Education is mandatory for Thai children from the age of six to the age of fifteen. Government public schools are free for all Thai national children, a Thai national being a person that has at least one Thai parent as long as the birth has been registered in Thailand. Thai parents are required to pay fees for books and other necessities and to buy a school uniform. Foreigners must pay tuition and other fees to enroll in any public school, bilingual or not.
Public schools in Thailand are often criticized for focusing too much on rote learning and not enough on independent thought. Copying and plagiarism is also widespread in Thai schools and in the educational system in general.
Very few expats in Bangkok will probably want to send their children to a government school as the private bi-lingual schools are of better standards and much cheaper, even if international schools are too expensive.
The Thai education system is divided into three levels:
- Level 1 – KG1 to KG3 3-5 years old
- Level 2 – Primary School 6-11 years old
- Level 3 – Secondary School, 12-18 years old
All students must pass a test at the end of the year to pass on to the next year. Even if a student fails the test, they are rarely held back, but instead offered to retake the test after summer school or private tutoring.
After completing the obligatory 9 years of school at age 15, students who wish to go on to the equivalent of high school must pass another test.
The following is needed to enroll in a government school:
- Passport valid for six months after end of education period
- Non-immigrant ED visa
- Documents from previous school
- Birth Certificate
- Health Certificate
- Immunisation Records
Bi-Lingual schools or EP (English Programme) schools are an option for parents who do not want to send their children to international schools or either can’t or won’t pay the steep tuition fees. Bi-lingual schools teach some of their classes in English and some in Thai.
Admission and Enrollment
The admission process differs from school to school, so it’s necessary to contact each school individually. Most schools require the same documents as a public school and also often do interviews with parents and children before admission. The cutoff date for applying is usually in June or July with the school start in September. Your best bet is to contact the school as early as possible.
There is a very extensive and informative post on the Thai Visa forum about how to find a good bi-lingual school, written by an English teacher with many years experience in teaching at them:
It’s a very good idea to be very thorough when researching schools. The quality can vary a great deal. The best way to find a top level bi-lingual school is to contact a local University with an English programme and ask them which schools they co-operate with. All universities in Thailand have feeder schools that they recommend. Admission to bilingual schools are carried out by the school itself.
There are currently no comprehensive lists of schools with English Programmes or Bilingual schools online, but there are several forums where members can recommend schools:
Ajarn Forum: http://www.ajarnforum.net
The following bi-lingual schools have been recommended by other expats and teachers:
- Satit Bi-lingual School Rangsit
- Lad Prao Bi-lingual School – http://www.lbs.ac.th
- Daroonpat School – http://www.daroonpat.ac.th/
- Bangkok Bi-lingual School – http://www.bbs.ac.th/eindex.html
As with any recommendation, though, be sure to do your own research. Which school is right for you and your child depends on a lot of factors and it’s always best to visit as many schools as possible before deciding on one.