Over the past years, the Thai government did not invest a lot in education, but instead positioned itself as a hub for low-cost labour. But fortunately the government has began to put emphasis on educational reform as of recent months.
In 1999, all Thai children were guaranteed education under the National Education Act. For children with other nationalities living in Thailand, they were given the same only in 2005. The government decided to extend free education from 12 to 15 years in 2009. From 2000 to 2009, enrollment of primary and secondary school has increased by 9 and 17 percent respectively. The National Council for Peace and Order settled to reconstruct the education system in 2014. Afterwards, the government spent 19.35 percent of its annual budget on education. It was a great portion when comparing with other sectors.
Thailand has achieved success in education as the literacy rate has reached 96.7 percent. But the country still fails to achieve global academic standard. The scores of Thai students at Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) were below global average in 2014 and ranked 35 out of 40 countries. In 2016, the PISA scores for Thailand of Science, Mathematics and Reading were 421, 415 and 409 respectively. These scores were below the median of 490. The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) accurately showcased the Thai standard falling below sub par. Thailand scored 456 for Science and 431 for Mathematics, which were lower than the median score of 500.
The failure may be caused by unequal distribution of funds. The government issues a large proportion of funds to schools that students are more likely to succeed. Thus, more rural and smaller schools will receive less money. Their teachers need to teach multiple subjects and grades. The PISA test indicates students of city schools show higher improvement rate than students of rural schools.
The outdated curriculum puts rural and small schools at severe disadvantage. The country has used the current curriculum since 2008. Sadly, the curriculum is just a slightly modified version of the curriculum in 2001. Furthermore, the curriculum focuses on outdated skills and knowledge.
Some parents distrust the public education system. As a result, tutorial schools and shadow education appear. But these schools only favour families that have enough funds to support. This worsens the educational inequalities. Public education is still required but the low-income families clearly have fewer options for education.
Undoubtedly, education is a significant piece of a country as it is related to economic and social consequences. Although literacy in the country rises, there is still room for improvement for the present education system.