School education in Thailand lasts for a duration of 12 years. It is free for all students in the public institutions. First 9 years of school are mandatory for students. Education system in Thailand has comprises 6 years of primary and secondary schooling each. Secondary education is divided into lower and upper. Grades 1 to 6 are known as Pratom while Grades 7 to 12 are called Mattayom. Before this, the school education structure comprised 4 years of primary schooling, and 6 years of secondary and 2 years of higher secondary education.
In the current school education system, students must take part in national exams at the end of three, six and nine years. Following three years of education, students are tested in Maths and Thai. At the close of primary education, they are tested in mathematics, science, Thai and English. Secondary students at grade three are tested in maths, Thai, social sciences, science and English. While public schools are open for all, private schools and schools linked with universities have competitive exams for entrance.
Primary Education System in Thailand
Pratom Suksa: Primary education in Thailand commences at the age of 6. This generally follows three years of pre-school. Pre-school education is not mandatory in Thailand. Primary education or Pratom Suksa encompasses the first 6 years of basic education. Learning at primary levels cannot go beyond 5 hours in a day. Primary education focuses on 8 key areas of learning:
- Basic Skills: Thai and Maths
- Life Experience: Science and Social Science
- Character Development: Physical Education, Ethics, Art and Music
- Work Education: Technology and Basic Vocation Skills
- Special Education: English/other subjects meeting local requirements.
- English is taught at the onset of primary education itself throughout Thailand. At the close of primary education during Pratom 6, a Certificate for Primary Education is provided following successful completion of exams.
Secondary Education System in Thailand
Matayom Suksa: Secondary education or Matayom Suksa is divided into lower (grades 1 to 3) and higher(grades 4 to 6). Those who wish to complete upper secondary grades must first pass an entrance examination.
Instruction: For lower secondary education, instruction/learning time must not exceed 6 hours in a day while it should not be lower than this for upper secondary grades. General educational programme is offered at lower secondary levels resulting in Certificate for Lower Secondary Education called Matayom three.
Exams: Students must complete primary education or equivalent to be admitted to secondary school. Top schools have competitive entrance exams. Attending these schools increases possibility of accessing the best Thai universities. General curriculum followed by private schools covers the following subject areas: Foreign and Thai language, science and maths, arts, social sciences, vocational education. Students must finish a minimum of 90 study units and passing grades of at least 80 units. This includes Thai language.
Academic or Vocational Path: Students completing the lower secondary level should pass the exams to enter the upper secondary level. At this stage, students can either opt for general/academic upper secondary or vocational upper secondary education. Public upper secondary schools are general, vocational or comprehensive. Academic or general education is ideal for those who want to pursue higher studies. Vocational courses are more suited to those with practical and professional needs. Comprehensive schools provide general academic as well as vocational programs. Students with high grades follow the general stream.
General/Academic Education: This comprises 5 subject areas namely science, social science, foreign languages and Thai, character development as well as work and occupational education. Students can choose mandatory as well as elective subjects. They can specialise in any of the following combinations:
- Arts plus languages
- Maths plus languages
- Desired course of higher education is the determining factor for specialisation.
Credit System: For every subject that is completed successfully, students get credit. They should get a minimum of 75 credits to graduate. 15 credits must be obtained in mandatory subjects. 15 credits must be gained in subjects which are mandatory and 15 from elective subjects with 45 from optional subjects.
Students are required to sit for final exams once upper secondary education is completed. Certificate of Education (Secondary) called Matayom 6 is awarded following successful performance at the final exams. University admission exams can be taken following university admissions.
Vocational Upper Secondary Education in Thailand
Following completion of lower secondary schooling, students can opt for higher secondary specialisation. Students can follow compulsory subjects such as those in the academic stream with specialisations in any one of the following: business studies, home economics, agriculture, engineering and arts and crafts. The following certificates may be awarded:
- Bor Wor Saw/Certificate in Vocational Education
- Certificate in Vocational Education(Dual)
- Certificate in Vocational Education(Credit Accumulation System)
- Certificate in Vocational Education (Evening Class)
Higher Education Structure in Thailand
Tertiary/higher education is provided at:
- Institutes of Technology(known en masse as Rajamangala Institute)
- Technical and Vocational Colleges
- Teacher training colleges (called Rajabhat Institute)
- Nursing colleges
- Police and military academies
Institutions: Ministry of Education supervises state universities and private institutions alongside teacher colleges and vocational and technical colleges. In recent times, there has been an increase in the number of higher educational institutions especially private sector institutes. Reorganization of the public sector will also take place. Reorganisation has initiated the development of more campuses from current universities.