Preschool and Primary Education: Thailand’s Progress in Achieving Education for All

  • Sheldon ShaefferEmail author
Part of the Education in the Asia-Pacific Region: Issues, Concerns and Prospects book series (EDAP, volume 42)


Despite the government’s rhetoric in support of Education for All (EFA) – especially its goals on Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) and universal primary education – the EFA framework never became an integral part of planning within the Ministry of Education. Ministers (and therefore priorities and policies) change frequently, and the Ministry’s structure is fragmented with unclear chains of command and piecemeal reforms. Enrolment in ECCD services is high (although inequitably distributed), and the professionalism of their personnel has been enhanced, but the “architecture” of ECCD provision is complex, with multiple pathways and providers, teachers with different qualifications, and diverse methods and curricula. Given Thailand’s development status, the NER of primary education (93%) is problematic as are the disparities among wealth quintiles; the continued disadvantage of remote, ethnic, and migrant communities and children with disabilities; and the system’s poor performance in international assessments. These problems derive from the low capacity of teachers trained more in content than in pedagogy; inequality in teacher deployment; weak implementation of child-centered learning, mother tongue-based education, and multigrade teaching; and the problem that principals see themselves more as civil servants than instructional leaders. Despite the large percentage of the national budget spent on education, many challenges remain: inequitable, inefficient, and ineffective financing, weak school-based management, incomplete decentralization, and the need for a more visionary and quick-acting bureaucracy able to ensure that students gain both the hard skills needed for a competitive, technology-based, globalized future and the “soft,” transversal skills essential for development while at the same time retaining the nation’s sociocultural uniqueness and diversity:


Early Childhood Care And Development (ECCD) Mother Tongue-based Education Multigrade Teaching Programme For International Student Assessment (PISA) Office Of The Basic Education Commission (OBEC) 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Amrung Chanthawanit, Supang Chanthawanit, and Gerald W. Fry. 1990. Evaluating primary education: Qualitative and quantitative policy studies in Thailand. Ottawa, Ont., Canada: International Development Research Centre.Google Scholar
  2. Applegate, Evan. 2013. Correlations: The middle-income trap. Bloomberg businessweek.
  3. Atipong Pathanasethpong. 2014. Introducing critical thinking? Perish the thought. Bangkok Post, October 6.Google Scholar
  4. Atiya Achakulwisut. 2015. Put charter’s idealistic bent to the vote. Bangkok Post, April 21.Google Scholar
  5. Bang, Kyungah, and Pattama Punthawangkul eds. 2018. Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) teacher competency framework for Southeast Asia (SEA). Paris: UNESCO/Bangkok: UNESCO Bangkok Office and SEAMEO.Google Scholar
  6. Bangkok Post. 2014a. (editorial) Get serious in education, February 24.Google Scholar
  7. ———. 2014b. Many conscripts illiterate drug users, February 2.Google Scholar
  8. ———. 2015a. (editorial) Decentralise education, April 24.Google Scholar
  9. ———. 2015b. (editorial) Education system needs to improve, March 29.Google Scholar
  10. ———. 2015c. (editorial) Go beyond tutoring tax, March 13.Google Scholar
  11. ———. 2015d. 200,000 migrant kids deserve a chance, April 23.Google Scholar
  12. Benson, Carolyn Joy, and Kimmo Kosonen. 2013. Language issues in comparative education. In Inclusive teaching and learning in non-dominant languages, 1–16. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers. Scholar
  13. Chaiyuth Punyasavatsut, et al. 2015. National education accounts of Thailand 2008–2013: Methodology and key findings. Bangkok: Quality Learning Foundation.Google Scholar
