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Thailand Public Schools | Educational System

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  • Thailand Public Schools | Educational System

    The Thailand Government Schools

    Thailand’s young learners have access to cheap or free education through government-sponsored schools. Also known as public schools, the curriculum is determined by the country’s Ministry of Education. As Thailand is a theocracy, the Buddhist practises that are recognised by the government are also taught at public schools. At the elementary level, students are taught 8 core subjects each semester.

    Those subjects include: mathematics, Thai language, social science, science, health and physical education, technology, arts and music, and foreign languages. When students are in Matthayom 4, or around 16 years of age, they are also given the choice of 1 or 2 elective courses. Most, however, choose the science programme or the English language mathematics programme.

    Other electives include foreign language programmes and the social science programme. As for learning English, both elementary and secondary levels have special English programmes that are known as the English Programme and the Gifted Programme. The former focuses on students being taught every subject in English, with the exception of Thai language and social studies. The Gifted Programme focuses on learning mathematics and science in the English language. Currently, the Ministry of Education has set the English language curriculum to follow the Common European Framework or CEFR for students at all levels of public schools. However, it is not clear if the schools are following the framework or are evaluate students’ skills in accordance with the framework.

    Migrant or expat students in public Thai schools
    For non-Thai students who wish to study at Thai public schools, their grade level is determined by their age. But, Thailand’s education policy concerning migrant children deems that they must be proficient in the Thai language and have completed a Thai learning centre programme before being accepted into a public Thai school. A previous study of migrant children in Thailand noted that there were some kinks in the first-time placement of migrant or expat students in Thai public schools. For example, if a student was younger than 7, they would be placed in kindergarten and if a student was older than 7, they would be placed in first grade. This obviously presents issues if the student is much older than a first grader. However, the purpose of this placement, was supposedly to ensure that migrant students were better prepared to start Thai school. Thai schools tried to address this issue by making a rule that students could not be older than 9 years when enrolling in Thai school. But, then learning centres ended up not giving recommendations to schools for older students that completed their programmes.

    The 12 Thai Values:

    Part of the curriculum of Thai public schools includes certain cultural mandates set forth by PM Prayut Chan-o-cha. In 2017, PM Prayut, who is also the junta leader, ordered schools to display a list of 12 “Thai” values that he had created:
    • Loyalty to the Nation, a Religion, and the Monarchy
    • Honesty, sacrifice, endurance, and noble ideology for the greater good
    • Gratitude for parents, guardians, and teachers
    • Diligence in acquiring knowledge, via school studies and other methods
    • Preserving the Thai customs and tradition
    • Morality and good will toward others
    • Correct understanding of democracy with the King as Head of State
    • Discipline, respect for law, and obedience to the older citizens
    • Constant consciousness to practice good deeds all the time, as taught by His Majesty the King
    • Practice of Self-Sufficient Economy in accordance with the teaching of His Majesty the King
    • Physical and mental strength. Refusal to surrender to religious sins.
    • Uphold the interest of the nation over oneself.
    • Taking the mandates one step further, authorities told schools to hang a banner that listed PM Prayut’s teachings on their school premises. The government also provided the schools a song, poem and a 12-part film that was based on the teachings. And, as Thailand locals love using the LINE application on mobile phones, the Ministry of Information, Communication and Telecommunications created set of app stickers that represented the 12 values to be used in chatting on the app.

    Military training
    Again, under PM Prayut, the military government mandated that kindergarten students must learn how to do push-ups, salute, eat from metal trays on the floor, and crawl under netting. This type of learning was part of the PM’s “land defender battalion” programme. Thai-language news outlet Matichon Online cited that “soldiers showed children military operations and taught them patriotic values to love the nation, religions, and the Thai monarchy through the…..12 Thai Values. The news outlet also said that the Royal Thai Army would be running the programme with many more schools joining it in the future.

    Thai students also have a fair share of holidays and events to build up awareness and respect for their teachers and country. One famous celebration is that of Wai Kru Day. This is the day in which students say thank you to their teachers or educators by presenting them with flowers known as “dok khem” (needle flower or Ixora) because it represents the student’s promise that his/her brain will be as sharp as a needle. It is expected that students present the dok khem while performing a polite gesture called the “wai,” which is described as bowing with your hands in a prayer-like form near your face. Wai Kru Day at school will normally feature a ceremony that honours the teachers.

