Education in Thailand

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Education in Thailand
Lanchakon - 037.jpg
Ministry of Education
Minister of EducationTeerakiat Jareonsettasin[1]
National education budget (FY2017)
Budget536,697 million baht[2][3]
General details
Primary languages
System typeNational
Total13,157,103 (2010)
Primary3,651,613 (2010)
Secondary1,695,223 (2010)
Post secondary663,150 (2010)

Education in Thailand is provided mainly by the Thai government through the Ministry of Education from pre-school to senior high school. A free basic education of fifteen years is guaranteed by the constitution.[4]

Education in Thailand mandates nine years of "basic education" (six years of elementary school and three years of lower secondary school). Education at public schools is free until grade 9. The government provides, in addition, three years of free pre-school and three years of free upper-secondary education. Neither is mandatory. Children are enrolled in elementary school from the age of six and attend for six years, Prathom 1 to Prathom 6. Elementary school classes is at least 7 hours per day, with a maximum learning time of 1,000 hours per year. Secondary education starts at age 12. It consists of three years of lower secondary education, Mattayom 1 to Mattayom 3, and three years of upper secondary education, Mattayom 4 to Mattayom 6. Compulsory education ends with Mattayom 3 (grade 9), after which pupils can pursue upper-secondary education in a university-preparatory track, or continue their studies in vocational school programs.[5]

Homeschooling is legal in Thailand. Thailand's constitution and education law explicitly recognize alternative education and considers the family to be an educational institution. A homeschool law passed in 2004, Ministerial Regulation No. 3 on the right to basic education by the family, governs homeschooling. Families must submit an application to homeschool and students are assessed annually.[6]

School system overview[edit]

Elementary school students, Thailand
Ban Mai Khao Elementary School, Mai Khao, Phuket

Basic education in Thailand is free. It is divided into three levels: pre-primary, primary, and secondary. Pre-primary education was introduced in 2004 and made free in 2009. State schools offer two years of kindergarten (Thai: อนุบาล; RTGSanuban) (three- and four-year-olds) and one year of pre-school studies (five-year-olds). Participation in pre-primary education is "nearly universal". At the age of six, education begins. It lasts for nine years, consisting of primary, prathom (Thai: ประถม) (grades P1-6), and lower secondary, matthayom (Thai: มัธยม) (grades M1-3), starting at the age of 12. Upper secondary education, grades 4-6, is also not compulsory. It is divided into general and vocational tracks.[7]:45-46

Ninety-nine percent of students complete primary education. Only 85 percent complete lower secondary.[8] About 75 percent move on to upper secondary (ages 16-18).[7]:46 For every 100 students in primary schools, 85.6 students will continue studies in M1, 79.6 students will continue until M3, and only 54.8 will go on to M6 or occupational schools.[9]

There are academic upper secondary schools, vocational upper secondary schools, and comprehensive schools offering academic and vocational tracks. Students who choose the academic stream usually intend to enter a university. Vocational schools offer programs that prepare students for employment or further studies.

Admission to an upper secondary school is through an entrance exam. On the completion of each level, students need to pass the NET (National Educational Test) to graduate. Children are required to attend six years of elementary school and at least the first three years of high school. Those who graduate from the sixth year of high school are candidates for two tests: O-NET (Ordinary National Educational Test) and A-NET (Advanced National Educational Test).

Public schools are administered by the government. The private sector includes schools run for profit and fee-paying non-profit schools which are often run by charitable organisations — especially by Catholic diocesan and religious orders that operate over 300 large elementary/secondary schools throughout the country.[citation needed] Village and sub-district schools usually provide pre-school kindergarten and elementary classes, while in the district towns, schools will serve their areas with comprehensive schools with all the classes from kindergarten to age 15 and separate secondary schools for ages 13 through 18.

Due to budgetary limitations, rural schools are generally less well equipped than the schools in the cities. The standard of instruction, particularly for the English language, is much lower, and many high school students will commute 60–80 kilometres to schools in the nearest city.

The school year is divided into two semesters. The first begins in the beginning of May and ends in October; the second begins in November and ends in March.

Stages in the Thai formal education system[10]
Typical age Stage Level/Grade Notes
4 Basic education Early childhood
(Typically Anuban 1–3)
7 Elementary Prathom 1 Education in Thailand is not compulsory
8 Prathom 2
9 Prathom 3
10 Prathom 4
11 Prathom 5
12 Prathom 6
13 Lower-secondary Matthayom 1
14 Matthayom 2
15 Matthayom 3
Upper-secondary General Vocational
16 Matthayom 4 Vocational Certificate
(3 years)
17 Matthayom 5
18 Matthayom 6
Higher education Variable


Sculpture of F. Hilaire, a french missionary who pioneered Thai textbook writing

Formal education has its early origins in the temple schools, when it was available to boys only. From the mid-sixteenth century Thailand opened up to significant French Catholic influence until the mid-seventeenth century when it was heavily curtailed, and the country returned to a strengthening of its own cultural ideology. Unlike other parts of South and Southeast Asia, particularly the Indian subcontinent, Myanmar (Burma), Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, the Malay Peninsula, Indonesia and the Philippines which had all benefited from the influence of countries with centuries of educational tradition, Thailand has never been colonised by a Western power. As a result, structured education on the lines of that in developed countries was slow to evolve until it gained new impetus with the reemergence of diplomacy in the late nineteenth century.

