Education took hold in Thailand in the Sukhothai period, with Buddhist temples as the main venues for the teaching and training of youths. All Thai men aged 20 were obliged to be temporarily ordained as Buddhist monks. While in the saffron robe and residing in the temple, they would learn reading and writing, as well as various crafts suitable for men, while women were trained in Thai customs, good manners, cookery, homemaking, and crafts at home or at the royal court. Later, as Thailand came into more contact with Western countries, education became institutionalized. The impetus for development picked up pace during the reign of King Chulalongkorn (Rama V), who undertook a major reform of the Thai education system, with the introduction of the first public schools and the expansion of education at all levels as part of his national reform. King Vajiravudh, his successor, carried on the reform process, establishing the first university and expanding public education. In 1921, the Compulsory Primary Education Act was proclaimed.

In more recent days, education in Thailand has been systematized and extended greatly, especially since the promulgation of the National Education Act, B.E. 2542 (1999), which aims at giving all citizens equal rights and opportunities to receive education, with no limitations owing to sex, age, profession, educational background, economic status, or social standing, nor with regard to physical, mental, or intellectual disabilities. It also aims to inculcate the quest for knowledge among the Thai people. Education reform is meant to make the providing of education more efficient and effective and to further enhance the best qualities of the Thai people.

In its mission to develop the country’s vast human resources, the education system has to be adapted to suit the changing times, which necessitates the addition of new knowledge and skills in the curriculum such as foreign languages and computer literacy. Presently, a large number of educational institutions in Thailand operate as international schools using English as the medium of instruction, with bilingual schools in operation at various levels, in response to the rising demand for foreign language skills in the world market.

The education system of Thailand consists of two levels: basic education and higher education. It is stipulated in the Constitution that everyone in Thailand has the right to receive basic education for no less than 12 years, which is to be provided by the state free of charge. Graduates of upper secondary level 6 are considered to have finished their basic education, while graduates of lower secondary level 3 have finished compulsory education.

Basic Education (Pre-elementary, Elementary, Lower Secondary, and Upper Secondary)
Level Classes Course of Study
Pre-elementary Anuban
(Kindergarten) 1-3
The curriculum is meant to prepare pre-school children for their formal education at elementary level, focusing on physical, spiritual, and intellectual development, as well as socialization.
Elementary Prathom
(Elementary) 1-6
The curriculum takes into consideration developmental and learning psychology, mainly as a program integrating Thai language and mathematics, emphasizing the learning of reality with fun, for basic skills in communication, calculation, and analysis and for development of character and esthetic values, as well as training children for skills in thinking and researching, working in a group, searching for knowledge, and creating work.
Lower secondary Matthayom
(Secondary) 1-3
The curriculum emphasizes more knowledge management through projects, so that learners have clear ideas, understanding, and self-knowledge regarding their capabilities and aptitudes, in preparation for future occupations through more complicated theories.
Upper secondary General:
Matthayom 4-6
The curriculum focuses on the students’ abilities and on high-level ideas, as well as the aptitudes and needs of learners, both in terms of occupations and further studies in the future.
Vocational certificate
The curriculum emphasizes the development of aptitudes and capacities of learners, so that they have technical knowledge and vocational skills that will enable them to find employment in future occupations.

Higher Education

Lower than degree level (vocational education)

Tertiary education at a lower than degree level is certified with higher vocational certificates and diplomas. The curriculum emphasizes knowledge and ability of learners in various occupations, with a capability for putting knowledge to practice in real life, and for developing the work they are engaged in and fulfilling their potential in accordance with their aptitudes and interests, in response to the labor market’s requirements and in line with economic and social conditions.

Degree level

Another type of tertiary education is at the degree level, of which there are three: bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate. The curriculum is divided into Thai and international programs. The curriculum emphasizes the producing of human resources who have intellect, capability, and vocational knowledge in response to the requirements of the society in political and economic aspects for national development.