  • #2
    Thailand’s Educational System Information

    Thailand’s education system is largely affected by political instability and an increasingly aging populace. As Thailand has seen many military coups, with the recent one occurring in 2014, the climate of political repression has curtailed academic freedom. The consequences are played out daily when Thai academics are forced to work under the constant threat of surveillance, political reprisal, and arrest.

    Political instability and an aging population
    The wide-reaching use of Thailand’s lèse-majesté laws and other legislation, has resulted in the jailing of many student activists who criticised the monarchy or the pro-military constitution. Thailand’s demographic decline is also having a more immediate impact on the education system as the country’s population is rapidly aging. This causes the student population to shrink and threatens the number of Thai higher education systems. Back in 2017, Thai education experts warned of the declining demand for education, as well as increased competition from foreign universities. They noted that this could lead to the closure of as many as 3/4 of higher education systems over the next 10 years. And, the United Nations has validated the increasing aging population by saying that Thailand is one of the world’s most quickly aging societies. The share of Thai people over the age of 65 is expected to increase to more than a quarter of the population by 2040. The working age population is also expected to shrink by more than 11% by the same year. As a result of the aging population, experts say Thailand must stimulate immigration and increase labour force workers’ skills. As Thailand currently has a relatively low-skilled labour force compared to other ASEAN countries, its shortage of skilled labour is evident. Experts say education reforms desperately needed to increase the amount of skilled labourers. But, as Thailand has seen as many as 20 education ministers over the last 17 years, and a military coup that has threatened the progressiveness of the system, the outlook is less than stellar.

    Educational Reforms
    While the current government has put forth a number of educational reforms, critics say these are superficial and aim at promoting political stability. Such things as incorporating "The 12 Thai Values" into schools by the junta government, seem to only promote adherence and subordinance to the government. Although the government has put more funding towards the educational system, an OECD and UNESCO study found that the investments are not resulting in the expected outcomes. For example, international test results for Thai students (such as the OECD or PISA study) are still below those of neighbouring countries. And, the study also noted large disparities in student performances in regards to socio-economic levels.

    Thai Students abroad
    Thailand, historically, has not been a big sender of its students abroad to universities. Unlike India, China or Vietnam, Thailand’s percentage of students studying abroad has remained at around 1.3% or lower over the past 20 years. The UNESCO Institute of Statistics also found that Thailand’s outbound degree students has failed to grow by any significant number. Between 2002 and 2016, the number of such students grew by only 10%, while China and Vietnam saw massive growths of 256% and 422% respectively. Although there doesn’t seem to be a formal study on the motivations of Thai students to study abroad, international educators indicate that an increasingly affluent middle class is helping to drive the demand for high-quality education, foreign language training, and enrollment in prestigious international schools. Although Thailand ranks quite poorly on English proficiency levels, it now has the 2nd highest number of English-medium, private international schools in ASEAN. Indonesia ranks first according to the International School Consultancy Group’s findings back in 2017. If the Thai economy continues to stabilize, the amount of self-funded Thai students who wish to study abroad is expected to grow.

    The most popular study abroad destinations for Thai Students
    The U.S. has historically been the most popular destination for Thai students when choosing to study abroad. As of 2016, the UIS cited that 25% of Thai students who enroll abroad chose the U.S. However, the market share of the U.S. has declined over the past decade in favour of countries like the U.K., where the amount of Thai degree students has almost tripled since 2002.

    The Study abroad Destination
    Ranking 3rd in Southeast Asia for inbound study abroad students, Thailand attracts more international students than Indonesia or Vietnam. However, it trails that of Malaysia and Singapore. According to the UIS, a large majority of those international students studying in Thailand are from China. U.S. students have also chosen Thailand historically as their first destination to study abroad in Southeast Asia. But, even as Thailand proves to be quite popular for international students, the political instability has reared its ugly head. Since the 2014 military coup, the UIS showed that the number of inbound degree students dropped sharply by 39%, which is largely thought to be a consequence of the coup. Thailand, however, continues to remain a low-cost alternative for Indian and Chinese students, as well as having a large number of international study programmes. Other factors such as a free trade area that was initiated in 2015, which resulted in trade liberalisation and the uninhibited flow of educational services, may help Thailand offer further opportunities to advance its competitive position as a study abroad destination among other Asian students.
    Last edited by Macman; 11-18-2021, 04:41 PM.