Early education[edit]

It is possible that one of the earliest forms of education began when King Ram Khamhaeng the Great invented the Thai alphabet in 1283 basing it on Mon, Khmer, and southern Indian scripts. Stone inscriptions from 1292 in the new script depict moral, intellectual and cultural aspects.[11] During the Sukhothai period (1238–1378), education was dispensed by the Royal Institution of Instruction (Rajabundit) to members of the royal family and the nobility, while commoners were taught by Buddhist monks.

In the period of the Ayutthaya kingdom from 1350 to 1767 during the reign of King Narai the Great (1656–1688), the Chindamani, generally accepted as the first textbook of the Thai language, collating the grammar. The prosody of Thai language and official forms of correspondence was written by a monk, Pra Horatibodi, in order to stem the foreign educational influence of the French Jesuit schools It remained in use up to King Chulalongkorn's reign (1868–1910). Narai himself was a poet, and his court became the center where poets congregated to compose verses and poems. Although through his influence interest in Thai literature was significantly increased, Catholic missions had been present with education in Ayutthaya as early as 1567 under Portuguese Dominicans and French Jesuits were given permission to settle in Ayutthaya in 1662. His reign therefore saw major developments in diplomatic missions to and from Western powers.

On Narai's death, fearing further foreign interference in Thai education and culture, and conversion to Catholicism, xenophobic sentiments at court increased and diplomatic activities were severely reduced and ties with the West and any forms of Western education were practically severed. They did not recover their former levels until the reign of King Mongkut in the mid-nineteenth century.


Through his reforms of the Buddhist Sangha, King Rama I (1782–1809), accelerated the development of public education and during the reign of King Rama IV (1851–1865) the printing press arrived in Thailand making books available in the Thai language for the first time; English had become the lingua franca of the Far East, and the education provided by the monks was proving inadequate for government officials. Rama IV decreed that measures be taken to modernise education and insisted that English would be included in the curriculum.

King Rama V (1868–1910) continued to influence the development of education and in 1871 the first relatively modern concept of a school with purpose constructed building, lay teachers and a time-table was opened in the palace to teach male members of the royal family and the sons of the nobility. The Command Declaration on Schooling was proclaimed, English was being taught in the palace for royalty and nobles, and schools were set up outside the palace for the education of commoners’ children. With the aid of foreign - mainly English - advisers a Department of Education was established by the king in 1887 by which time 34 schools, with over 80 teachers and almost 2,000 students, were in operation and as part of the king’s programme to establish ministries, in 1892 the department became the Ministry of Education. Recognizing that the private sector had come to share the tasks of providing education, the government introduced controls for private schools.

In 1897 on the initiative of Queen Sribajarindra, girls were admitted into the educational system. In 1898, a two-part education plan for Bangkok and for the provinces was launched with programmes for pre-school, elementary, secondary, technical, and higher education. In 1901, the first government school for girls, the Bamrung Wijasatri, was set up in Bangkok, and in 1913, the first teacher training school for women was set up at the Benchama Rajalai School for girls. Further developments took place when in 1902 the plan was remodeled by National System of Education in Siam into the two categories of general education, and professional/ technical education, imposing at the same time age limits for admission to encourage graduation within predetermined time scales.

The first Thai university, Chulalongkorn, was named after King Chulalongkorn (Rama V). It was established by his son and successor King Vajiravudh (Rama VI) in 1917 by combining the Royal Pages School and the College of Medicine.[12] In 1921, the Compulsory Elementary Education Act was proclaimed.

Education for Sustainable Development[edit]

Thailand has a particular interpretation of education for sustainable development (ESD) as the ‘philosophy of sufficiency economy’ has played a leading role in shaping policy, including the National Economic and Social Development Plan and the National Education Act. ESD is highly integrated into the curriculum of primary and secondary education in Thailand through the framework of sufficiency economy. The National Curriculum of Thailand, which integrates the country’s ‘philosophy of sufficiency economy’, is an important case in point. Since 2002, the country’s education plan has promoted the inclusion of ESD in five distinct ways. First, ESD topics and content are incorporated into the eight main subject areas of the curriculum, with ESD learning standards defined in a scaffolded manner for each subject area. Second, student character development is defined by eight characteristics including active learning, sufficiency lifestyle and public mindedness. Third, the plan aims to provide specific project-based learning activities, such as natural preservation and environmental clubs and camps. Fourth, ESD-specific learning modules are developed and incorporated, such as renewable energy or the philosophy of sufficiency economy. Fifth, following structural reforms in 2008, Thailand now has a 30 per cent inclusion rate across the entire curriculum for decentralized, locally based subjects and teaching. These should address topics pertinent to the local context and often include issues relating to sustainable lifestyles and the sufficiency economy.[13]


The bloodless revolution in 1932 that transferred absolute power from the king to democratic government encouraged further development and expansion of schools and tertiary institutions. The first National Education Scheme was introduced formally granting access to education regardless of ability, gender, and social background.

