Education and Schools in Thailand
In the past, schools in Thailand only appealed to expats looking to pursue careers as English teachers. However, as more foreigners with families have relocated to the country, the system of education in Thailand has piqued the interest of a population more concerned with the students' side of things.
Expats moving to Thailand with children won't be overwhelmed by choice; local public schools in Thailand have restrictions with regards to children's nationality and so most parents will only be able to choose a private or international school.
Public schools in Thailand
Education in Thailand is free for Thai nationals up to the age of 13, at which point they need to satisfy academic entrance requirements and begin to prepare for university, which starts for students as young as 16 years old.
To be considered a Thai national, the child must have at least one Thai parent and the birth must have been registered in Thailand. Schools will ask for proof of this in the form of a birth certificate. Children who don't meet these requirements are not eligible for free public education in Thailand.
Private bilingual schools in Thailand
Private bilingual schools are a good option for expat parents who can't afford the high prices of international schools. The standard of some of these institutions has greatly improved over the course of the past decade, and Western-style teaching philosophies that focus on student-centred learning have had more influence in recent years.
The comprehensive nature of the English programme offered does vary between schools, so expat parents should do their research before making a selection. It should also be kept in mind that many of these schools are religious, and the curriculum will likely include a value-based learning system that aligns with the school's designated faith.
For families who plan to live in Thailand long-term, these private bilingual schools may be the best option. They offer an opportunity for children to develop closer links to Thai culture and society while still allowing access to a higher level of education, a wider assortment of extra-curricular activities, and the kinds of facilities that are usually associated with private schools.
International schools in Thailand
Many expats choose to send their children to international schools in Thailand. These bodies teach in a language and style familiar to children, and allow for continuity in education by providing Western curricula.
All of these institutions are accredited by external bodies, and it follows that both learning standards and the criteria for hiring teachers is high. Many Thais prefer to send their children to these schools, and as a result, it's normal for their student bodies to consist primarily of locals.
These schools are also almost always well-financed, boast modern (even lavish) facilities, small class sizes and an impressive range of extra-curricular activities.
Thailand's international schools offer a healthy assortment of curricula to cater to many home-country demands. Certain schools prepare students for SAT, A-Level, IGCSE and IB exams.
Although a large variety of international schools exist in commercial centres such as Bangkok and Pattaya, options are limited in rural areas and parents may need to consider boarding options or homeschooling.
Expat parents should note that popular schools have long waiting lists and admission may be based on language proficiency and academic achievement. Requirements vary from school to school, but it's always best to start the admissions and enrolment process as early as possible.
Fees for international schools in Thailand tend to be very high, depending on a student's age and the school. Expats would do well to try and negotiate an education allowance into their contract, otherwise even the most lucrative payout can end up being spent on tuition costs.