Struggles of the Thai educational system

Image by Robert Harding; Primary School Bangkok

Image by Robert Harding; Primary school, Bangkok, Thailand, Southeast Asia, Asia

Education is one of the most important factors in the development of a country. Education is the basis of everything, it teaches people skills and knowledge needed to participate in society. It has a huge impact on the economy of a country and societal standards. Education in Thailand is provided by the government and is the responsibility of the ministry of education. Children start with their education with two to three years in kindergarten. After kindergarten, children need to do 6 years of primary education and then three years of middle school. Children in Thailand need to do 9 years of education, 6 years of primary school and 3 years of middle school1. The education of children in Thailand is free until grade 9. Three years of kindergarten and three years of secondary school are also free of charge, but these years are not mandatory education. After middle school, children can choose to go the secondary school and after secondary school go to university. However, as these years are not mandatory, the rate of children actually doing these years of education is a lot lower than for the primary and middle years of education2.

Struggles in Thai education
Thailand does not have the best educational system. Unfortunately, students in Thailand do not rank high with their grades compared to other Asian countries. Students mostly rank low in English language skills, mathematics and science and innovation. This is caused by the poor quality of education in Thailand and education inequality. In one report, Thailand is ranked in 35th place out of 40 for their educational system3.

Most students in Thailand go to small rural schools. These schools do not get a lot of funding from the government because of the low student body. This makes it difficult for the schools to hire and retain teachers who are well-qualified and leads to a teacher shortage. This means that the teachers’ workload in rural schools increases. So, the teachers are less qualified, do not have a lot of funding and have a big workload. It is easy to see why this would lead to a lower quality of education. Another struggle in the quality of education is the political situation in Thailand. In Thailand, multiple military coups have been successfully executed. This has led to a lot of political tension in Thailand. Because of these military coups, the education reforms in Thailand have been interrupted and the new government was more focused on political stability in education2.

Image by World Economic Forum and Borgen Project

Image by World Economic Forum and Borgen Project

A lot of schools for higher education are closing in Thailand. This is because of the rapid speed at which Thai society is ageing. The population of students is shrinking, so there is less demand for higher education2. This leads to the closure of more than half of higher education schools in Thailand. The closure of so many schools makes access to the school more difficult because of the travel time and travel costs.

Inequality of education in Thailand is also a big issue. As said before, education in Thailand is free for 9 years when going to a government-funded school. However, these schools are mainly small rural schools with low-quality education. That is why a lot of parents send their children to private schools, where the quality of education is better. But not every parent can afford that, even with free education, not all families can afford the travel costs and other costs of attending school. This is why a connection can be seen between income and education inequality. So, the inequalities in Thai education are linked to social factors and economic factors. The students that marked the lowest on their education are mainly students from linguistic and ethnic minorities, migrant students and students living in small rural villages. Also, the government is more focused on high achieving students. So state policies focus on the top universities to be more competitive but leave out other universities3.


The corruption problem in the Thai educational system
Corruption is one of the norms in Thai society. It is in the Thai culture to use bribery as a means to achieve your goal. This is also true in the educational system. Many forms of corruption can be seen in Thai education and many people participate in corruption. People in the high society like politicians to staff members and teachers of a school participate in this activities4. Corruption is described as illegal activity or dishonest behaviour by a person in an official capacity5. This is almost always for the persons own gain.

Image by Kohn Kaen University

Image by Kohn Kaen University

In the educational system, you can see corruption in many different forms. Bribery is one of the main types of corruption in education. Parents and students bribe the teachers to get higher grades. They will give teachers money to either tutor the children privately and help them with giving the answers on the test or they will give money in order to increase their grades. This also means that students from a poorer background do not get equal treatment than students who have more money. Favouritism is also apparent in education. Students from which parents are well known or have a higher status in society will get a spot in a prestigious school more easily. They do not look at the kills of the students but at their social status. Embezzlement and fraud are also very common. Examples of this are funds for educational purposes that are being siphoned off, entrance payments and project funds that are going to ministry officials instead of the schools6. This all leads to unequal treatment of students and a bigger gap of inequality of education. So the question is: to what extent does corruption result in the quality of education in Thailand? Of course, it does have an impact because the talents of many students are not seen because they are not able to compete with the corruption. But there are other reasons why education in Thailand is not of good quality.