  14. Chang, Mae Chu, Andrew B. Ragatz, Joppe De Ree, Sheldon Shaeffer, and Ritchie Stevenson. 2013.
  15. Chantana Chanbanchong. 2014. Education and care for early childhood in Thailand: An overview and observation of six kindergartens. Paper presented at Benedek Elek Faculty of Pedagogy, University of West Hungary, Sopron, Hungary, 7 April.Google Scholar
  16. Chuachan Chongsatityoo, and Aroonsi Jitjang. 2013. Phalang khrua khai nai phunthi [The force of local networks]. Bangkok: Thailand Research Foundation.Google Scholar
  17. Chularat Saengpassa. 2014. Can new minister focus on longer term goals? The Nation, September 22.Google Scholar
  18. ———. 2015a. Teacher quality project revived. The Nation, March 27.Google Scholar
  19. ——— 2015b. Ray of hope for Thai education system. The Nation, May 25.Google Scholar
  20. Draper, John. 2015. Understanding the philosophy of sufficiency economy internationally. The Nation, September 25.
  21. Draper, John, and Peerasit Kamnuansilpa. 2015. 200,000 migrant kids deserve a chance. Bangkok Post, April 21.Google Scholar
  22. Fry, G.W. 2013. Student performance in PISA tests a wake-up call for Thailand. The Nation, December 23.
  23. Fry, G.W., and Hui Bi. 2013. The evolution of education reform in Thailand: The Thai educational paradox. Journal of Educational Administration 51 (3): 290–319. Scholar
  24. Gerald W. Fry, and Pham Lan Huong. 2011. Vietnam as an outlier: Past, tradition and change in education. In Education in South-east Asia, ed. Colin Brock and Lorraine Symaco, 221–243. Oxford: Symposium Books. Oxford Studies in Comparative Education Series.Google Scholar
  25. Gray, Peter. 2015. Early academic training produces long-term harm. Psychology Today, May 5.
  26. Hallak, Jacques, and Muriel Poisson. 2002. Ethics and corruption in education: Results from the expert workshop at the IIEP. Paris: IIEP, UNESCO.Google Scholar
  27. Hallinger, Philip, and Darren A. Bryant. 2013. Synthesis of findings from 15 years of educational reform in Thailand: Lessons on leading educational change in East Asia. International Journal of Leadership in Education: Theory and Practice 16 (4): 399–418. Scholar
  28. Hallinger, Philip, and Moosung Lee. 2011. A decade of education reform in Thailand: Broken promise or impossible dream? Cambridge Journal of Education 41 (2): 139–158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hasan, Amer, Marilou Hyson, and Mae Chu-Chang. 2013. Early childhood education and development in poor villages of Indonesia: Strong foundations, later success. Washington, DC: World Bank. Scholar
  30. Heckman, James J. 2006. Skill formation and the economics of investing in disadvantaged children. Science 312 (5782): 1900–1902.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. ———. 2011. The economics of inequality: The value of early childhood education. American Educator 35 (1): 31–35. 47. Scholar
  32. Heckman, James J, and Dimitriy V Masterov. 2007. The productivity argument for investing in young children. NBER working papers, no. 13016. Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research.Google Scholar
  33. Jimenez, Emmanuel, Vy T. Nguyen, and Harry A. Patrinos. 2013. Human capital development and economic growth in Malaysia and Thailand. In Human capital formation and economic growth in Asia and the Pacific, ed. Wendy Dobson, 141–162. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  34. Jitsiree Thongnol, and Jeerawat Na Thalang. 2015. Makeshift schools only highlight a class divide. Bangkok Post Spectrum, January 11.Google Scholar
  35. Kanogvan Raluk. 2010. Experiences of the past provide a vision for the future: 30 years Duang Prateep foundation. Bangkok: Duang Prateep Foundation.Google Scholar
  36. Kawi Chongkittavon. 2015. Thailand’s chance to boost its place in the world today. The Nation, September 21.
  37. Kawin Praneetlekha and Amanet Cheleepom. 2015. Force-fed education hampers pre-schoolers: Teacher. The Nation, March 25.Google Scholar
  38. King-oua Laohong. 2015. Border town kids bear brunt of drug woes. Bangkok Post, January 26.Google Scholar
  39. Lamphai Inthathep. 2014. Ministry bids to boost country’s PISA ranking. Bangkok Post, March 31.Google Scholar
  40. ———. 2015a. Preschool education set for shakeup. Bangkok Post, January 30.Google Scholar
  41. ———. 2015b. Onesqa says assessments help, not hurt. Bangkok Post, January 21.Google Scholar
  42. Lefevre, Amy Sawitta. 2014. Thai youth fear junta’s reforms will dim job prospects. Reuters Top News, October 29.Google Scholar
  43. Lewis, Paul W., and Elaine Lewis. 1984. Peoples of the Golden Triangle: Six tribes in Thailand. London: Thames and Hudson.Google Scholar
  44. Lewis, M. Paul, Gary F. Simons, and Charles D. Fennig eds. 2015. Ethnologue: Languages of the world. 18th ed. Dallas: SIL International. Online version. Scholar
