When moving abroad with children, their schooling is often one of your top priorities and this is as true when moving to Thailand as anywhere else in the world. Whether your child is age three, or eighteen, it is always important to know all of the options you have available. In Thailand, up to twelve years of free public schooling is available for Thai citizens, guaranteed by the National Education Act. However, to qualify for free, state education, a child must have at least one Thai parent and be considered a Thai national.
Generally speaking, children tend to attend schools near their home, but if it is more convenient for you, you can place a child in a school near to where you work. To enrol in school, you generally have to go to the school directly and speak to the administration, as well as providing a minimum of the child’s birth certificate and your Tabien Baan (House Registration Document).
Private and International Schools
The problem that most expats find with the state school system is that classes are mainly taught in Thai. This, coupled with the regulations that qualify a child for the free, state system, means that most expats attend international and Thai private schools instead. Thai private schools generally follow the Thai curriculum, aiming to help students pass their national exams and gain access to university. However, as with most countries around the world, private education is not cheap, and in Thailand most private schools also teach in Thai. If your child is not fluent in Thai, then an international school might be a better choice.
As a result, the vast majority of expats in Thailand send their students to local international schools. International schools in Thailand cater to all ages from preschool to upper secondary level, and the tuition fees for students at each will vary depending on the school and year group. However, because the international schools are technically private schools, they are free to follow curricula from all over the world – for example St Andrews International School Bangkok follows the British National Curriculum, adapted for the international environment while celebrating Thai culture.
Despite their high price, these international schools are usually the best choice for expats bringing their children to Thailand. The academic standards at these schools often ranges from ‘good to excellent’, and they usually come with state of the art, modern teaching facilities. They also teach about Thai culture and language which is also a good choice if you plan on staying in Thailand for a while.
If you’re moving abroad with a child aged five or under, then you may be thinking about preschool. As with most countries, preschool is not compulsory in Thailand. Preschool is the first level on the three-level educational system in Thailand, and is suitable for children aged 3-5. Before 2002, parents had to pay for all years of preschool, but since the national Education Act amendment, two years of preschool are now included as part of the twelve years of free public schooling. There are also more prestigious private kindergartens available for expats and Thai citizens alike, which charge fees.
Primary Education (Pratom Suksa)
From the age of six to eleven, children in Thailand attend primary school (the second level) which is both free and obligatory – with year groups ranging from P1 to P6. Classes in primary school are limited to five hours per day and the core subjects that are taught include English, Thai, maths, life experience (such as science and social studies), work education, art, music and PE. At the end of P6 there is a final examination which is taken in order for a child to progress to the next level (secondary school).
Secondary School (Matayom Suksa)
The six years of secondary school are split into two sections – lower (M1-M3) and upper (M4-M6) secondary education. The lower cycle is compulsory and constitutes the last three years of basic education. Subjects that are taught during the lower cycle include English, Thai, maths, natural sciences, history, geography, art & craft, RE and PE. M3 is the last compulsory year of schooling in Thailand and there are examinations taken at the end of the year providing students with a Certificate of Lower Secondary Education. The results of these examinations, as well as the student’s preference, decide whether the student can progress to the upper cycle.
There are two different paths a student embarking into their upper secondary education can embark on. This is either General (academic), Upper or Vocational Upper. As well as the core subjects such as maths, science and PE, a second language (aside from Thai and English) is taught. In Vocational Upper, subjects include the core subjects (minus English), and can choose one subject from business studies, engineering, agriculture, home economics and art & craft. At the end of M6 there are more examinations and the results of these decide which students are viable to take the university entrance examinations.
In order to gain a place at a university in Thailand, students generally have to sit three admission examinations which assess all of the compulsory subjects at upper secondary school level, the General Aptitude Test which tests a student’s English and reasoning abilities, and a Professional Aptitude Test which test the students in mathematics, science, engineering, teaching, architecture, fine and applied arts and a second foreign language other than English. Admission to a university depends on the results of these exams. Universities charge tuition fees, which are relatively cheap, compared to the UK, at around £1,200 to £5000 per year.
If you have any questions about schooling in Thailand, please feel free to contact a member of our Bangkok officetoday. We will be more than happy to provide the up-to-date information you need, and assist you with our school search service, helping you find the best school in Thailand for your children.