 140,000 students in member schools are served by 16,500 teachers and 3000 administrators. EARCOS warmly embraces 160 associate members representing a myriad of publishers, a growing number of universities, youth organizations, and other institutions that support EARCOS’ dynamic mission of service. Also, EARCOS welcomes more than 50 individual members, who share the aims of promoting exceptional educational practices in collaborative learning communities.

When one reflects on early beginnings, it is obvious that EARCOS was founded on an enduring platform of collaborative leadership, which is manifest through the robust suite of services and sponsorships offered to today’s member schools. And, over the 50 years of progressive evolution, EARCOS’ openness and cooperative spirit have been certain contributors to the wealth of relevant services its members currently appreciate. Significant among these services and sponsorships are the support programs it offers directly to teacher and student leaders.

The rapid growth of EARCOS, especially, in the past two decades has been intentionally planned and governed by a visionary cast of extraordinary trustees, who have selected and empowered talented and committed executives to implement a strategic vision, mission, and guiding policies. There is little surprise that the current executive director, Dr. Richard Krajczar, has faithfully and instrumentally served during the past three decades; and, he has the distinction of being the longest serving EARCOS executive. Dr. K’s leadership acumen, affable style, and deep commitment to service has been significant elements that have led EARCOS to formulate and implement the many programs, services, and sponsorships now available to its membership.

We hope you will join a large number of fellow members and celebrate the 50 years of EARCOS service at the upcoming EARCOS Leadership Conference in Kuala Lumpur, October 25 -27, 2018. Come help EARCOS acknowledge all those who have contributed to its enormous success and join former EARCOS trustees, administrators, staff, who will use the occasion to honor members past and present.

EARCOS will happily applaud a history of vigilance over and commitment to the professional growth and development of school leaders and the students they serve. Also, EARCOS intends to seize this historic occasion to commend the contributions of Dr. Richard Krajczar, or Dr. K, who will be hosting his final EARCOS Leadership Conference (ELC), as executive director. Dr. K will be embarking on a new journey and we will collectively wish him well in this next life chapter.

It is our hope that you will visit the links to the early history of EARCOS and revisit the multiplicity of services offered to member school, which have been collaboratively developed over the past half-century.


EARCOS 50th Anniversary(1968-2018)

2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the East Asia Regional Council of Schools. Much has happened in the fifty years since the birth of EARCOS, but one thing is certain. EARCOS has grown from a small regional association to one of the premier promoters and providers of professional development in the world.

(Video credits: Mr. Doug Craven & Leno Yoshida, St. Mary's International School)