    • #3
      Thailand’s Education System

      Thailand’s formal educationsystem has roots in the 13th century when King Rakhamhaeng the Great developed the Thai alphabet. As Thailand is among the few countries that was never colonized by European powers, its education system was developed mostly indigenously. Historically, commoners could receive an education at Buddhist monasteries, which is still offered today. During the 19th century, Thailand’s education system has been modernised in an effort to match that of the Western world. Many elements that exist today can be attributed to this era when the contemporary Thai higher education system modeled itself after the U.S. system of education. This included using a similar degree structure, general-education component in undergraduate curricula, and class credit system. Now more than ever, Thailand is increasing its integration into the global education community by developing partnerships with other ASEAN countries.

      The governing of Thailand’s Education System
      The national Ministry of Education oversees the education system with a majority of public and private institutions falling under its guidance. Reforms initiated in the late 1990s introduced greater decentralisation of the Thai education system which broke from the historically highly-centralised format. However, due to the junta government taking over in a 2014 coup, the reforms of 2016 sought to re-centralise the elementary and secondary education system.

      Compulsory Education
      Thai students’ compulsory education spans over the first 9 years of “basic education.” This can be broken down into 6 years of elementary school and 3 years of lower secondary school. Public school education is free to Thai students until grade 9. This includes 3 free years of pre-school and 3 free years of upper-secondary education. However, these latter options are not mandatory.

      Thai students under go 2 national examinations during their elementary school years. The first exam is to be taken at the end of Prathom 3, while the second exam is set for the end of Prathom 6. Upon passing the second exam, students will be awarded a Certificate of Primary Education.

      Lower and Secondary Education
      At 12 years of age, students will start secondary education. Lasting for 3 school years, these grade levels are called Mattayom 1 to Mattayom 3. Upon completing Mattayom 3, students can elect to continue their studies in upper secondary school, which begins at Mattayom 4 through 6. Both the elementary and secondary school curriculum is set nationwide, according to the 2008 Basic Education Core Curriculum. In order to be promoted to the next grade level, students must sit and pass examinations in each subject, with the standards to be met by each student being set by local school authorities. This has caused issues, historically, as many students are passed when they technically did not actually pass the exams.

      Exit Exams
      At the end of Mattayom 4 and 6, pupils sit the National Institute of Educational Testing Service’s Ordinary National Education Test (O-NET.) Currently, these exam results account for 30% of the final Mattayom 6 grades, which is a criterion for university admission. But, in 2016, the 378,000 students that sat the O-NET exam, only passed an average of 1 out of 5 test subjects.

      University aAdmissions
      The university admissions process is generally based on both the upper-secondary school GPA and the results from standardised entrance exams. Since 2018, there is now a Thai Central Admission System, which is utilised by 54 public universities. Direct university admissions has been limited as well as the importance of entrance exams as critics claimed that they excluded students from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

      Thai University Global Rankings
      Thai universities still have not ranked well globally. None are considered world-class universities and did not rank in the top 500 of the 2018 Times Higher Education World University Ranking. According to US News, Mahidol University is the highest ranking university in Thailand, while Chulalongkorn comes in second, and Chiang Mai University coming in third. The report describes the top global universities with Mahidol ranking 51.4 on the global report and coming in at 520 internationally. The US News ranking is comprised of a school’s performance across a set of widely accepted indicators of excellence.

      Issues in Thailand’s Education System
      Many issues have arose surrounding the passing of students in Thailand’s government-funded schools. From unqualified teachers having a clear impact on the quality of education, to the mandatory passing of students on to the next grade level. In the Western world, we view cheating as unacceptable, while many Thai students consider it as helping. It is important to note that Thailand and many other Asian countries feature a collective society, while Western countries are individualistic societies. These differences can and will appear in many different settings, including that of education. When cheating occurs in classrooms in Thailand, it is not as heavily criticised as many students see learning as a group effort. However, when it comes to individual performances on exams, the results are evident. Regardless, Thailand is addressing some of the education gaps that set it at a lower ranking than its neighbours. From political instability to a rapidly aging population, the future of Thailand’s education system depends upon actions taken to mitigate these effects over the long run.


