Most Thai schools, private or public, are similar in the daily routines and approach to teaching.
However, the Thai school system is much more disciplined and structured than in most Western countries. The one difference that instantly stands out to the typical westerner is how all students from kindergarten to university are required to wear uniforms. Thais love uniforms and the unity they represent and the school system is no exception. Grade school boys wear shorts and shirts and girls wear skirts and shirts, both with black shoes. It’s also common for school children to have uniform hair cuts – very short, above the collar for boys and a short bob for girls. Indeed, most Thai teenagers grow their hair long once they leave high school.
Classes begin at 8 in the morning, but many children arrive much earlier than this. Parents who go to work early in the morning may drop their children off around 6 am, but most arrive around 7.15 and wait until the bell rings. Most schools make the children remove their shoes inside so the children will carry both books and shoes around. Teachers are highly respected in Thailand and children are always expected to greet their teacher with a ‘Wai’.
The bell rings at 7.45 at which point everyone lines up according to class and grade in the school yard for morning assembly. The morning assembly lasts for about 15-20 minutes and includes raising the Thai flag to the tune of the national anthem after which Buddhist chanting is done. Christians, Muslims or other non Buddhists do not need to participate in the chanting.
Classes begin with a brief formal greeting by the ‘class president’ to the teacher. Attendance is not taken as this has been done in the morning assembly.
Morning classes last until around 11 when there is a lunch break. Most schools have canteens where freshly cooked Thai food is available. Lunch break lasts until around 12.15. The lower grades have a ‘siesta’ style nap time with meditation, while the older pupils continue with more classes until around 3.15.
Internation schools generally differ from Thai schools. There is generally less dicipline and rote learning and more freedom and focus on the individual child. International schools are quite expensive, but in turn offer a lot more in terms of facilities, services and academic standard than a public Thai school.
The schools usually have very impressive facilities with state of the art IT labs (even laptops in class), sport facilities, swimming pool, arts and crafts facilities and much more. Class sizes are smaller and there is more time and attention for each student.
Many expat parents choose to look for the school of their choice before choosing a place to live. Some parents choose to drop their children off themselves in the morning, particularly if it is not a long commute. Almost all international schools also offer bus services (often with Montri Bus) that bring and collect students to and from school. Some schools have shuttle services from MRT/BTS for older students.
Different schools have different rules obviously, but all schools require their students to wear uniform, from grade school through high school. School uniforms can be bought on campus.
Respect for teachers and co-students is a priority, but less formalized than in a Thai school. A foreign teacher, for example, will not expect to be Wai’ed by his students. Since international schools are multi-cultural, students are taught to value and respect differences.
International schools function as gated communities with security guards and service staff all over. Each child will usually have a locker to store books and learning material. It’s often required for children to take after school activities in sport, arts, music or drama.
Safety and health of the students is a big priority and schools have staff for that purpose. There is usually at least a school nurse, student supervisor, school therapist/confidante and security staff.