Girls’ secondary education in Thailand
Table of Contents
From pre-school to senior high school, education in Thailand is provided by the government. Basic education is divided into 6 years of primary education and 6 years of secondary education.
The school structure is divided into 4 stages:
- The first 3 years in elementary school (Prathom 1-3) are for ages between 6 to 8
- The second level (Prathom 4-6) is for ages between 9-11
- The third level (Matthayom 1-3) is for ages between 12-14
- The upper secondary level of schooling (Matthayom 4-6) is for ages between 15-17, which is divided into academic and vocational streams.
Furthermore, education in Thailand is divided into formal education, non-formal education, and independent schools:
- Formal education involves institutionalised teaching and learning in adherence to the official curriculum.
- Non-formal education consists of learning that occurs in a non-formal environment. This typically involves workshops, community courses, interest based courses and short-term courses.
- Independent schools are schools that are independently funded and goverened.
This article will distinguish between gross enrolment rates and net enrolment rates for secondary education in Thailand.
Gross Enrolment Rates
The graph below shows the gross enrolment ratio (GER) of Secondary education, which includes all programmes mentioned above, for the period 1971 to 2011. This is expressed as the total enrolment in secondary education, regardless of age, as a percentage of the population of official secondary education age. GER can exceed 100% due to the inclusion of over-aged and under-aged students because of early or late school entrance and grade repetition.
The graph shows that between 1971 and 1992 there was a slight increase in value. The value increased sharply between 1992 and 2011.
Net Enrolment Rates
The graph below shows the net enrolment ratio of secondary education, which includes all programmes mentioned above, for the period 1974 to 2011. This is expressed as the total ratio of children of the official secondary school age who are enrolled in secondary school to the population of the official secondary school age.
The graph shows that the value increased sharply between 1974 and 2006. Between 2007 and 2011 the trend remained stable.
Girls’ opportunities in secondary education
Boys and girls in secondary school
Percentage of Lower Secondary School completion among children aged 12-18.
Percentage of Upper Secondary School completion among children aged 15-19.
Urban vs rural areas
The proportion of young women in higher education is greater to that of young men both in rural and urban areas, as can be seen in Figure 3 below.
The fact that girls have a greater opportunity to study in secondary education than boys can be explained as follows: improvements in Thailand’s agricultural production since 1977, through a greater use of technology, increased the number of men working in agriculture compared to women. Moreover, during 1987, the increased economic growth in the cities caused an increase in opportunities for women to study at higher levels of education and enter the industry and services sectors.
Women’s education at both primary and higher school levels in Thailand indicates that women living in urban areas have several advantages in comparison to those living in rural areas. Concerning the latter, secondary school enrollment rates are relatively high; however, the graduation rate is low. Obstacles include poverty and shortages in the social life. Another reason is that rural areas lack the technological advancements that cities enjoy and as such, parents find it difficult to provide adequate resources for their children to continue their secondary education. Many families migrate from rural areas to cities as they believe education is of a higher standard there. As seen in Figure 3 above, women who live in urban areas have greater graduation rates, compared to those in rural areas (data from the Nation of Statistics).
At the end of 2015, Thailand becomes part of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). Once Thailand has become an AEC member, skilled workers will be able to move freely within ASEAN countries thanks to the economic agreement. For Thailand this means that many talented foreign skilled-labourers will enter the country, increasing the competitiveness of the Thai labour market. This raises the question: can Thai workers compete with foreign-skilled labourers? The question leads us to consider the efficiency of the Thai education system.
Recently, the World Economic Forum (WEF) ranked Thailand’s education at the bottom of the list of ASEAN countries (Source: The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2012-2013), reflecting many problems that still need to be resolved. The most challenging problem in Thailand is the learning of languages, especially English, as Thailand’s education system focuses mainly on examination results, rather than on the learning process. As such, students in secondary schools or language institutions only study from books in order to reach higher marks in the examination process. Unsurprisingly, Thai students therefore lack communication skills in foreign languages, which is a huge disadvantage in the modern competitive global market. Moreover, Thailand’s education system encourages students to just recognise the context of subjects and does not pay attention to whether students achieve a deeper understanding or not.
There are many challenges in Thailand’s education system for the government to tackle. We strongly believe the resolving these problems would raise Thailand’s ability to compete with the ASEAN workers who would be coming into the Thai labour market in 2015.
From left to right: Mr. Tanakorn Chaianekwut, Mr. Jirayut Songkrampoo, Miss Chulalak Kongsook, Miss Preeyaporn Eakthanyawong, Mr. Burakarn Tippayasakulcahi, Mr. Supanut Sawetarpa