Many Thai students are resuming their study abroad as the COVID-19 situation has started to improve. Since 2020, foreign educational agencies and embassies in Thailand have been actively promoting study abroad opportunities to attract Thai students, including offering financial aid, a pathway program for international students, scholarship opportunities, and post-study work visas for two- to three- years after graduation.
Thailand’s education market continues to be faced with significant challenges as it starts to recover from the impacts of the pandemic. Student safety and inadequate education infrastructure, particularly for online or virtual school, are major concerns for parents. The Ministry of Education (MOE) made efforts to roll out 10 million vaccination doses for teachers and for students ages 12 to 18 to encourage a return to campus, resulting in over 80 percent of eligible students and teachers in Thailand receiving vaccines. Meanwhile, many vaccinated Thai students have started returning to the United States to complete their programs and resume their plans of study.
Thailand’s educational system has room for improvement, including reducing the learning gap between students at elite and underprivileged schools, upskilling students’ and instructors’ English proficiency, reskilling teachers’ skills, and revamping quality educational materials. Additionally, lack of computers, notebook, cell phones, television, and IT equipment, non-standardized e-learning platforms, and limited internet signals mean that Thai students face difficulties in accessing online learning classes and keeping up with lessons.
Thailand’s educational market is also challenged by the declining number of students due to demographic trends, with Thailand’s population aging rapidly. According to the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia, Thailand is one of the fastest-ageing countries in the world. The Thai population aged 60 and over is projected to increase from 13 percent in 2010 to 33 percent in 2040. In addition, the World Bank reported that in 2020, Thailand’s birth rate hit below 60,0000 for the first time and total fertility rate decreased to 1.51, which is considered extremely low.
Three-fourths of Thai universities face a shortage in student enrollment and are at risk of downsizing or closing over the next decade. In October 2021, the Office of the Private Education Promotion Commission announced that about 70 private schools have closed during the preceding nine months due to their financial problems.
According to the 2020/2021 Open Doors report, prepared by the Institute of International Education (IIE), in 2021, the total number of Thai students in the United States declined by 19 percent to 4,960 students, compared to 6,154 students the previous year. By academic level, Thai students studying in the United States were comprised of 45 percent undergraduates, 35 percent post-graduates, 17 percent Optional Practical Training (OPT) students, and three percent short-term, non-degree program students (one-year exchange students and English as a Second Language (ESL) students). The decline in overseas students was largely due to the impact of the pandemic which forced many Thai students to either return home and continue studying online or postpone plans to study in the United States.
Many Thai students prefer to enroll in universities that offer ESL and English-intensive programs to improve their English proficiency. It is common for students looking to enter undergraduate and graduate programs to choose a pathway program to ease the transition into a new social environment, learn more about foreign culture, and immerse themselves in an English language environment with native speakers before enrolling in their intended study program.
Thai students are mostly self-funded and return to Thailand after graduation. Scholarship opportunities are also available through Thai government agencies and private companies to those employees who are interested in studying abroad.
- Business Administration
- Creative Art & Design
- Computer Science & IT
- Health and Medicine
- Tourism and Hospitality
- Media and Communication
The United States is always one of the top choices for Thai students to study abroad, among the other native English-speaking countries, including the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. However, Thai students are increasingly studying in non-native English-speaking countries like China, Japan, Germany, South Korea, and Singapore due to short travel distances, affordable tuition fees, and various selection of programs.
Thai students seeking high school educational exchange programs present a growth opportunity for the U.S. education market. Graduates from these schools are good candidates for further education in the U.S. because they generally have superior language capabilities and have been exposed to an international school environment, which typically offers broad cultural experiences, a variety of programs, and teaching styles that help drive demand for self-development.
Thai students seeking higher education and graduate degrees currently face a significant obstacle since their high school grade point average (GPA) and standardized test scores often do not meet U.S. standards, limiting the number of Thai students admitted to universities in the United States. U.S. schools and higher education representatives are recommended to work with partners in Thailand to promote their institutions and increase their accessibility.
- OCSC International Education Expo 2022
- Dates: November 12 – 13, 2022
- Description: International high school visits and International Education Fairs in Bangkok, Thailand