The impact of globalisation
Globalisation has a big impact on education. Thailand is a very popular tourist country. People from a lot of different parts of the world visit the country. This brings Thai society more in contact with many different cultures and this is also why Thailand’s globalization is happening really fast7. This is also true for education in Thailand. Globalisation is the integration of economic, cultural, religious, political and social systems8. Because of globalisation, the Thai educational system has changed. Home, temple and place were the core of traditional education systems in Thailand. The family played a big part in the education of their children by teaching social values and traditions. It was natural for children to follow take over their parents’ jobs. However, there has been a big change in Thai education because of globalization. Thailand has taken over more international, mostly western, ideas of education. These ideas focus more on competition in education and the internationalisation of education. This also has a big influence on Thai society as a whole9.

Image by Global Crossroad

Image by Global Crossroad

Globalization has a lot of benefits, but it has a lot of downsides as well. Because of the globalization of Thai education, a lot of marginalized indigenous knowledge and know-how is lost. This knowledge is important for not only the Thai culture but also its economic development. The indigenous knowledge teaches children and students self-sufficiency and ethical and moral values. This contributes to lifelong learning. This knowledge also teaches the younger generation the historical and cultural value of Thailand. It will help them understand the role of Thailand in the world. This knowledge is lost because the educational systems in Thailand today do not focus on teaching these skills and knowledge 9.

There are also a lot of positive effects of globalization on Thai education. Education in Thailand is now more focused on international cooperation. This has a lot of benefits as students can now study abroad more easily. They can study at international high ranking universities and they bring this knowledge back home. As a result, they will be able to do more high ranking and high paying jobs. This also has a positive influence on the economy of Thailand10. However, this economic growth is not distributed equally, so there are still poor areas in the country that do not benefit from this economic growth. For that reason, many young people choose to leave their small town to go live and study in the big cities. This contributes to education inequality and to the inequality in the distribution of the positive economic development9. So, globalization also has a negative influence on inequality in Thailand. Rich people get richer while poor people get poorer, well-educated people get better educational opportunities while less-educated people get less access to education.



[1] Scholarlo, Inc. (2021). Education System in Thailand. Scholaro Pro. Retrieved on October 18, 2021, from

[2] Trines, S. (2018, February 6). Education in Thailand. World Education News + Reviews. Retrieved on October 16, 2021, from

[3] Wittayasin, S. (2017). Education Challenges to Thailand 4.0. International Journal of Integrated Education and Development, 2(2), 29-35.

[4] Khidhir, S. (2019, July 12). Thai education system: Completely corrupt. The ASEAN Post. Retrieved on October 20, 2021, from

[5] Oxford Learner’s Dictionary. (2021). Corruption. Retrieved on October 22, 2021, from

[6] Ludpa, Y. (2016). Corrupt problems in the Thai education system. Apheit Journal, 5(1), 66-76.

[7] Bi, C., Sanomuang, N., Fairclough, P., Mothuratana, T., & Klimenko, R. (2017). The Impact of Globalization with Thai University Students enrolled with International Program. 8th International Conference on Socio-economic and Environmental Issues in Development (pp. 1-11). National Economics University.

[8] Oxford Learner’s Dictionary. (2021). Globalisation. Retrieved on October 22, 2021 from

[9] Rojanapanich, P. (2010). The Social Imaginary in Thai Society: Globalization, Cultural Dimensions and Education. [Thesis, RMIT University]. Retrieved on October 20, 2021, from

[10] Jermsittiparsert, K., & Sriyakul, T. (2020). Determinants of quality education in Asian countries: impact of social globalization, happiness and research and development. Journal of security and sustainability issues, 9, 202-214. Retrieved on October 19, 2022, from

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