This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.
Population: 69.5 million (July 2021 est.)
GDP (Purchasing Power Parity): $1.2 trillion (2020 est., in 2017 dollars)
Currency: Thai Baht
Language: Thai (official)
UNESCO Student Mobility Number
Thailand has 32,607 students studying abroad according to UNESCO.
CIA World Factbook
29.47% of the Thailand’s population is under 25 years old.
Many Thai students are resuming their study abroad as the Covid-19 situation has started to improve. Since 2020, foreign education 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 to work in-country for two to three years after graduation.
Thailand’s education market continues to face 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 education system has room for improvement, including reducing the learning gap between students at elite and underprivileged schools, upskilling students’ and instructors’ English proficiency, enhancing teachers’ skills, and revamping quality educational materials. Additionally, a lack of computers, notebooks, cell phones, television, and IT equipment; non-standardized e-learning platforms; and limited Internet bandwidth mean that Thai students face difficulties in accessing online learning and keeping up with the lessons.
Thailand’s education 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-aging 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 60,000 for the first time and the total fertility rate decreased to 1.51, which is considered extremely low.
Three-quarters 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 past nine months due to financial problems.
Higher Education: According to the 2020-2021 Open Doors report, prepared by the Institute of International Education (IIE), in 2021, the total number of Thai students declined by 19 percent to 4,960 students, compared to 6,154 students the previous year. By academic level, Thai students studying in the U.S. 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). However, the pandemic 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 intensive English language 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 to a new social environment, learn more about the foreign culture, and immerse themselves in an English language environment with native speakers before enrolling in their intended study program.
Community College: Community colleges are still a niche market as students and Thai parents are not very familiar with the concept and still prefer that their children enroll directly in 4-year colleges or universities. Community college representatives should consider marketing and promotion efforts with local study abroad consultants and partner universities to promote an alternative option for studying in the United States.
Secondary Education: Due to the growing demand for high-quality education and parents’ desire to prepare their children for the global market, many Thai parents enroll their children in international high schools with a broader international focus, STEM, and robotics programs. It is widely accepted in Thailand that international schools provide students a greater chance to enter a top university with better career opportunities post-graduation.
International student exchanges and four-week summer programs are popular choices among Thai high school students. The top destinations are the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and the United States.
Online Programs: Many international high schools and some private educational institutions were able to shift students and lecturers to online distance learning during the pandemic. However, some educational institutions still faced challenges, including teachers’ ability to support digital learning, students’ hesitation to commit large amounts of time to online courses, and families’ limited resources to support digital connectivity. The Ministry of Education (MOE) allows schools to select the online learning platform of their choice and encourages additional training for teachers to familiarize themselves with available online platforms to be able to support their students as they study at home.
According to discussions with various study abroad agencies, online degree programs are not popular among Thai students since they prefer in-person study. In addition, online distance learning cannot provide the same student life experience or improve English competency to the same degree as in-person programs.
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-English speaking countries like China, Japan, Germany, South Korea, and Singapore due to short travel distances, affordable tuition fees, and wide selection of programs.
Thai students seeking high school education exchange programs represent 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 in that their high school grade point average (GPA) and standardized test scores often do not meet U.S. standards, and this limits the number of Thai students admitted to universities in the U.S. It is recommended that U.S. schools and higher education representatives work with partners in Thailand to promote their institutions and increase their accessibility.
Thai students are mostly self-funded and return to Thailand after graduation. Scholarship opportunities are also available through government agencies and private companies to those employees who are interested in studying abroad.
The most popular academic programs are:
- Business Administration
- Creative Arts & Design
- Computer Science & IT
- Health and Medicine
- Tourism and Hospitality
- Media and Communication
DIGITAL MARKETING STRATEGIES
Thailand has around 48.6 million Internet users, an increase of 3.4 million (7%) between 2020 and 2021. Thailand also has 47.5 million mobile users and 55 million social media users. The most used social media platforms in Thailand are Facebook, YouTube, Line, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok. Thailand has around 51 million Facebook users, 45 million Line users, 37 million YouTube users, 16 million Instagram users, and 7 million Twitter users.
Study abroad agencies have been using Line Messenger, Facebook, and YouTube to communicate with students; share upcoming seminars, workshops, study travel, and cultural programs; and communicate with students’ parents. Educational organizers use Facebook as a channel to reach potential students and publish upcoming student fairs. Thai students use many technology platforms, including Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram to post activities; Twitter and Line for messaging; and Google and Zoom for meetings. Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter are the top four platforms used by Thai students, and Google remains the most common search tool. TikTok and YouTube are popular for streaming and sharing video content among peers.
U.S. education institutions and study consortia may consider providing digital promotional materials and working with study abroad consultants, school counselors, and university faculty to share their information with potential student groups. Topics of interest include scholarship opportunities, academic programs, co-op opportunities, and tuition fees.
- The OCSC International Education Expo- November 2023 (TBC): https://www.ocscexpo.org/
- U.S. Commercial Service - Thailand: https://www.trade.gov/thailand
- U.S. Commercial Service Global Education Team: https://www.trade.gov/education-industry
- Industry and Analysis, Office of Supply Chain, Professional & Business Services: https://www.trade.gov/professional-and-business-services
- EducationUSA: https://educationusa.state.gov/centers/us-embassy-bangkok
- Fulbright Thailand – United States Education Foundation: https://www.fulbrightthai.org/
- Thai International Education Consultants Association (TIECA): https://tieca.org/
- Thai Office of Civil Service Commission (OCSC): https://www.ocsc.go.th/
- Thai Office of Educational Affairs, DC (OEA): http://oeadc.org/en/contact
U.S. COMMERCIAL SERVICE CONTACT
Thanyathorn Voravongsatit, Commercial Specialist
U.S. Commercial Service – Bangkok, Thailand