Thailand’s Overtaxed Education System – Bangkok Podcast (1.19)

2017-05-15T15:59:38+07:00September 20th, 2010|Bangkok Podcast Season 1, Expat Experiences|8 Comments

It’s no secret that the Thai education system is in need of an overhaul. Everyone from government ministers to concerned parents regularly voice their opinions in the press, and there is a real concern that the Thailand’s education system is being passed by its regional neighbours.

One way a concerned parent can ensure your child has an international-level education in Thailand is to enroll them in an international school. However, many parents find that the cost of tuition is often outrageously high – many thousands of dollars per child per year, or more. So what are the options? Is there any way around this? And what does it mean for a parent living here who may not have the necessary resources?

Greg also talks about his recent trip to Europe and a big development for him there, which leads to a discussion about European history vs Thai history, the nuances of driving in Europe, and the trust you must have in your GPS system while navigating unfamiliar roads.

We also thank loyal listener Jamie Milkovich for his awesome addition to our Facebook page, and we tease a few details of some pretty cool shows we have coming up in October.

Show Links:

Numiq Media

Bangkok Podcast Facebook Fan Page


  1. Vin September 21, 2010 at 11:59 pm - Reply

    My brother has been teaching in Asia for years in different parts of China, Japan and Korea. Rote memorization is the norm in Asia. Critical thinking doesn’t really have a place in their education system. This has led to institutionalized plagiarism in higher education in places like China. That’s why a PHD from China doesn’t mean much internationally.

    On the flip-side, the price for a college education in America has skyrocketed. It costs at least 30K per year to put a kid through a “good” university in the States. That’s just for an undergrad degree.

    And then none of the graduates can find jobs, but that’s a whole different story. 🙂

  2. Tony September 22, 2010 at 8:43 am - Reply

    I received this excellent summery of the Thai school system from a listener.

    My wife and I both have a background in education and could add that there are quite a few choices when it come to schooling in Thailand. I have a pretty open mind when it comes to education and my thoughts are as follows:

    1) Government Schools

    These schools are free but might some might have an extra fee for English lessons for students. Class sizes are big (40-50 per class).

    My conclusion: This is not good choice..

    2) Private Schools

    These schools are often run to make a profit and includes quite a few big names like Bangkok Christian College, Assumption College, the Sarasas schools etc. Some of these have an English Program as well as a Thai program which is about 120,000 baht per year and as completion is fierce as is demand, usually there is a joining fee (cough cough) to get your kids in. The English skills of the kids and their general knowledge will be very variable and depend on the school / the particular teachers that the child has / and lots of other factors.

    My conclusion: Some schools can be good, some can be terrible. The curriculum will be Thai (on the most part) and as a result of that, will be weak when it comes encouraging the development of the more creative skills and there will be more rote learning. I have seen some Non Thai children go to this type of school (especially half Thai kids) and they seem to do ok. Each school has to be seen and evaluated on a case by case basis but generally, not a good choice.

    3) Universities / Demonstration Schools

    These schools are denoted by the word “Satit” – and quite a few universities have them especially in Bangkok, they are also difficult to get into but I have to say, the standard of education from the kids that go to these schools is generally very high (my wife went one and her English and that of her peers is exceptional) so often their English skills will be very competent. Most of these kids will go to the top universities in Thailand and quite a few will go on to study overseas. The most famous one will be Triam Udom Suksa.

    My conclusion: The academic standard here is actually quite good and is the best the Thai system has to offer. A strong grounding and work ethos that is particularly good for kids between 4 – 11 with a maths and science emphasis that is better (of greater range and difficulty) than that offered at the international schools. This is a possible choice and has it is substantially cheaper (an quite difficult to get into) should be a good option.

    4) The International Schools

    Surprisingly perhaps, the standard here is very variable and the cost as you pointed out is very high for what you get. The best schools as NIST (New International School of Thailand), Harrow, Bangkok Pattana, ISB etc. The cost is about 500,000+++ baht per year but the standard is good as can be seen where many of the kids go on to study for their undergraduate degree. Bangkok International Prep School by Thonglor is a good little school is about 340,000 per year.

    Others however are a little hit and miss, they charge a little less but they cut corners.