      • #4
        Thailand’s English proficiency level drops again, as the pandemic widens gap in education disparity

        Thailand is continuing its downward descent for the 5th straight year in regards to its English proficiency levels. According to the Swedish company, Education First, Thailand is now ranked 100 out of 112 participating countries for its English proficiency levels. Its EF EPI score of 419 and its ranking of 22 out of 24 overall in Asian countries, has deemed Thailand to be that of a “very low” English proficiency level. This level, according to the organisation, explains that the average adult in Thailand is able to:
        • Introduce oneself simply (name, age, country of origin)
        • Understand simple signs
        • Give basic directions to a foreign visitor
        The news of Thailand’s poor English language skills is not new, and for years, people have blamed the government for its lack of modernising teaching methods and curriculum. Many critics also say that Thailand’s education system is long-outdated as it focuses on rote learning methods, which essentially mean memorising facts and figures, rather than applying them. Focusing on language accuracy over the sheer act of trying to converse in English, has been cited as another hurdle in the country’s population advancing its English skills. Critics of the education system say these 2 factors are the most important in preventing the average adult from being able to converse effectively in English.

        A widening education disparity gap

        But, English proficiency levels are not the only thing that is lacking in the country, as education overall features a widening disparity gap between the rich and poor. Now, as the Covid-19 pandemic has thrust the country’s education disparities into the limelight, critics say the government, civil society, and the private sector will need to act fast and boldly to minimise the damage to students who have largely been studying online since schools were shuttered during the pandemic. Clearly, the pandemic’s health implications should come first, as the government should listen to doctors and public health experts. But, the fallout from the pandemic sees the education as coming in at a close 2nd place to the effects of the pandemic.

        The pandemic has seen thousands more students that have sought financial help this year, with the education gap growing between the rich and poor. With some families not being able to afford to send their children to school due to financial stress brought on by the pandemic, it has left many students behind. Around 1.8 million students have applied for financial aid this year, a number that is up from 1.56 million last year, totalling a 17.5% increase. And, 20% of those families that applied are considered extremely impoverished. Chaiyuth Punyasavatsut, the fund’s chief, says the number of extremely impoverished applicants has risen from 300,000 to 600,000 this year. He says some families have been tasked with coming up with tuition fees that are 3 to 4 times higher than their income, just to send their children to higher classes.

        “It can be confirmed that Covid-19 has worsened the economic situation and educational gap. More children are slipping through the system due to high tuition fees.”
        According to the World Bank, povery rates in Thailand from 2015 to 2018, grew 2.6%. So, the number of people living in poverty increased from 4.85 million to more than 6.7 million people. The organisation also pointed towards the education disparity as having a large impact on Thailand’s youth.

        “A Thai child born today can expect to obtain 12.4 years of schooling before the age of 18. However, once adjusted for quality of learning, that only amounts to 8.6 years of schooling, indicating a gap of 3.8 years.”
        Thailand isn’t the only country dealing with a disruption to its education systems, as it is evident in every country worldwide. TheKenan Foundation Asiahas identified 3 potential consequences in Thai education that need to be addressed, that have stemmed from the pandemic.

        Widening educational inequality

        As students at wealthy, international schools and prestigious public schools in Bangkok, will likely have the e-learning tools necessary to take the Covid disruption into nothing more than minor speed bump, their peers in rural areas may not be so lucky. As many Thai students do not own laptops, the online learning has proven difficult. Additionally, parents of underprivileged students work disproportionately in “essential” jobs, or low-wage jobs that are likely be among the first eliminated as businesses move to cut costs. Given the precarious situation, these parents don’t have the time to fill in as their child’s temporary teacher nor the financial resources to afford outside support.