In 1960, compulsory education was extended to seven years, and for the first time special provisions were made for disabled children, who were originally exempted from compulsory education. In 1961, the government began a series of five-year plans, and many of the extant purpose-built school buildings, particularly the wooden village elementary schools, and the early concrete secondary schools date from around this time.

In 1977, the key stages of elementary and secondary education were changed from a 4-3-3-2 year structure to the 6-3-3 year system that is in use today.

Thailand education reform 1995[edit]

On 16 September 1996, while in Jomtien Beach, Education Minister Sukavich Rangsitpol gave his view on the issue:[14][15]

I strongly believe that, as a citizen of the world, any person has the right to learn and should be entitled to have access to education according to their competency and needs. It is essential that the government provide educational services that respond to the people's needs. Education, therefore, has to be organized in such a way that people from all walks of life can participate in educational activities at levels and times of their preference.

All sort of boundaries, be their gender, age, socio-economic status, physical or mental disabilities have to be eliminated. To achieve this, we have to distinctively promote continuing and lifelong education, the form of education which is responsive to individual needs and preferences. With educational facilities and a variety of educational programs available, people can make use of the learning centre as a place to acquire technical skills or knowledge adaptive to their work and daily life activities.

The Minister of Education launched a series of education reforms in 1995. The aim was to enhance the quality of education from 1995 to achieve educational excellence by 2007.

The objective of education reform is to create learning individual, organization, and society. An educated person or the authentic learning outcome should possess the following abilities and characteristics which are based on Thai cultural heritage and appropriate level of education: good physical and mental health, critical thinking, intellectual inquisitiveness, professionalism, sense of responsibility, honesty, self-sacrifice, perseverance, team spirit, adherence to democracy, and love for king, country, and religion.



According to UNESCO, Thailand education reform has led to the following results: 1) The educational budget increased from 133 billion baht in 1996 to 163 billion baht in 1997 (22.5 percent increase)

2) Since 1996, first grade students have learned English and computer literacy.

3) The professional advance from teacher leve1 6 to teacher leve1 7 without having to submit academic work for consideration was approved by the Thai government

4) There has been drawn up education policy to raise the standards of education from pre-primary to tertiary education.

5) Free 12 years education for all children provided by the government. The free 12 year education was in The 1997 constitution and that was the first time Thailand had give access to education for all citizens.

6)The Education Reform Project involved about 20,000 schools.[18]

  • 2006 UNESCO report using the exact data as 1998 data[19]

Twelve values[edit]

Prayut Chan-o-cha, Thailand's prime minister and junta leader, says school reform is urgently needed.[20] Following the military takeover of May 2014, Prayut, in a televised broadcast in July, ordered schools to display a list of 12 "Thai" values he composed.[21] They are:

  1. Loyalty to the Nation, a Religion, and the Monarchy
  2. Honesty, sacrifice, endurance, and noble ideology for the greater good
  3. Gratitude for parents, guardians, and teachers
  4. Diligence in acquiring knowledge, via school studies and other methods
  5. Preserving the Thai customs and tradition
  6. Morality and good will toward others
  7. Correct understanding of democracy with the King as Head of State
  8. Discipline, respect for law, and obedience to the older citizens
  9. Constant consciousness to practice good deeds all the time, as taught by His Majesty the King
  10. Practice of Self-Sufficient Economy in accordance with the teaching of His Majesty the King
  11. Physical and mental strength. Refusal to surrender to religious sins.
  12. Uphold the interest of the nation over oneself.

Authorities instructed public schools and state agencies to hang a banner listing Gen Prayut's teachings on their premises. State agencies have also produced a poem, song, and 12-part film based on the teachings. In late-December 2014, the Ministry of Information, Communication, and Telecommunications (MICT) released a set of "stickers" depicting each of the Twelve Values for users of the chat application LINE.

Military training for kindergartners[edit]

The military government under Prayut Chan-o-cha instituted a "land defender battalion" program to teach uniformed children aged four and five to do push-ups, crawl under netting, salute, and eat from metal trays on the floor. "Soldiers showed children military operations and taught them patriotic values to love the nation, religions, and the Thai monarchy through the...12 Thai Values," according to the Thai-language news outlet Matichon Online. The news site reported that this is the second time that the Royal Thai Army has run the program, and said that many more schools and kindergartens will join the program in the future.[22]

Recent research[edit]

On 27 May 2015, the Ministry of Public Health released Thai student IQ survey results. They indicate that the IQ of Grade 1 students has dropped from 94 in 2011 to 93. The international standard is 100.[23]

It is highly possible that Thailand's education system is harming student IQs. While the IQ of pre-school students is acceptable, IQ drops as primary schooling commences, suggesting a need for changes at schools. The IQ of students in rural areas is considerably lower, at just 89. This difference persists at university. While studies have found the IQ of Bangkok university students averages 115, the IQ of provincial university students is 5-8 points lower.[23]

Alarmingly, the low IQ levels in the recent survey confirm continuing high levels of intellectual disability: IQ levels lower than 70, also termed "mildly impaired or delayed". The average global percentage of such students is 2 percent. However, a previous 2011 survey found that 6.5 percent of Thai students scored in this range. The recent results suggest intellectual disability in some rural areas could now be up to 10 percent.[23]

