Schools in Phuket:
The School System
In our second article about schools in Phuket, we will look at how the Thai school system works.
The Thai school year is broken into two terms. Although the exact dates vary from school to school, they are roughly as follows:
Thai School Years
Thai education is split into what we would call Pre-School, Primary School and Secondary School.
The first three years of Thai schooling are Anoobahn 1 to 3. This is for children who are three to five years old at the start of the school year. These three years are optional. The children mostly play, do crayons, watch TV and listen to stories. In the second and third years, they start to introduce the Thai alphabet.
Pratom (Primary School)
The next six years of school are Pratom 1 to 6. When Thais refer to these years, they normally abbreviate them to Por 1 (por nurng), Por 2 (por sorng), etc. In English program they call them P1, P2, etc.
This is the start of mandatory education for all Thai children. These six years of education are for children who are six to eleven years old at the start of the school year.
This is Primary education. The fundamentals of reading, writing and math's are taught along with an introduction to other basic subjects such as history and geography.
Mattayom (Secondary School)
The next six years of school are Mattayom 1 to 6. Thais call these years Mor 1 (mor nurng), Mor 2 (mor sorng), etc. In English program they call them M1, M2, etc.
These six years of education are for children who are 12 to 17 years old at the start of the school year. The first three years of Mattayom are mandatory meaning that all Thai children should receive a minimum of nine years education. In reality, in the poorer areas of Thailand parents will often pull their children out of school early and send them out to work.
Mattayom is Secondary education. They take the basic subjects to a more advanced level and introduce new subjects.
Officially, all Thai children are entitled to free education. In reality, almost all schools charge fees. For the government schools these fees can be between 1,000 to 10,000 baht a term. For private schools, the fees may be higher.
The schools usually provide a breakdown of their fees. The government schools do not normally include a charge for education because of course this should be free. However, they need to raise money and therefore charge for the essential extras such as pens & pencils, paper, books, computer use, food, insurance, etc.
Most schools have a mandatory accident insurance scheme for their pupils. This is a sensible policy as healthcare is not free and many parents are poor. The insurance charge will typically be around 200 baht a term and give hospital cover for accidents up to around 6,000 baht, which is enough to cover treatment for everyday accidents. The insurance is usually valid outside of school as well so it is a useful extra protection for the parents.
In addition to the school fees, almost all Thai schools have a school uniform. Parents will need to buy school uniforms, sports clothes and bag. Often it is required to have the child's name embroidered onto the shirt.
Thai schools have a strong emphasis on maintaining Thai values such as manners, discipline and respect for king and country. The day usually starts with a parade in the schoolyard, national anthems and hoisting of flags before classes begin.
It is now government policy that every school should have a native English speaker to teach English classes. This has led to English teaching becoming one of the most common jobs for foreigners in Thailand. The standard of some of these foreign teachers may be dubious with fake qualifications easy to obtain in Bangkok. The one thing that all these foreign teachers seem to agree on is that Thai children are a joy to teach in comparison with their more unruly western counterparts. They sit quietly, pay attention to the teacher and are polite and respectful.
One other interesting difference between Thai school children and their western counterparts is that bullying does not seem to be an issue in Thai schools. While bullying is a normal part of the school scene in the west, it has just not become part of the school culture in Thailand.
Although bullying is not a major issue in Thailand, inter-school rivalries for the older age groups can be intense. In Bangkok, there have been serious fights and even killings between gangs from different colleges.
In Phuket, this kind of intense rivalry between schools has not really occurred. However, there is a problem with rivalry between young motorcycle gangs leading to fights and killings. These are mostly teenagers who have already left school and whose parents do not pay enough attention to stop their young tearaways causing problems.
The common criticism of Thai schooling is its heavy emphasis on learning by rote. The belief is that Thai children learn their facts and figures but do not learn how to analyse, create their own conclusions or be creative. It is an issue the Thai government is now recognising and there are plans afoot to make the Thai syllabus more interactive and creative.
Thai school children certainly work hard. The school day starts early between 7am to 8 am. They finish between 3pm to 5pm and also usually receive plenty of homework. At the end of each of the 12 years of Pratom and Mattayom, the children are required to pass NET exams (National Education Tests) to graduate to the next year. In the final year, there are extra exams and even more tests if the student wants to apply for university.
Thai Schools Part 1- Nursery Schools - There is an ever growing number of western and half-western children growing up in Phuket. What schooling options does Phuket offer for western parents? We start with a quick look at nursery schools.
Thai Schools Part 3- Choosing a School - Our third and final article about Phuket's schools looks at which are the best schools in Phuket for western or half-western children.