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Education is a high priority for expats moving to Thailand with children. While there are some excellent public schools in Bangkok, due to varying quality, others are overcrowded and internationally uncompetitive. There is also a host of good private schools in Bangkok for expat parents to consider enrolling their children in.
International schools in the city offer expat parents all that they would expect of a good school, including high-quality amenities, a wide selection of extramural activities and highly qualified teachers.
Public schools in Bangkok
Some public schools in Thailand are first rate, while the standards of teaching in others may fall well short of what expats would expect from schools in their home country. Bangkok in particular is home to most of the country's best public schools, many of which are associated with top universities that use the school to train student teachers. Admission to these schools can be competitive so it's best to apply well ahead of time.
Public education in Bangkok is free for Thai nationals up to the age of 15, whereafter most schools will charge fees. Foreign nationals can attend public schools, but they don't qualify for free schooling at any point unfortunately. Teaching is entirely in Thai, which can be a dealbreaker for some parents.
English Programme schools in Thailand
The English Programme (EP) is a government initiative offered by a number of public and private schools. In an EP class, almost all subjects are taught in English by a teacher hired from abroad. Some schools have more comprehensive EPs than others – classes may be held in a small section of a Thai-speaking school or larger programmes may be set in entirely separate buildings.
Both public and private schools with EPs charge Thai nationals and expats for these classes. Though private schools are more expensive than public schools, fees are still well below those of international schools.
For families who plan to live in Thailand long-term, English Programme schools may be the best option. They offer an opportunity for children to develop closer links to Thai culture and society while still giving them access to a bilingual education.
International schools in Bangkok
Bangkok’s international schools usually follow the curriculum of other countries, the most popular being the British and American systems.
The vast majority of international schools in Bangkok will require prospective students to write entrance tests and undergo a rigorous application process due to the limited number of places they offer. Some international schools will only accept students of a particular nationality.
The International Schools Association of Thailand (ISAT) lists all the member schools and, although there are other schools that offer a good standard of education, all ISAT members meet international standards. The best international schools in Bangkok can be extremely costly, depending on the age of the child, and will usually have a fairly long waiting list.
Special-needs education in Thailand
By law, learning difficulties qualify for state assistance, but this is rarely enforced in practice. In the public system, special education teachers are scarce despite there being a demand for them, and resources are limited if available at all.
Many international schools offer support for special needs, but this is often at an additional price on top of standard fees. The level of support varies from school to school, so it's worthwhile to investigate different options.
Tutors in Thailand
The private tuition industry in Thailand is staggering. The country's massive multi-billion-baht tutoring industry emerged from the necessity to prepare students for the extremely competitive university admissions exams. The industry has seen considerable growth in response to the high demand for private tuition.
Local tutors can be a useful resource for local and expat families. They can assist with problem subjects and can support students in developing sound study strategies and essay-writing skills. For expats, tutors are especially useful in smoothing the transition of an expat child into a new environment, and they can help them with learning to speak Thai.