Education in Thailand

school2This is the first part in a series of articles about education here in Thailand. You may already be a teacher and have experience of this unwieldy and sometimes arbitrary system; you may have children, or you may be planning to have children in the future. Whatever your situation, it’s useful to know the ins and outs of this monumental institution and bureaucracy which dominates public life throughout the country.

In this first part, we detail the fundamentals of the Thai education system. You may have heard of terms such as Prathom and Matthayom without really knowing what they mean, and how does a Rajabhat University differ from a regular university? All is revealed below. But first, a quick history lesson.

schoolHistory
Until the late 19th century, education was only available at temple schools. There, monks would instruct boys mainly in the history and ways of Buddhism. Modernisation started in 1871 when the first institution which could truly be described as a ‘school’ opened in the grounds of the Grand Palace. In 1887, the Ministry of Education was established, and in 1898 a national curriculum divided into two parts – one for Bangkok and one for the provinces – was launched. The first university opened in 1917: ‘Chulalongkorn University’ was named after the King (Rama V) who had done so much in the late 19th century to establish formal education in Thailand. During the 20th century, the focus was on extending the reach of education throughout the country. Accordingly, schools gradually appeared in nearly every village and the length of compulsory education was repeatedly increased. In the 21st century, the main challenges for general education are producing sufficient numbers of well-qualified competent teachers, reducing class sizes and changing from the traditional rote style of teaching to a more modern student-centered methodology.

Education in ThailandThe System
Primary and secondary education adheres to a 6-3-3 structure: six years of primary education (Prathom 1-6), three years of lower secondary (Matthayom 1-3) and three years of upper secondary (Matthayom 4-6). Officially, nine years of education is compulsory whilst the state is obliged to provide twelve years of free education.

Prathom 1-6 is usually for age groups 5/6-11/12; Matthayom 1-3 is generally for 12-14 year-olds and Matthayom 4-6, which can be either academic or vocational, for 15-17 year olds. Below Prathom there is the pre-school Anuban level. Kids usually enter Anuban at about three years of age, but it’s possible to get your child started much earlier in the private sector. I know of an ‘Academy’ in Korat which accepts ‘students’ from six-months-old! Anuban forms part of the basic free education. Thus a child can legally finish his or her schooling at age twelve – not uncommon in rural areas as, although the education itself is free, the cost of books , uniforms, lunch and maybe transportation have to be met by the parents.

The 6-3-3 system doesn’t usually mean that a child will have to attend three different schools. In villages, a school will typically incorporate Anuban and Prathom (ages 3-11). Pupils will then have to go to a school in the nearest town or city for their Matthayom education. In larger conurbations, a school will often run from Prathom 1 to Matthayom 3 (ages 5-14). The kids from these schools who wish to remain in education will then have to move onto an upper-secondary school.

As mentioned before, students can study a vocational course at the upper-secondary level (Matthayom 4-6). A wide variety of vocational colleges cater for the large demand for this type of practical education; it is perhaps the strongest part of the whole Thai education system. Students get on-the-job training, as well as classroom instruction, and are usually offered a job by the company at which they have been gaining work experience upon completion of the course.

Finally, there are the universities. Prospective students must pass admission tests to gain access to the world of higher education. Bachelor degrees normally take four years to attain. Most universities are private institutions, but many provinces also have a government-funded Rajabhat University. These were originally teacher training colleges but nowadays offer a variety of courses.

So that’s the basic outline of the education system here in Thailand. In issues to come, we will look at many of the areas touched upon here in much more detail with universities, language schools, international schools, teachers (Thai and foreign) and much more all coming under the microscope.

school2This is the first part in a series of articles about education here in Thailand. You may already be a teacher and have experience of this unwieldy and sometimes arbitrary system; you may have children, or you may be planning to have children in the future. Whatever your situation, it’s useful to know the ins and outs of this monumental institution and bureaucracy which dominates public life throughout the country.

In this first part, we detail the fundamentals of the Thai education system. You may have heard of terms such as Prathom and Matthayom without really knowing what they mean, and how does a Rajabhat University differ from a regular university? All is revealed below. But first, a quick history lesson.

schoolHistory
Until the late 19th century, education was only available at temple schools. There, monks would instruct boys mainly in the history and ways of Buddhism. Modernisation started in 1871 when the first institution which could truly be described as a ‘school’ opened in the grounds of the Grand Palace. In 1887, the Ministry of Education was established, and in 1898 a national curriculum divided into two parts – one for Bangkok and one for the provinces – was launched. The first university opened in 1917: ‘Chulalongkorn University’ was named after the King (Rama V) who had done so much in the late 19th century to establish formal education in Thailand. During the 20th century, the focus was on extending the reach of education throughout the country. Accordingly, schools gradually appeared in nearly every village and the length of compulsory education was repeatedly increased. In the 21st century, the main challenges for general education are producing sufficient numbers of well-qualified competent teachers, reducing class sizes and changing from the traditional rote style of teaching to a more modern student-centered methodology.

Education in ThailandThe System
Primary and secondary education adheres to a 6-3-3 structure: six years of primary education (Prathom 1-6), three years of lower secondary (Matthayom 1-3) and three years of upper secondary (Matthayom 4-6). Officially, nine years of education is compulsory whilst the state is obliged to provide twelve years of free education.

Prathom 1-6 is usually for age groups 5/6-11/12; Matthayom 1-3 is generally for 12-14 year-olds and Matthayom 4-6, which can be either academic or vocational, for 15-17 year olds. Below Prathom there is the pre-school Anuban level. Kids usually enter Anuban at about three years of age, but it’s possible to get your child started much earlier in the private sector. I know of an ‘Academy’ in Korat which accepts ‘students’ from six-months-old! Anuban forms part of the basic free education. Thus a child can legally finish his or her schooling at age twelve – not uncommon in rural areas as, although the education itself is free, the cost of books , uniforms, lunch and maybe transportation have to be met by the parents.

The 6-3-3 system doesn’t usually mean that a child will have to attend three different schools. In villages, a school will typically incorporate Anuban and Prathom (ages 3-11). Pupils will then have to go to a school in the nearest town or city for their Matthayom education. In larger conurbations, a school will often run from Prathom 1 to Matthayom 3 (ages 5-14). The kids from these schools who wish to remain in education will then have to move onto an upper-secondary school.

As mentioned before, students can study a vocational course at the upper-secondary level (Matthayom 4-6). A wide variety of vocational colleges cater for the large demand for this type of practical education; it is perhaps the strongest part of the whole Thai education system. Students get on-the-job training, as well as classroom instruction, and are usually offered a job by the company at which they have been gaining work experience upon completion of the course.

Finally, there are the universities. Prospective students must pass admission tests to gain access to the world of higher education. Bachelor degrees normally take four years to attain. Most universities are private institutions, but many provinces also have a government-funded Rajabhat University. These were originally teacher training colleges but nowadays offer a variety of courses.

So that’s the basic outline of the education system here in Thailand. In issues to come, we will look at many of the areas touched upon here in much more detail with universities, language schools, international schools, teachers (Thai and foreign) and much more all coming under the microscope.