  45. Little, Angela. 2006. Education for all and multigrade teaching: Challenges and opportunities. Dordrecht: Springer.
  46. Mechai Pattana Bamboo School. 2017. Mechai Pattana School.
  47. MOE. 2016. Khao samnakngan ratamontri 135/2559 talaeng khao kankhabkluan patirup kansueksa lae kanborihanrachakan khong krasuangsueksathikan nai phumipak [News from the Office of the Minister 135/2016 announcement propelling education reform and the local administration of education]. Bangkok: MOE.
  48. Naew Na Online. 2013.
  49. Nanchanok Wongsamuth. 2015a. Testing teachers in democracy 101, Bangkok Post Spectrum, April 19.
  50. ———. 2015b. Off to a poor start. Bangkok Post Spectrum, September 19.
  51. Napamon Roongwitoo. 2015a. Permanent scars of violence. Bangkok Post, January 27.Google Scholar
  52. ———. 2015b. School’s not out for summer. Bangkok Post, April 27.Google Scholar
  53. Nathapat Promkaew. 2014. Land offices most corrupt. The Nation, November 19.Google Scholar
  54. National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB). 2014. Raingan kanwikro sathakan khwamyakchon lae khwamluealam nai prathet Thai 2555 [Report analyzing the status of poverty and inequality in Thailand 2012]. Bangkok: NESDB.
  55. National Institute of Educational Testing Service (Public Organization). 2015. O-Net test results for grades 6, 9, and 12, raw data. (in Thai).Google Scholar
  56. NESDB. 2014. Study reveals massive wealth inequality; 15.6 million deemed ‘poor’. The Nation, September 23.Google Scholar
  57. NIETS. 2015 See National Institute of Educational Testing Service.Google Scholar
  58. OECD. 2013. PISA 2012: Results in focus. Paris: OECD.Google Scholar
  59. OECD. 2016. PISA 2015: Results in focus. Paris: OECD. Scholar
  60. OECD/UNESCO. 2016. Education in Thailand: An OECD-UNESCO perspective. Paris: OECD Publishing. Scholar
  61. Office of the Basic Education Commission (OBEC). 2014. Prakat Samnakngan Khanakamakan Kansueksa Chan Phuntan nayobai lae naew pathibat kiao kap kanrab nakrian sangkat Samnakngan Khanakamakan Kansueksa Chan Phuntan pi kansueksa 2557 [Announcement of OBEC of the policy and implementation trends related to accepting students in basic education]. Bangkok: OBEC.Google Scholar
  62. Office of the Education Council. 2014. Early childhood care and education in Thailand (global monitoring report: Goal 1). Bangkok: Ministry of Education.Google Scholar
  63. Office of the National Education Commission. 2001 and 2003. National Education Act B.E. 2542, 1999, and Second National Education Act B.E. 2545, 2002, Bangkok: ONEC.Google Scholar
  64. Office of the National Education Commission (ONEC). 2003. Synopsis of the national education scheme of education (2002–2016). Bangkok: ONEC.Google Scholar
  65. Office of Welfare Promotion, Protection, and Empowerment of Vulnerable Groups (OPP). 2009. Annual report. Bangkok: OPP.Google Scholar
  66. Pasuk Phongpaichit. 2014. Corruption in the Thai bureaucracy in 2014: A survey on attitudes and experiences of heads of households. Bangkok: Chulalongkorn University.Google Scholar
  67. Pavin Chachavalponpun. 2005. A plastic nation: The curse of Thainess in Thai-Burmese relations. Lanham: University Press of America.Google Scholar
