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Understanding the Thai Educational System


There are several reasons you might be interested in finding out more about the Thai educational system. 

You are moving to Thailand with your wife and children.  You are interested in teaching in Thailand.  You live in Thailand with a Thai spouse, and her children attend school. 

Understanding the basics of the educational system can help you adapt to life in Thailand.


The government provides three years of preschool, for free, but it is not mandatory.

Primary School (Prathom Suksa)

Compulsory primary school begins at age six.  It is comprised of six grades and ends at age 12.  Children are not allowed to study more than 5 hours per day.  Primary school is provided free of charge to all students.

The curriculum is broad covering basic skills like Thai language, math, social studies, physical education and languages.  Technology and some vocational skills may be covered, and English is taught from the first year of primary.

Children are rarely held back if they fail the end of the year exam.  Students can retake the tests or attend summer sessions to catch up.

Secondary School (Mathayom Suksa)

Secondary education is six years long.  It is split into two parts.  The first three years are mandatory.  An additional three years is available, but it is optional. 

Students will test at the end of the first three year period to determine if they are scholastically eligible for higher secondary education.  Students who qualify can pursue upper-secondary education in preparation to attend university.  For those that don’t wish to pursue a university degree, they can also choose to attend vocational school programs.

International Schools

As competition for top universities is intense, many parents choose to send their children to an international school in Bangkok.

These schools are regulated by the Thai Department of Education.  They provide an international curriculum and are taught in a foreign language.

They were initially meant for the children of expats living or working in Thailand.  In 1992 the laws were changed allowing Thai children to attend international schools.

Expats and Thais alike, want their children to be able to pursue the best possible jobs, and as a result decide to spend the money for an international education.

The curriculum is required to be approved by the Ministry of Education.  The best schools adopt an already established curriculum.  International schools are required to teach Thai students the Thai language for five 50-minute sessions per week.  Non-Thai students are required to study Thai language and culture for one 50-minute session per week.


The Ministry of Education does a good job of providing a basic education to its population.  It has helped transform the country from an agrarian society into a modern highly developed country.

Like every nation, there are challenges to be met in the educational arena.  There is a rural-urban divide.  Rural students consistently score lower in standardized national and international tests. Economic disparities make it difficult to attract top-quality teachers to rural areas.  Average salaries for teachers in rural areas are considerably less than in Bangkok.


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