School System Overview

The school structure is divided into four key stages: the first three years in elementary school, Prathom (ประถม) 1-3, are for age groups 7-9; the second level, Prathom 4 through 6 are for age groups 10-12; the third level, Matthayom (มัธยม) 1-3, is for age groups 13-15. The upper secondary level of schooling consists of Matthayom 4-6 for age groups 16-18 and is divided into academic and vocational streams. There are academic upper secondary schools, vocational upper secondary schools and comprehensive schools offering academic and vocational tracks. Students who choose the academic stream usually intend to enter a university. Vocational schools offer programs that prepare students for employment or further studies.

Admission to an upper secondary school is through an entrance exam. On the completion of each level, students need to pass the NET (National Educational Test) to graduate. Children are required to attend six years of elementary school and at least the first three years of high school. Those who graduate from the sixth year of high school are candidates for two decisive tests: O-NET (Ordinary National Educational Test) and A-NET (Advanced National Educational Test).

Public schools are administered by the government. The private sector comprises schools run for profit and fee-paying non-profit schools which are often run by charitable organisations -- especially by Catholic diocesan and religious orders that operate over 300 large elementary/secondary schools throughout the country.[5][citation needed] Village and sub-district schools usually provide pre-school kindergarten (anuban อนุบาล) and elementary classes, while in the district towns, schools will serve their areas with comprehensive schools with all the classes from kindergarten to age 15 and separate secondary schools for ages 13 through 18.

Due to budgetary limitations, rural schools are generally less well equipped than the schools in the cities. The standard of instruction, particularly for the English language, is much lower, and many high school students will commute 60-80 kilometres to schools in the nearest city.

The school year is divided into two semesters. The first begins in the beginning of May and ends in October; the second begins in November and ends in March.

Stages in the Thai formal education system

Typical age Stage Level/Grade Notes
4 Basic education Early childhood
(Typically Anuban 1-3)
7 Elementary Prathom 1 Compulsory education
8 Prathom 2
9 Prathom 3
10 Prathom 4
11 Prathom 5
12 Prathom 6
13 Lower-secondary Matthayom 1
14 Matthayom 2
15 Matthayom 3
Upper-secondary General Vocational
16 Matthayom 4 Vocational Certificate
(3 years)
17 Matthayom 5
18 Matthayom 6
Higher education Variable