  68. Philp, Hugh. n.d. The international institute for child study.
  69. Pichai Chuensuksawadi. 2014. Don’t hold your breath for school shake-up, Bangkok Post, October 12.Google Scholar
  70. Sirindhorn, HRH Princess Maha Chakri. 2004. Education of the disadvantaged: A lecture by H.R.H. Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn. Bangkok: UNESCO Asia-Pacific Regional Bureau for Education.Google Scholar
  71. ———. 2013a. Development of children and youth in the remote areas. In A lecture by her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn. Bangkok: UNESCO Asia-Pacific Regional Bureau for Education.Google Scholar
  72. ———. 2013b. Including the excluded. A lecture by her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn. Bangkok: UNESCO Asia-Pacific Regional Bureau for Education.Google Scholar
  73. Soemsak Wisalaporn. 2009. Saphap kanchat kansueksa hai kap nakrian chaikob nai changwat chaedaen khong Thai thi dit kab prathet Kamphucha [The conditions of educational services for children in the periphery of provinces bordering Cambodia]. Bangkok: Office of the Education Council.Google Scholar
  74. Songkran Grachangnetara.2015. Our children deserve education not indoctrination. Bangkok Post, April 7.Google Scholar
  75. Songsiri Putthongchai. 2013. What is it like to be Muslim in Thailand? A case study of Thailand through Muslim professionals’ perspectives. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Exeter.
  76. Suehiro, Akira, John J. Brandon, Luis Breuer, and James L. Schoff. 2015. Can Thailand escape the middle-income trap? February 26. Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
  77. Supoj Wancharoen. 2014. Integration the key for special-needs students. Bangkok Post, March 29.Google Scholar
  78. Tan, Michelle. 2007. The politics of the decentralisation of basic education in Thailand. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. Leeds: University of Leeds. ethos.484901.Google Scholar
  79. Tanyatorn Tongwaranan. 2014. Beyond the statistics. Bangkok Post Asia Focus, December 1.Google Scholar
  80. Thai Education Foundation, Personal communication, March 2012.Google Scholar
  81. Thai National Commission for UNESCO. 2015. Education for all 2015 national review: Thailand. 2015. Bangkok: The Thai National Commission for UNESCO, Ministry of Education.Google Scholar
  82. Thailand. 2017. Many brains to gain. Health and education review: Education. The Business Year.
  83. Thailand Future Foundation. 2014. 8 observations about inequality in Thailand. Policy Watch, April.
  84. The Economist. 2018. Economic and financial indicators, February 3–9, p. 76.Google Scholar
  85. The Nation. 2015a. Thailand fifth in Asian children’s literacy poll, March 10.Google Scholar
  86. ———. 2015b. Concern of “inefficient” education spending, May 12. 30259839.html.
  87. UNDP. 2014. Understanding anti-corruption strategies: Understanding what works, what doesn’t, and why. New York: UNDP.Google Scholar
  88. UNESCO. 2015a. Education for all global monitoring report. Paris: UNESCO.Google Scholar
  89. ———. 2015b. Education for all 2015 national review report: Thailand. Paris: UNESCO.Google Scholar
  90. UNESCO Bangkok. 2014. PISA 2012: Happiness or performance? In News from UNESCO Bangkok.
  91. UNESCO Institute for Statistics. 2014. UIS dissemination database. Montreal: UNESCO Institute for Statistics.Google Scholar
  92. UNESCO Institute for Statistics. 2015. UIS dissemination database. Montreal: UNESCO Institute for Statistics.Google Scholar
  93. UNICEF Thailand. 2012. UNICEF multiple indicator cluster survey. Bangkok: UNICEF.Google Scholar
  94. ———. n.d. Children not in school.
  95. United States. The world factbook. 2017. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency.
  96. Warr, Peter G., and Yew-Kwang Ng. 1986. Mesoeconomics: A micro-macro analysis. Wheatsheaf Books. Harvester Press.Google Scholar
  97. Wasant Techawongtham. 2015. Putting humanity back into Thai education. Bangkok Post, February 2.Google Scholar
  98. Yoshikawa Hirokazu, et al. 2013. Investing in our future: The evidence base on preschool education. New York: Society for Research in Child Development, Foundation for Child Development.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The RISE InstituteWashington, DCUSA

Personalised recommendations