        Reinforcing ineffective teaching practices

        All nations need to accept that things may not return to normal as quickly as they hope and plan accordingly. In education, policymakers need to consider remote learning options when in-person instruction may not be possible. Unfortunately, Thailand is not prepared to deliver e-learning effectively. Few Thai teachers have received training on using technology for remote learning, and many students, especially in rural areas, lack the technology necessary to enable equitable e-learning. Although the Ministry of Education is considering the distribution of tablets to educators and students in need, this solution is only 1 step towards providing quality education to all students. The issue with distributing tablets in isolation is that it may serve to reinforce bad teaching practices like rote learning. If teachers lack training and experience in leading online classrooms, then they tend to fall back on outdated, one-way teaching practices. For example, a lesson may consist of a lecture that offers students little to no opportunity to engage actively with the materials. This type of learning is not only dull, it’s also ineffective.

        Poor teacher support

        We all know teachers are underpaid yet contribute immensely to our overall wellbeing. The pandemic could magnify the insufficient support that society provides to teachers if we are not vigilant. For example, a sudden shift to online learning without direction from school leaders is likely to lead to teachers feeling alienated, confused, and out of control. You cannot simply hand a teacher a laptop and say, ‘teach chemistry.’ We have to understand that the pandemic changes the way teachers give lessons, assess student learning, help struggling students, etc.

        An opportunity for change

        With disruption comes opportunity. An outdated, memorisation-based education model has constrained the development of Thai students for decades. Yet the pandemic has positioned Thailand’s education to be at a fork in the road. We can choose to either stay the traditional course of rote learning, or embrace 21st-century learning. If we want the latter, the first leap into the future will be empowering each teacher to become an oasis of high-impact learning. To take that step, Thailand must support teachers by providing them with the training, learning materials, and the technology necessary to effectively deliver 21st-century education. Teachers themselves will need to become students to adapt to the new paradigm of blended learning (the combination of online and classroom instruction), and, most importantly, master high-impact teaching practices, such as inquiry and project-based learning, that enable students to engage actively with materials, ask questions, and find their own solutions to problems. This hands-on approach is the key to developing students with the 21st-century skills that Thailand urgently needs to drive the country forward. Yet, Thai culture deems that no questions be asked to those in a higher class, such as teachers. The classroom environment is set up to enable rote learning, with students feeling threatened to question their teacher.

        Thailand is one of the most unequal societies in the world

        And, it’s not just education that is unequal in Thailand. As a Credit Suisse report named Thailand the most unequal country in the world in recent years, it noted that just 1 percent of the population owned 66.9% of the nation’s wealth. Decharut Sukkumnoed, an economics professor at Kasetsart University, said at the root of social disparity in Thailand was insufficient and poor-quality welfare as well as unequal access to state welfare among citizens.

        “Many poor people are unable to pursue their goals and improve their livelihoods because they do not get enough assistance from authorities to get good education, which is an important foundation in life.”
        “Meanwhile, many middle-class people are also facing financial problems as they have to rely on expensive education and healthcare services from the private sector, because the quality of state welfare is poor.”
        Increased educational funding has made little difference

        This was reiterated by United States-based non-profit organisation, the Borgen Projecton its official website where it noted that while the government had spent 19.4% of its yearly budget on education in 2015 – the largest allocation for any one particular sector – Thailand was yet to see cumulative improvements in its schools.

        “The lack of success might be the result of poorly-divided funds. Instead of distributing it equally, the government funnels a large proportion of money toward schools where students already have a high likelihood to succeed and gives less to smaller and more rural schools.”
        As a result, schools in poor areas end up stretching their resources too thin, resulting in individual teachers often teaching multiple grades and subjects. Due to these inequalities, students in city schools historically demonstrate higher rates of improvement compared to those in rural schools. The Borgen Project also noted that while funding inequality puts small, rural schools at a particular disadvantage, the outdated curriculum, indeed, does a disservice to all Thai schools. But the ones suffering the most from receiving a poor-quality education – and lower English proficiency levels – are those unable to afford good quality education in Thailand where education inequality is still rampant.

        The circle of Thailand’s elite

        Stephen Holroyd, the principal of Shrewsbury International School in Bangkok, found that elite schools continue to send their most affluent students to expensive Oxbridge and Ivy League universities in the United Kingdom and the US. He says these internationally-educated students, in turn, are better positioned to get top jobs in Thailand, not only because of the quality education that they accessed, but also by networking with other elite foreign university students in Thailand. As the pandemic continues to see many of Thailand’s government-funded schools staying shuttered, the effects of its youth’s education can only be hypothesized, based upon the existing factors that have affected the country for years.