What is primary school in Thailand like?

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The education system in Thailand is mainly split into 3 different stages: preschool, primary, and secondary education. If you’ve just moved to Thailand, as a parent, it may seem confusing to navigate the local education system. Here’s what you need to know about primary school in Thailand.

As an expat parent, understanding a new education system can be tricky, especially if you’ve just moved to a different country. In Thailand, the school system is mainly split into 3 different stages: preschool, primary, and secondary education. But what does primary school in the country look like? Is it similar to Western countries? Here’s some basic information to help you out.

What is a primary school in Thailand?

Primary school in Thailand
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Primary school or Prathom Suksa is a school for primary or elementary education, which generally follows three years of pre-school. While pre-school is not mandatory in Thailand, primary school is. Parents have to enrol their children in primary school once they turn 6.

The primary school system is spread over six years, from Prathom 1 to Prathom 6. This means that children will stay in primary school until the age of 12 before moving on to secondary school. This six-year period can be further divided into two parts: the first is lower elementary, which includes Prathom 1-3, and the second part is upper elementary or Prathom 4-6.

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School year

The school year in Thailand is split into two terms. The first term runs from May to September. After a short break, the second term starts in October and goes on till the end of February. Then comes a long summer break in March and April. Apart from these breaks, Thai primary schools also take off on certain public and government holidays.

The school day usually starts at 8:00 and ends around 16:00. However, these hours can be different for each school.

For more detailed information, check out our guide on the Thai school calendar.

What does the primary school curriculum look like in Thailand?

What is primary school in Thailand like? | News by Thaiger
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The primary school curriculum in Thailand covers 8 key areas of learning. Not only are these areas focus on basic skills like Thai language and Mathematics, but they also give equal importance to life experience through subjects like Sciences and Social Science. The subjects include Thai language, Mathematics, Sciences, Social & Religions and Culture, Health & Physical Science, Professional Works & Technology, and Foreign Language and Arts.

Students are not required to study all eight subjects simultaneously. However, English is introduced right at the onset of primary education, from Prathom 1 onwards. Towards the end of the primary school journey, a Certificate for Primary Education is awarded to students as a recognition of their successful completion of the Prathom 6 exams. This certificate marks the conclusion of primary education and heralds their readiness to step into secondary schooling.

Naturally, International schools in Thailand may have different curriculum set-ups compared to local schools. If your plan is to have your children attend an international school, it’s a good idea to contact them directly. You could also visit their websites for detailed information, so you can make an informed choice that meets your children’s educational needs.

Grading system

Similar to American and British schools, most primary schools in Thailand use a standard A – F grading system. However, some schools opt for a 4-point grading system where 1 is the lowest score and 4 is the least, with an ‘F’ for students who fail.

In the traditional Thai education approach, it’s pretty rare for students to repeat a year due to failing grades. If a child doesn’t pass a certain year, the school usually provides them with a chance to make up for it by retaking their end-of-year exams. This might also involve going to summer school if needed. This means that students can move forward along with their peers.

What are the types of primary schools in Thailand?

What is primary school in Thailand like? | News by Thaiger
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Parents have a range of options when it comes to primary schools for their children in Thailand. These can generally be categorised into three different types:

  • Public schools: These are government-run institutions that provide free education. This makes them accessible to all strata of Thai society. They follow the Thai national curriculum and have the most number of students enrolled.
  • Private schools: Private schools in Thailand cater to those looking for an alternative to the public education system. These schools may follow the Thai national curriculum but often offer additional benefits like smaller class sizes, more resources, and varied educational programs. There are, of course, tuition fees at private schools.
  • International schools: International schools don’t follow the Thai national curriculum. Instead, they offer a curriculum aligned with international standards, often derived from Western countries like the US or UK. The main language of instruction is usually English, but you could also find schools that teach primarily in French or German, reflecting the particular curriculum they’ve chosen to implement. These schools usually have a well-deserved reputation for high-quality education. However, the cost of an international school education can be quite high and is generally afforded by expatriate families or affluent Thai families.

In an effort to give their children a head start in English proficiency, some Thai parents enrol their children in private schools that offer bilingual or dedicated English programs. In these institutions, the Thai national curriculum is taught primarily in English, offering students a unique path to fluency in this global language. This option is particularly popular in urban centres where the demand for English proficiency is high.

If you’re in Bangkok, take a look at our top choices of primary international schools in the city.

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Cita Catellya

Cita Catellya is a journalist and writer who covers a range of topics from medical and property to leisure and tourism. Her career began as a copywriter 5 years ago, where she worked with several brands in Indonesia to help them increase their online presence. Cita writes in both English and her native Bahasa Indonesia

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