Recent Developments in Basic Education in Thailand: Issues and Challenges
Key challenges in Thailand’s basic education include the need to expand the supply of human capital to avoid the middle-income trap and the aging society.
Over the past few decades, Thailand has made progress in expanding access to basic education, resulting in an increase in literacy rates and narrowing gaps in school attendance between socio-economic groups. We survey recent developments in Thailand’s basic education with an emphasis on the learning outcomes of Thai students, the determinants of such outcomes, and the challenges faced by the basic education system. We find that despite the significant amount of resources spent on education and the fact that the quality of the workforce is crucial for the country’s current stage of economic development, students’ learning outcomes are low and have not improved significantly in either national or international assessments. The performance of junior secondary school students in the national examinations has declined, especially in mathematics and science. While the performance of senior secondary school students has improved slightly over the same period, the mean results for core subjects (mathematics, science, and English) were less than 50. This worrying figure is worsened by inequality in education quality across regions, since the performance of secondary school students is lower in poorer, remote regions. In addition, according to the results of the international assessments, Thai students are performing below the international average in core subjects. We argue that such poor learning outcomes are presumably due to two main reasons: the role of small school, and inefficient resource allocation for education in public spending. Key challenges in Thailand’s basic education include the need to expand the supply of human capital to avoid the middle-income trap and the aging society. This is a pivotal period in Thailand’s economic development. Educational reform is needed to ensure high-quality basic education for all.
WORKING PAPER NO: 1322