    And there are some that are truly terrible (I hesitate to name names) and I have seen some students from some weak international schools who can barely function in English even though they are supposed to be using English as the medium of instruction. In fact some are no better than the government schools and their students will actually be outperformed by the students from the better Thai private schools / Demonstration schools!

    My conclusion: Expensive but can be exceptionally good and not being Thai can enable the parents to negotiate a discount (which varies from place to place) as they want to have mix of students and it is difficult for some schools to attract native speaker (of English) students. The best option but very expensive unless you are an expat at a big company and the company picks up the tab but for most people, out of reach unless a significant discount/scholarship can be secured.

    5) Home Schooling

    The final option is home schooling or setting up some kind of community school (which is where one of the best schools in Beijing came from (Western Academy of Beijing) and is something that has not really been done in Bangkok but is a great idea of getting like minded
    parents/teachers together to provide something amazing for their students. This model is becoming more popular in the UK right now and the model has been used quite extensively in Sweden and some other Scandinavian countries.

    Conclusion: If you can get a good team together with some funding, this option would be viable and could provide the best of the best. Committed teachers (who probably are parents and scaleable model that could bring in a good quality education as around half the price of the true international schools.

    Overall, the Thai education system is quite rigid and hierarchical and relies on rote Learning BUT they do instill more discipline and a harder work ethic than the international schools so my conclusion as to what to do with my children might surprise you but as I do not have unlimited funds I will do the following:

    1) send my children to a demonstration school/ university school from the age of 4 – 11 – this is because I want them to have some of the positives of learning Thai to a reasonable standard. An English program in one of these schools would be best.
    2) If money permits, transfer them to an international school from the ages of 11 – 18 for the international curriculum.

    At the end of the say, the parental aspect makes a huge different and many parents see the schools as taking all educational responsibilities and absolving them of theirs. Parents that get involved and are interested in their Children’s education (but still allow freedom to develop) will enable their children to reap huge rewards. Some students will excel in the worst schools, some students will fail in the best schools, the parents setting aside time for their children to teach and guide them is the best guarantee they will turn out well in the long run not matter where parents choose to send them.

  3. Jack September 26, 2010 at 6:19 pm - Reply

    90% of what they teach in school around the world are unrelated to real world scenario. Lots and lots of parents are opting for Home school.

    The money we spend in school could be saved for Kids in a bank and when kids grows up..they could do something useful with that money.

    What learn in school becomes absolute in few years. I would suggest to go home school all the way.

    • Greg September 27, 2010 at 4:45 pm - Reply

      I tend to agree. Beyond a few historical facts and trivia, what I learned in my high school classes has been of very little use to me. However, the most valuable asset I gained was the social aspect – how to interact with other people, adults, peers, idiots, hot girls, morons, nerds, etc. I also learned a TON simply by working after school in several jobs – grocery store, gas station, etc. Too bad Thai kids aren’t given this opportunity; if they were I think they’d find themselves significantly better prepared for real life when they graduate.

    • Tony September 27, 2010 at 6:05 pm - Reply

      Everything I know I learned from playing Trivial Pursuit!

      I’m with Greg. I learned more the year I dropped out of high school and left home than I ever did in the years I was in school.

  4. Donna November 4, 2010 at 8:29 pm - Reply

    Homeschooling is not as complicated as one might think. I live in Nova Scotia, Canada, and I wasn’t thrilled with my youngest son’s scholastic progress in grade four, so I decided to home school him for grade 5. I have 2 undergrad degrees and am working on a graduate degree, so I had enough info bouncing around in my head to create a comprehensive programme of study. Although it involved a great deal of planning and effort, it was very rewarding knowing that my son was learning above and beyond the curriculum that is offered in Nova Scotia public schools. I have since transferred him to a terrific school in a ‘better’ area of the city for grade 6, but as my family plans on moving to Bangkok in the spring of 2011(and I am less than delighted with the educational options that were just presented) I might be doing the same thing again!

    • Greg November 8, 2010 at 1:41 am - Reply

      That’s a great story Donna, keep us posted on how your move goes and how home-schooling works in Thailand. Also – three degrees? That’s okay I guess, but a REAL go-getter has at least five. 😛

  5. Aung Wai January 5, 2011 at 3:21 pm - Reply

    Dear Sir , I want to know about scholarship program about my children 7years old and 11 years old in Thailand

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