information for global expats

State School Systems for Expats in Thailand

Submitted: August 2014

State schools in Thailand are funded by the state. For expats, the main problem with these schools is that all of the teaching is done in Thai. As such, unless your child is very young or fluent in Thai, placing them in state education may cause serious difficulties. Beyond this, a child must also have at least one Thai parent and be considered a Thai national in order to qualify for free state education.

From the age of three, children may attend pre-school at kindergartens provided by the state, which are free. There are also more prestigious private kindergartens, which charge fees. State education in Thailand lasts from the ages of six to eighteen, and is compulsory for the first nine years. This is divided into two stages:

  • Primary education (Pratom Suksa): Years P1 to P6. Subjects taught include English, Thai, maths, life experience (elementary science and social studies), work education, art, music and PE. Classes are limited to five hours per day. The more exclusive private primary schools may require your child to sit an exam before admission is granted.
  • Lower secondary school (Matayom): Years M1 to M3. Subjects taught include English, Thai, maths, natural sciences, history, geography, art & craft, R.E and P.E. Year M3 is the last year of compulsory education, and examinations are taken at the end of the year, providing students with a Certificate of Lower Secondary Education. These results then decide which students can progress to the Upper level.

Upper secondary school or years M4 to M6 is divided into two streams: General Upper (academic) and Vocational Upper.

Subjects taught in General Upper include maths, biology, physics, chemistry, social studies, Thai, English, a second language, art & craft, and P.E.

Subjects taught in Vocational Upper include maths, biology, physics, chemistry, social studies, Thai and PE. In addition to this, students choose one subject from the following: business studies, engineering, agriculture, home economics and art & craft.

Examinations are taken at the end of the final year, requiring a grade point average of 2.0 or more to gain a Certificate. Students on the General course gain a general Certificate of Secondary Education, whereas there are four different certificates for the Vocational course. The results from these exams also help decide which students can take university entrance examinations. 

In order to gain a place at a university, students must generally sit three admission exams:

  • The Ordinary National Education Test (O-NET), which tests the students in all of the compulsory subjects studied at Upper level.
  • The General Aptitude Test (GAT), which tests the students’ English and reasoning abilities.
  • The Professional Aptitude Test (PAT), which tests the students in mathematics, science, engineering, teaching, architecture, fine and applied arts and a second foreign language other than English.

Admission to university depends on the results of these exams, which are weighted as follows: GPA (20%), GAT and PAT (25% each) and the O-NET (30%). Students are allowed to choose five different universities via the Central University Admission System, similar to UCAS in the UK.

Generally, children attend a school near to their home, but it is possible to arrange for enrolment at a school near your work if this is more convenient. In order to register a child for school, you must generally go to the school and speak with the administration directly. The following minimum information is required for registration :

  • The child’s birth certificate
  • Your Tabien Baan (House Registration Document)

The first term  of the school year generally begins in June (from 2014), and the school year ends in April in time for the traditional New Year (Songkran). There is also usually another month of holiday in November .



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