Most of the schools in Thailand are operated by the government, private and local administrative council, and a portion of them are operated by the private and local administrative council. The current education system of Thailand is based on the 6:3:3 model, comprising 6 years of compulsory education, 3 years of lower secondary education and 3 years of upper secondary education. Based on the 1999 Education Act, by 2004 the compulsory education will be extended to 9 years. Preprimary education, organized for children aged 35 years old, ranges from one to three years.
Currently, preprimary education is available in most villages. The 6year compulsory primary education can be provided in all primary schools. Some primary schools, however, provide up to lower secondary education. Lower secondary and upper secondary education last 3 years each. There are two main channels of education at upper secondary level: the academic stream which prepares students for universities, and the vocational stream which prepares students for the skilled labour market. According to the 1999 Education Act, the State will have to provide free education up to grade 12 for all Thai citizens.
Tertiary education at the baccalaureate level normally requires four years of study. Some programmes, however, require five years of study. A master’s programme normally requires two years of study beyond a bachelor degree, whereas a doctoral study requires approximately three to four years of study and research after the master’s degree program. Some universities, both public and private, also offer international programmes conducted in English at both undergraduate and graduate levels.
There are also two public open universities accommodating more than half a million students. Access to Education and Enrollment Because of the massive expansion of schools in 1960s and 1970s, the education system in Thailand has been able to accommodate most schoolage children. Besides the regular school system, nonformal education has also played a crucial role in providing educational opportunity for the disadvantaged. By and large, most Thais have access to either formal or nonformal education up to the secondary level.
The gross enrolment rate at all levels has increased gradually at all levels, namely 90. 78% for preprimary education, 90. 66% for primary education, 72. 54% and 46. 78% for lower and upper secondary education respectively, and 19. 34% for the tertiary level (excluding open universities). In all, there are about 13. 82 million students, or approximately 65% of the 21. 26 million schoolage population (324 years old) in the school system. The school year is divided into two semesters, each lasts about 18 weeks.
Summer session and evening classes are generally available in higher education institutes. The school examination system is relatively decentralized. Examination papers are developed and administered by each school. However, an entrance examination is required in order to get into some renowned schools at grades 7 and 10. In 1994, the school began to admit about 60% of children who live in the school area to study without an examination. Currently, all schools, except for a few famous ones, admit 100% of the new students from those who live nearby.
The university entrance examination is administered by the Ministry of University Affairs as a means to select the most qualified students to study in public universities. Similarly, some private universities also require an entrance examination. From 1999, the average GPA of students in grades 1012 account for 10% of the total scores for admission to university, together with the entrance examination. The trend for university admission in the next few years is that each university will develop is own criteria for student admission based on school performance rather than on the entrance examination.
The language of communication and instruction in all schools in Thailand is Thai, the mother tongue and national language. With an exception of some minority people, all Thais can understand the national language. English is taught as a foreign language in all primary and secondary schools, starting from grade 1 upwards. Also, English is used as a medium of instruction in international schools, and in international programmes at the tertiary level.