Overview of Education System
The national government of Thailand includes 19 ministries, with the Ministry of Education being responsible for the oversight of education. The provision of education in Thailand can be categorized into three types: formal education, nonformal education, and informal education.
Formal education comprises two levels: basic education and higher education (see Exhibit 1). The National Education Act B.E.2542 (1999), revised B.E.2545, and B.E.2553, mandates nine years of compulsory education consisting of six years of primary schooling and three years of lower secondary schooling.1 Students typically are enrolled in primary school at age 6. Basic education comprises 12 years, and is free for every Thai citizen.
Exhibit 1: The Structure of Formal Education in Thailand
|Preprimary Education||3–6||Kindergarten 1–3|
|Primary Education||7–12||Grades 1–6|
|Lower Secondary Education||13–16||Grades 7–9|
|Upper Secondary Education||16–18||Grades 10–12|
|Diploma Level and Degree Level||18 and older|
The National Education Act (1999) provided for the implementation of new organizational structures, the decentralization of educational provision policy, and the stimulation of new learner-centered approaches to teaching. In accordance with the act, the Ministry of Education restructured the administration of educational services on three levels: the national level, the level of educational service areas, and the level of educational institutions. At the national level, the Ministry of Education is responsible for curriculum development and implementation. The Ministry of the Interior also plays a role in providing education through two educational bodies: the Department of Education, Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, and the Bureau of Local Educational Development and Coordination, within the Department of Local Administration.
Thailand’s educational service areas include two levels: primary educational service areas, of which there are 183, and secondary educational service areas, of which there are 42. Each educational service area has an Area Committee for Education, which oversees approximately 200 educational institutions with student populations of 300,000 to 500,000.
At the level of educational institutions, each school is responsible for its own administration and management of budget, personnel, and general academic affairs. A 7 to 15 member board of parents, teachers, community groups, local administration organizations, alumni, and academics oversees the schools. Local administration organizations provide educational budgeting and allocation services.
The Office of Nonformal and Informal Education within the Ministry of Education administers nonformal education in Thailand. The office is responsible for providing education for the out-of-school population through nonformal education centers nationwide, and promoting life skills and lifelong education in line with Thailand’s formal education standards.2 According to the National Education Act, learners should be allowed to learn independently according to their own interests, potentialities, readiness, and opportunities through various kinds of knowledge resources.
Languages of Instruction
Located in Southeast Asia, Thailand has a population of 65.1 million, comprising 32 million men and 33.1 million women.3 Thai is the official language of Thailand, and it is the language of instruction in regular classes and schools throughout the country. English is taught as a foreign language, along with other languages including French, Chinese, and German. In some schools, English is the language of instruction.4 In international schools, the languages of instruction vary. These schools primarily provide instruction for children of foreign workers in Thailand, although other children also may attend.
The Mathematics and Science Curriculum
In 2008, the Basic Education Core Curriculum B.E. 2551 (A.D. 2008),5 developed by the Office of the Basic Education Commission (OBEC), was adopted as a framework to provide direction for curriculum development and teaching in educational institutions. The curriculum identifies eight learning areas: Thai Language, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies, Religion and Culture, Health and Physical Education, Art, Occupations and Technology, and Foreign Languages. It aims to help learners develop five key competencies, as follows:
- Communication—The ability to receive and transmit information and the ability to express opinions, knowledge, and understanding
- Thinking—The ability to analyze, synthesize, construct, critique, and think systematically
- Problem solving—The ability to acquire and apply knowledge to prevent and solve problems based on reasoning, moral principles, and information
- Applying life skills—The ability to apply various processes in life
- Applying technologies—The ability to choose and apply various technologies for the development of oneself and society
The Institute for the Promotion of Teaching Science and Technology (IPST) has been commissioned by the Ministry of Education to develop mathematics and science curricula at the basic educational level and to support teaching and learning in these two subject areas. In each subject area, the IPST has prescribed learning standards and corresponding student objectives. These standards establish what students should know and should be able to perform upon completing education at the basic level. In addition, these learning standards serve as an essential mechanism in the education system, as they offer content and teaching methods as well as evaluation tools. The curriculum also prescribes the allocation of learning time for mathematics and science instruction, as shown in Exhibit 2.
Exhibit 2: Minimal Learning Time Allocated for Mathematics and Science Instruction
|Primary Education||Number of Hours|
|Grade 1||200||80||No more than 1,000 hours per year|
|Lower Secondary Education|
|Grade 7||120||120||No more than 1,200 hours per year|