A summary of the Thai education system

Many expats who decide to move to Thailand are curious about the status of public schools. As Thailand is a popular destination for many people around the world, those with children may seek to immerse their children in the culture. So, enrolling them in government-sponsored schools in the country may be an option.

However, further research on this reveals that the quality of education in Thai schools may not be what some parents expect. While Thailand is full of tropical coastlines and a rich cultural history, its public school system may not be quite as glamorous, despite the proliferation of international schools in recent years.

But, depending on your goals for your child, many expats decide to enroll their children in a Thai public school. The reason? Learn the culture and the language. And, if that’s all you’re looking for, it’s a good idea.

However, these cultural differences include corporal punishment (although this is technically illegal), rote learning (learning by memorization) and the absence of individual and sustained critical thinking. To be fair, the Ministry of Education says it is To take part against such rote learning styles, saying he is revamping his curriculum.

As teaching methods are, indeed, outdated, young children who enroll in a public school will almost certainly learn the Thai language. This is due to substantial research that points to children learning languages much easier than adults. As the saying goes, “Children’s minds are like a sponge”.

Elementary school students in Thailand

While the country boasts a high literacy rate of 96.7%, Thai students performed below the world average on the PISA tests in 2014, ranking 35th out of 40 countries. Additionally, the country’s English proficiency rates have fallen for the last 3 consecutive years. According to the annual English Proficiency Index, by global education company EF Education First, the 2020 report was dismal at best. Thailand’s ranking rose from 74 to 89 out of 100 countries last year. And last year, Thailand ranked 7th in Southeast Asia, in its English literacy ranking. The Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia and Cambodia are all ranked higher than Thailand. Moreover, the country ranked 20th out of 24 Asian countries in total.

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English teachers in a Thai class

One of the main questions is “why”? Especially when Thailand continues to be a top destination for foreign tourists. Thus, the most touristic places surely have more Thais learning English while interacting with tourists. While this may be true, it does not make up for learning English in public schools, especially in rural areas.

While the government has invested generously in public education, its schools nationwide fail to measure up to global academic standards in all areas. However, many citizens say government bias is a big part of why the system is failing its students. From widely accepted cheating in exams to rote teaching methods, there are multiple reasons cited as to why the education system is failing.

Although all Thai children have been guaranteed an education under the Education Act 1999, many say rural areas are not receiving adequate funding. As the government has been accused of unevenly distributing education funding, students who already have a high probability of succeeding are getting more funding. Thus, smaller and more rural schools are left out. Additionally, the current program has been in use since 2008, with only minor changes. And the 2008 curriculum was only slightly changed from the 2001 curriculum. One of the many criticisms of the curriculum is its focus on outdated industries and skills.

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Thai public school class

As a result, after-school tutoring and “shadow education” systems have proliferated due to parents’ loss of confidence in the public education system. But, one of the many attributes of Thai culture is that of the stubborn determination of its citizens. Although the public school system may be lacking, parents are taking matters into their own hands, with success in mind. This struggle to improve education may mean that students will have more opportunities to learn.

Whatever your goals for your children, enrolling them in a public school in Thailand is definitely beneficial for learning the language, making friends, and learning the culture. Moreover, the Thai school is very cheap compared to international schools. And, it can be said that young children can benefit more from a Thai school than older children, which really makes it an individual decision on the part of the parents. If you decide to enroll your children in an international school, we have a easy guide this can help you choose a school wisely.

Janice G. Ball