One cause of lower IQs might be traced to nutrition. WHO research suggests iodine deficiency accounts for losses of between 10–15 IQ points. However, according to Thailand’s 2012 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey, only 71 percent of Thai households consume enough iodised salt, falling to 54 percent in the poorest households. There is again a huge regional disparity, with 82 percent of households in Bangkok and only 54 percent of households in Thailand's northeast consuming adequately iodised salt. The regions with the lowest IQs are those same areas with the highest iodine deficiency.[23]

In July 2015, the Thai Department of Health initiated a program to provide better nutrition and health education at Thai public schools. Its aims are to increase average IQ from 94 to 100 and boost the average height of children. Currently boys measure on average 167 cm and girls 157 cm. Over the 10-year life of the program heights are targeted to increase to 175 cm and 165 cm respectively. Children at schools across the country will receive healthier meals and more instruction on healthy living and exercise.[24]

In 2015, a World Bank study concluded that " of 15-year-old Thais are 'functionally illiterate'", including almost half of those studying in rural schools.[20] The bank suggested that Thailand reform its education system partly through merging and optimising its more than 20,000 schools nationwide. The alternative is hiring 160,000 more teachers for up-country schools in order to match Bangkok's teacher-student ratios.[25] The Economist notes that, "Thailand's dismal performance is not dramatically out of step with countries of similar incomes. But it is strange given its unusually generous spending on education, which in some years has hoovered up more than a quarter of the budget. Rote learning is common. There is a shortage of maths and science teachers, but a surfeit of physical-education instructors. Many head teachers lack the authority to hire or fire their own staff."[20]

Secondary school admissions protest[edit]

In May 2012, parents and students at the prestigious Bodindecha (Sing Singhaseni) School, commonly referred to as "Bodin", in Bangkok staged a hunger strike to protest what they viewed as admissions irregularities. The issue arose when 200 Bodin students were denied the right to continue their studies at the school at the end of the 2011 school year. The students suspected that school executives had taken away their seats to give to children of parents willing to pay huge sums of "tea money" or bribes.[26] Admission to popular schools can cost "tea money" sums up to seven figures. The greater the competition, the higher the amount of donations the parents believe they have to offer in exchange for their children's chances to get a good education at a quality school.[27]

Status of teachers[edit]

Thai society holds teachers in high regard as evidenced by naming one day of the year as "Teacher's Day."[28] But the high esteem held for Thai teachers does not extend to international teachers. "Thai teachers, as well as university lecturers, are not as well paid as their colleagues in Malaysia or Singapore, not to mention those in the United States or Europe," according to the Bangkok Post.[29] This has led to the finding that each Thai teacher may be up to three million baht in debt. The government is taking steps to ameliorate the plight of teachers by refinancing loans owed to "formal" lenders.[29]



Almost all villages have an elementary school. Most sub-districts (tambon) have a school for ages 6 through 14 and all districts (amphoe) have secondary schools for ages 12 through 17. Many have vocational colleges for students from age 15.

The government is not able to cope with the entire number of students, thus the private sector, which is supervised by the government, provides a significant contribution. The level of education in the private sector is generally, but not always, higher than that of the government schools. Expensive, exclusive private and international schools provide for a high level of achievement and a large number of their students continue their education at universities abroad.

Charitable organisations (missionary societies or diocesan), and other religions provide the backbone of non-government, low-fee, general education and some established universities, and their standard is relatively high. Cheaper, newer and individual private schools, are occasionally run more for profit and government subsidies than for results, and are often indistinguishable from government schools in terms of quality of buildings, resources, teaching competency, and overcrowded classrooms. Their only real benefit is the prestige afforded to the parents for schooling their children in the private sector.

In rural schools, absenteeism among both students and teachers is high due to family and farming commitments. Some schools close down during rice planting and harvesting seasons.

Over 400 government vocational colleges accept students who have completed Matthayom 3. Their campuses are usually located within daily commuting distances, although some may offer limited dormitory accommodation on campus. Many specialised vocational schools offer training in agriculture, animal husbandry, nursing, administration, hospitality and tourism.


Thailand has had 21 education ministers in the past 18 years (2000–2018). Each lasts an average of nine months.[8] The complexity of administration of Thai education gives rise to duplication among the many ministries and agencies providing education and establishing of standards. In 1980, at the recommendation the Minister of Education, Dr. Kayla Sarah Ketudat, responsibility for basic elementary education was moved from the Ministry of Interior to the Ministry of Education. Both the Ministry of University Affairs and the Ministry of Education have been actively involved in teacher training.[30]


The Thai national budget allocates considerable resources to education. In FY2017, educational expenditures represented almost 20 percent of the national budget, or four percent of GDP.[2][31] This is high in comparison with the educational expenditures of other countries, especially developing countries, with China at 13 percent, Indonesia 8.1 percent, Malaysia 20 percent, Mexico, 24.3 percent, Philippines 17 percent, the United Kingdom and France, 11 percent. Although education is mainly financed by the national budget, local funds, particularly in urban areas, are spent on education. In the area governed by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA), up to 28.1 percent of the educational budget has been provided by local financing. Loans and technical assistance for education are also received from Asian Development Bank, the World Bank, and the Overseas Economic Cooperation Fund (OECF) (Japan).[citation needed]


Systematic educational research began in 1955 when the International Institute for Child Study was established in Bangkok. The institute has now become the Behavioral Science Research Institute and has conducted both basic and applied research. In the 1960s, the Ministry of Education and the Office of the National Education Commission (ONEC), a department of the Office of the Prime Minister, began programmes of educational research. In-depth research, particularly that of the ONEC, contributed to the education reform initiative of 1999-2002, and extensive research is provided by the country's universities, especially in faculties of education. The Department of Curriculum and Instructional Development of the Ministry of Education also conducts research into testing, curriculum, and content. The National Library, university libraries, and other libraries around the country are electronically networked in order to facilitate research.

