The education system, and especially girls’ education in Thailand, has continued to improve over the past few decades. Like many poverty-stricken countries, however, Thailand still struggles to provide education for all and tackle the gender equality gap among young boys and girls in school.
- Thailand is among the few countries in the world that have never been colonized by European powers, therefore their education system developed mainly on its own. The country focused its efforts on education reform. However, the process was a difficult one. Thailand has had no less than 20 different education ministers in the past 17 years. After the military coup in 2014, the country’s government attempted to regain the education reforms that were interrupted and increased funding for education.
- Thailand’s education system gives children and families many opportunities to choose how they want to receive their education. The first nine years of a child’s education are compulsory, with six years of elementary and three years of lower-secondary school. Students can be enrolled when they first turn six and admission is generally open to all children. The government also provides free three years of both pre-school and upper-secondary education that can be completed after students finished their studies, both of which are optional. In 2013, 75 percent of eligible youth were enrolled in upper-secondary school programs. Secondary education starts at the age of 12.
- Girls’ access to education is virtually equal to boys’, as the Thai government provides all children with a twelve-year education. In 2006, the ministry of education found that primary school net attendance for boys was 85.1 percent and 85.7 for girls. Currently, enrollment rates are mostly equal for both genders.
- Though girls education in Thailand is accessible, girls still face discrimination and other hardships at school. Educational opportunities in Thailand are more of an issue of class and affordability than gender and culture, though both are factors. Some such hardships are the cost of supplies and uniforms. A report by the poverty line found that in higher education, the student’s family could not afford the school fees, uniform expenses, textbooks, meals and especially transportation costs to the school.
- The Royal Thai Embassy in Washington, D.C., found that girls face discrimination in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields from as early as primary school. A 2015 report published by the UNESCO found that the discrimination in these cases stemmed from gender stereotypes and a lack of female role models in STEM.
UNESCO is now working with Thai educators to improve STEM education and motivate young girls to pursue their dreams in the science fields. This initiative is a part of a 20-year strategy that aims to transform the country to increase innovation, creativity, research, development and green and high-technologies driving the economy.
– Madeline Oden
Photo: Creative Commons