Elementary and secondary levels[edit]

At elementary levels, students study eight core subjects each semester: Thai language, mathematics, science, social science, health and physical education, arts and music, technology, and foreign languages. At age 16 (Matthayom 4), students are allowed to choose one or two elective courses. The science program (Wit-Kanit) and the mathematics-English language program (Sil-Kamnuan) are among the most popular. Foreign language programs (Sil-Phasa) in (Chinese, French, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Spanish, and German) for example, and the social science program (sometimes called the general program) are also offered. Both elementary and secondary levels have special programs, the English Program and the Gifted Program. In the English Program students learn every subject in English except for Thai and social studies. The Gifted Program is mathematics-science focused.

Vocational education[edit]

The Vocational Education Commission manages 416 vocational institutions of higher learning in Thailand.[32]

Technical and vocational education (TVE) begins at the senior high school level where students begin to follow either general or vocational education tracks. At present, around 60 percent of students follow the general education programmes. However, the government is endeavouring to achieve an equal balance between general and vocational education.

Three levels of TVE are offered: the Certificate in Vocational Education (Bor Wor Chor) which is taken during the upper secondary period; the Technical Diploma (Bor Wor Sor), taken after school-leaving age; and the Higher Diploma on which admission to university for a bachelor's degree programme may be granted. Vocational education is also provided by private institutions.

Dual vocational training (DVT)[edit]

Essential to DVT is the active participation of the private sector. In 1995,[33] the Department of Vocational Education launched an initiative to introduce dual vocational training programmes which involve the students in hand-on training at selected organisations in the private sector.

DVT is a regular element of the DoVE "certificate" and "diploma" program. The training is for a period of three years with more than half of the time devoted to practical training on-the-job, spread over two days a week, or for longer periods depending on the distance, throughout the semesters.

Two levels of DVT are offered: the three-year certificate level for skilled workers where students and trainees are admitted at the age of 15 after completing Matthayom 3 (Grade 9); and the two-year diploma technician level for students who have graduated with the Certificate of Vocational Education after 12 years of formal education.

In the scheme, vocational, unlike regular internships, where students may be assigned to work on unpaid irrelevant jobs, the cooperative education programme enables students of the vocational schools to do field work while benefiting from an allowance to cover living expenses or free accommodation, and compensation for their contributions made to the company's income and profits as temporary employees.

Schools collaborate directly with the private sector in drafting action plans and setting goals for students to meet. Generally, the company will offer permanent employment to the trainees on graduation and successful completion of the programme. Conversely, companies that recruit trainees from among young people who have completed a minimum of nine years at school may enroll their employees with a technical or vocational college where they are taught vocational subjects as the theoretical background to the occupational field in which they are being trained.[34]


As of 2015 there were 674,113 students enrolled in vocational education courses.[35]

Concerns of multi-national corporations[edit]

Shiro Sadoshima, the Japanese ambassador to Thailand, believes that the Thai government must invest more in education to produce a labour force that can meet the demands of Japanese industry. He noted that while Thailand has a policy to improve vocational skills and cultivate skilled labour, the skills exhibited by Thai workers are not up to Japanese standards. The ambassador's remarks echoed those of major Japanese manufacturers such as Toyota, which has been investing in Thailand for decades. Shuichi Ikeda, chief representative of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), also voiced concerns that even though Thailand has produced a lot of vocational graduates to serve rising demand for factory workers, those graduates lack required skills. Thailand is expected to produce around 67,000 vocational graduates over the next 10 years but only around 3,100 of them can meet labour standards and get a job, he said.[36]

Tertiary and higher education[edit]

Established public and private universities and colleges of higher education are under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of University Affairs. They offer programmes especially in the fields of medicine, the arts, humanities, and information technology, although many students prefer to pursue studies of law and business in Western institutions abroad or in those which have created local facilities in Thailand. During the first years of the 21st century, the number of universities increased dramatically on a controversial move by the Thaksin government to rename many public institutes as universities.


There are 170 institutions of higher education in Thailand, both public and private, offering 4,100 curricula. For the 2015 academic year, the universities could accommodate 156,216 new students, but only 105,046 applied to take entrance exams. Exacerbating the student shortfall, the National Economic and Social Development Board projects that the number of Thais in the school-age group 0–21 years will fall to 20 percent of the population by 2040, a drop from 62.3 percent in 1980.[37]

Many public universities receive financial support from the government for research purposes. Over half of the provinces have a government-run Rajabhat University (formerly Rajabhat Institutes) and Rajamangala University of Technology, which were traditionally teacher-training colleges.

Thai universities do not score highly in the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University rankings and they are losing ground when compared with other Asian universities. Thailand's top three universities, Chulalongkorn, Mahidol, and Thammasat, are trending down. When it was first ranked by QS, Chulalongkorn came in at 201. In 2018 it was ranked 271. Several years ago, Mahidol was ranked 255 but now is ranked 380. Thammasat in 2012 was ranked 561 but has consistently been in the 600s since then.[38]

Some of Thailand's leading universities include:


Most bachelor's degree courses are four year, full-time programs. Exceptions are education and architecture that require five years, and the doctor of dental surgery, medicine, pharmacy, and veterinary medicine that require six years of study. Master's degree programs last for either one or two years and the degree is conferred on course credits with either a thesis or a final exam. On completion of a master's degree, students may apply for an admission exam to a two to five year doctoral program. The doctorate is conferred upon completion of coursework, research, and the successful submission of a dissertation. There are at least 1,000 PhD programs offered at 33 Thai universities. The number of PhD students rose to over 25,000 in 2015, up from just 1,380 in 2008.[40]


At present, there are two methods to select students for admission to universities in Thailand. The first method is the direct admission system operated by each university. The second method is the original admission system managed by the National Institute of Education Testing Service (NIETS).[41]

On graduating from high school, students need to pass the CUAS (Central University Admission System) which contains 50% of O-NET and A-NET results and the other half of the fourth level GPA (grade point average). Many changes and experiments in the university admissions system have taken place since 2001, but by late 2007 a nationwide system had yet to be accepted by the students, the universities, and the government. In 2008, the newly formed coalition led by the People's Power Party (a party formed by the remnants of deposed Taksin Shinwatra's Thai Rak Tai party) announced more changes to the national curriculum and university entrance system. At present, state-run universities screen 70% of their students directly, with the remaining 30% coming from the central admission system. The new system gives 20% weight to cumulative grade point average, which varies upon a school's standard. Some students have voiced distrust of the new system and fear it will encounter score counting problems as happened with the A-NET in its first year. The new aptitude test, to be held for the first time in March 2009 and which will be supervised by NIETS, will replace the Advanced National Education Test (A-net). Students may sit for the aptitude test a maximum of three times, with their best scores counted. After the first tests in March 2009, the next two are scheduled for July and October. Direct admissions are normally held around October.

The new test includes the compulsory General Aptitude Test (GAT), which covers reading, writing, analytical thinking, problem solving and English communication, and the voluntary Professional Aptitude Test (PAT).

NIETS clearinghouse[edit]

In 2013, NIETS began to use a clearinghouse system. It is designed to avoid the problem of having the same student be accepted by several universities. After completing the exam and deciding on a university to attend, the student's name will automatically be removed from other university databases and admissions system. Universities currently in the system are Chulalongkorn University, Kasetsart University, Thammasat University, King Mongkut's Institute of Technology Ladkrabang, and 14 other state universities.[citation needed]

The required qualifications and number of students admitted are established by each university. The qualifications needed for admission vary by university. Some universities require a high GPA and test score. Students with a GPA and test score lower than required cannot apply for admission to that university. Some faculties may add an aptitude test. It depends on the faculty and the university. Students are not required to take the every subject area examination. For example, the faculty of engineering requires mathematics, physics, chemistry, and biology, but the faculty of management requires English and mathematics. This is a departure from the original admission system which requires a score in every subject of the O-net test and academic aptitude test (PAT).[citation needed]

Grade point average[edit]

Grade point average is an average of the grades received for courses taken.[42]

  • 21 Thai
  • 22 Social studies, religion, and culture
  • 23 Foreign Language
  • 24 Mathematics
  • 25 Science
  • 26 Physical education
  • 27 Arts
  • 28 Career and Technology

National Educational Test[edit]

It is composed of O-NET, N-NET, V-NET, and GAT-PAT.

Ordinary National Education Test (O-NET)[edit]

O-NET is a test of basic education. All students at grade 6,9,12 can take O-NET one time.

Non-Formal National Education Test (N-NET)[edit]

N-NET is to measure the knowledge to students who are studying in non-formal education at secondary education and high school education.

Vocational National Educational Test (V-NET)[edit]

V-NET is a test to measure the knowledge of vocational students.

General Aptitude Test (GAT)[edit]

General Aptitude Test[43] or GAT is measure of 1. Ability to read, write, and solve problems (50 percent) 2. Ability to communicate in English (50 percent)

Professional and Academic Aptitude Test (PAT)[edit]

Professional and academic aptitude test or PAT is knowledge that is a fundamental to university study.

  • PAT 1 math aptitude
  • PAT 2 scientific aptitude
  • PAT 3 engineering aptitude
  • PAT 4 architectural aptitude
  • PAT 5 teachers aptitude
  • PAT 6 arts aptitude
  • PAT 7 foreign language aptitude
    • PAT7.1 French aptitude
    • PAT7.2 German aptitude
    • PAT7.3 Japanese aptitude
    • PAT7.4 Chinese aptitude
    • PAT7.5 Arabic aptitude
    • PAT7.6 Pali aptitude
    • PAT7.7 Korean aptitude

International schools[edit]

The ministry of education defines international schools as, " educational institution providing an international curriculum or international curriculum which its subject's detail has been adjusted or a self-organised curriculum, which is not the Ministry of Education's. A foreign language is used as the medium of teaching and learning and students are enrolled without restriction or limitation on nationality or religion or government regime, and are not against the morality or stability of Thailand."[44]

Prior to 1992, only a very small number of international schools existed in Thailand, and they catered entirely to the children of expatriates, as Thai law prohibited Thai nationals from enrolling. When the first international school, International School Bangkok, relocated to a new campus outside of the city proper, a group of parents worked with United Nations staff to lobby the Ministry of Education to change this law and open the first new international school in decades. This led to the establishment of New International School of Thailand (later changed to NIST International School), and the repeal of the prohibition against the enrollment of Thais. Due to the high demand for private international education, this change also sparked the opening of dozens of other international schools, such as Hampton International Preschool[45], over the subsequent years.

The curriculum is required to be approved by the Ministry of Education and may be an international one, an international curriculum with modifications, or a curriculum established by the school itself. Thai language and culture constitutes a core subject and is mandatory at every level for all Thai students registered as Thai nationals. Non-Thai citizens are not required to study Thai language or culture. International schools must operate within a framework of requirements and conditions established by the Ministry of Education, that stipulates the ownership, location and size of the plot, design and structure of buildings, ratio of students to classroom surface, sanitary installations, administration and educational support facilities such as libraries and resources centres. Within one year from their commencement, elementary and secondary schools must apply accreditation from an international organisation recognised and accepted by the Office of the Private Education Commission and accreditation must be granted within six years. Managers and head teachers must be of Thai nationality though frequently there will also be a foreign head teacher to oversee the international curriculum and implement school policy.

Approximately 90 international schools operate in Thailand, of which about two-thirds are in the Bangkok area.[46]

Distance learning by TV[edit]

Established in 1996, DLTV (Distance Learning via TV)[47] broadcasts 15 educational channels[48] from Klai Kangwon Palace School, Hua Hin. It broadcasts via the Ku-band beam on the Thaicom 5 satellite to 17,000 schools[48] and other subscribers across the country. In December 2008, Thaicom Public Company, the operator of the Thaicom satellite, announced it has renewed a 10-year contract[48] with the Distance Learning Education via Satellite Foundation of Thailand (DLF) to broadcast DLTV channels using one Ku-band transponder on the Thaicom 5 satellite.

Teacher training[edit]

Teacher training is offered either in universities by the Ministry of University Affairs or in teacher training colleges administered by the Ministry of Education's Department of Teacher Education. University programmes are now commonly influenced by child-centred learning methods and several universities operate a demonstration schools staffed by lecturers and trainee teachers.

Elementary and lower secondary school teachers[edit]

The mainstay of the teacher output is provided by the government Rajaphat Universities (formerly Rajaphat Institutes), the traditional teacher training colleges in most provinces. Programmes include courses in teaching methodology, school administration, special education, optional specialisation, supervised practical teaching experience, and the general education subjects of language and communication, humanities, social science, mathematics, and technology. Completion of upper secondary education (Matthayom 6) is required for access to basic teacher training programmes and elementary and lower secondary school teachers are required to complete a two-year program leading to the Higher Certificate of Education, also known as the Diploma in Education or an associate degree.

Upper secondary school teachers[edit]

To teach at the upper secondary school level, the minimum requirement is a four-year Bachelor of Education degree through government programmes provided either at a teacher’s training college or in a university faculty of education. Students who have acquired the Higher Certificate of Education are eligible to continue their studies at a university or teacher's training college for two additional years of full-time study for a bachelor's degree. Prospective teachers with a bachelor's degree in other disciplines must undergo an additional one year of full-time study to complete a Bachelor of Education degree.

Teacher development and performance[edit]

In recent years, the number of fresh graduates from teacher-training schools has ranged from 50,000 to 60,000 annually, raising concerns about quality and oversupply. The government is trying to reduce the number of graduates from teacher-education programmes to no more than 25,000 a year and direct those graduates to underserved localities. "We need to focus on quality, not quantity," a spokesperson said. In September 2015, the Office of the Higher Education Commission (OHEC) put forward an initiative to provide 58,000 grants to student-teachers over a 15-year period. The bulk of the grants would go to those who would be sent to work in areas with a shortage of teachers.[49]

In 2010 the Office of the Basic Education Commission (OBEC), for the first time, tested secondary schools teachers on the subjects they teach. A grade of less than 59 percent was considered to exhibit a low standard of knowledge. OBEC said up to 88 percent of 3,973 computer science teachers failed the test. The same was true in biology (86 percent of 2,846), math (84 percent of 5,498), physics (71 percent of 3,487), chemistry (64 percent of 3,088) and astronomy and earth sciences (63 percent of 529). Teachers at the junior high level earned higher marks. OBEC said 58 percent of 14,816 teachers teaching math had marks of more than 80 percent, while 54 percent of 13,385 teachers did well in sciences. School directors did not fare well: about 95 percent failed tests in information and computer technology and English.[50]

Elementary and secondary school teachers do not enjoy the same long breaks as the students and are required to work through the vacations on administrative duties. They are also burdened with administrative tasks: a study by the Quality Learning Foundation found that Thai teachers spent 84 of the 200-day academic year performing non-teaching tasks such as undergoing unnecessary training, performing administrative duties, and hosting external evaluations.[51]

English language education[edit]

Kahoot being used in an English lesson in a Thai high school

Thai university applicants scored an average 28.34 percent in English in recent university entrance exams. Thailand produces a "workforce with some of the world's weakest English-language skills."[52] In a recent IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook Thailand was ranked 54th out of 56 countries globally for English proficiency. Singapore was third, Malaysia 28th and Korea 46th.[citation needed]

The government has long realised the importance of the English language as a core subject in schools, and it has been a compulsory subject at varying levels for several decades. Since 2005 schools are encouraged to establish bilingual departments where core subjects are taught in English as well as offering intensive English language programmes.[53]

Rural–urban and ethnic divides[edit]

Place of birth is a significant marker for predicting academic success in Thailand. Students in ethnic minority areas, predominantly rural, score consistently lower in standardized national and international tests.[54][55][56] Students from poor families living in remote areas face limited access to quality education compared to their urban counterparts.[8] Only 50 percent of Thai students are taught academic subjects in their home language.[57]:191 This is likely due to unequal allocation of educational resources, weak teacher training, socio-economic factors (poverty), and lower ability in the central Thai language, the language of instruction and tests.[54][58][59]


A third of Thai students aged 13 to 15 suffered bullying at school between 2010 and 2015. Twenty-nine percent were victims of physical violence.[8] School violence instigated by students at technical or vocational schools is an ongoing problem.[60][61][62]

Sex education[edit]

Thai researcher Wichit Wongwarithip asserts that Thailand does not deliver on sex education. It fails with regard to gender diversity, gender equality, and safe sex. "Society tends to think that 'good morals' are the solutions to all problems and that Thai culture is the best," said Wichit. Thai sex education rests on the bedrock of the traditional values of heterosexuality and patriarchy. Instead of encouraging safe sex, Thai sex education tells schoolgirls to abstain until they are ready to form a family. Some Thai textbooks characterise masturbation as deviant behaviour and recommend meditation to suppress sexual desire. Jiraphon Arunakon, Director of the Gender Variation Clinic, says that sex education as taught in Thailand lags behind or ignores scientific research. The International Classification of Diseases (ICD) removed homosexuality from the "disease" classification in 1990 and Thailand's Ministry of Public Health asserted in 2002 that homosexuality is not a mental disorder. Parit Chiwarak, an education activist from Education for Liberation Network, says that students read their sex ed textbooks in order to pass exams, but do not take them seriously. "We all know that Thai textbooks are...sexist....I don't think that students nowadays perceive LGBT people as deviants. Students these days are not stupid. It's self-destructive to write things that oppose ordinary people's belief [sic] like this....", stated Parit.[63]

Meanwhile, Thai sex education has done little to decrease Thailand's high teenage pregnancy rate. In 2014, about 334 babies were born daily to mothers aged between 15 to 19.[63] Teen births in Thailand have been on the rise. Of every 1,000 live births, 54 are from teen mothers aged 15–19, higher than in the US and 10 times higher than Singapore. The number of live births by Thai teenage mothers aged 15–18 increased 43 percent between 2000 and 2011. The reasons for this may be societal norms. "Women are told to protect their virginity but Thai men who have multiple sexual encounters are seen as cool," said Visa Benjamano, a commissioner at the National Human Rights Council (NHRC).[64]


Uniforms are compulsory for all students with very few variations from the standard model throughout the public and private school systems, including colleges and universities.

The dress code in elementary and secondary grades for boys is knee-length dark blue, khaki, or black shorts with a white open collar short-sleeved shirt, long socks, and brown or black trainers. Girls wear a knee-length dark blue or black skirt and a white blouse with a loosely hanging bow tie. The bow tie is dropped in favor of an open-necked light blue shirt from Matthayom 4. The girls' uniform is complemented by white ankle socks and black school shoes.

The student's name, number, and name of the school are often embroidered on the blouse or shirt. Some independent or international schools have uniforms more closely resembling British school uniform standards, and boys in senior high school grades may be allowed to wear long trousers.

The standard dress for children in kindergarten is a red skirt and white blouse for girls and red shorts and a white shirt for boys. In all Thai schools, one day per week, usually Thursday, is dedicated to scouting, when beige scout uniforms for boys and dark green guide uniforms are the rule, both wearing yellow neckerchiefs. Many schools have some color variations of the scout uniform such as blue uniforms with blue neckerchiefs for girl scouts at Wattana Wittaya Academy. The use of accessories is prohibited for males, while females are sometimes allowed to use simple accessories. All students are prohibited from coloring their hair or having tattoos.

University uniforms are standard throughout the country and consist of a white blouse and plain or pleated skirt for females, and long black trousers, a white long-sleeved shirt with a dark blue or black tie for males. Thammasat University is the first university in Thailand that broke the uniform stereotype by providing choice for students to wear a polite uniform as a result of the democracy movement in 1932. Cracks in the university uniform policy began to appear in 2018 as a result of student agitation. The Faculty of Arts at Chulalongkorn University (CU) abolished the compulsory uniform requirement.[65] CU has long claimed that its student uniform is prestigious as it was bestowed upon CU students by King Rama V, the university's founder.

See also[edit]


Nuvola Thai flag.svg
Life in Thailand

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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]