An Expat’s Guide to Choosing an International School in Thailand

For many families moving to Thailand, finding a good school for their children is one of the top priorities. However, selecting an international school that best suits the needs of both children and parents is often easier said than done. From school fees to campus facilities and everything in between, there are dozens of things to consider when it comes to helping your children get the best learning experience possible.

GES International School in Nonthaburi are here to help. We’ve rounded up all the information you’ll need to make a more informed decision when the time comes to choose an international school for your children.

Understanding International Schools

As you may be aware, an international school is simply a school that promotes international education. This is achieved by adopting an international curriculum such as the Cambridge International Examinations, International Baccalaureate, or Edexcel, or by using a national curriculum that is different from that of Thailand’s.  

In Thailand, international schools are popular among expats who want to provide their children with a school system that they are already familiar with. Many Western-Thai couples also choose to send their children to international schools for the international learning environment.

Most international schools in Thailand teach their curriculum in English, though many offer classes for learning other languages. It’s important to note that, although they may share some similarities, international schools are not the same as bilingual schools, which tend to follow the local Thai curriculum.

Grade 12 International School Nonthaburi
Grade 12 International School Nonthaburi

How Does the Tier System Work?

Every international school in Thailand is categorised into one of three tiers, which are based on a school’s facilities, history, funding and a range of other factors. Exactly what constitutes a Tier 1, 2 or 3 school can be a bit ambiguous, so consider the following to be a general guideline:

Tier 1  

Tier 1 schools are generally considered to be the best schools in the country. They typically operate as foundation schools or are owned by wealthy individuals. They tend to have a variety of national and international accreditations, which may include certification from The Office for National Education Standards and Quality Assessment, Council of International Schools and/or  New England Association of Schools and Colleges, among others. The teachers at Tier 1 schools tend to be highly qualified Western educators, who are carefully picked for their ability to educate and inspire. As you might expect, fees at these schools are high, and may range from 400,000 baht to 1 million baht a year. We have also put together an article here on teaching jobs at International Schools in Thailand.

Tier 2

Schools in this tier are often owned by investors or big corporations. Most of the students who attend Tier 2 schools are Thai, and you’ll find fewer Western teachers in these schools. Tier 2 schools tend to have fewer accreditations than their Tier 1 counterparts, but will still have national accreditation and a minimum of one international accreditation. Fees tend to range from about 200,000 baht to 800,000 baht annually.

Tier 3

Tier 3 schools typically only hold local accreditation. The teaching faculty at Tier 3 schools tends to be made up of mostly non-Westerners or Westerners without formal teaching qualifications. Fees are much more affordable than higher tier schools, and tend to range from about 100,000 baht to 300,000 baht per year.

While the ranking system can be useful for learning more information about a school, it is largely subjective and should not be considered a definitive measure of a school’s quality. It’s not unheard of for tier three schools to offer better facilities than higher ranked schools. Children have the potential to excel in any international school, regardless of what tier it has been labelled with.

Ges Class 11 International School Nonthaburi
Ges Class 11 International School Nonthaburi

Which Curriculums are Offered at International Schools in Thailand?

To minimise disruptions, most parents opt to enrol their children at an international school that offers the same curriculum as that of their home country. However, you don’t necessarily have to do that, particularly if it’s the first time your children are enrolling in a school or if you think you’ll move again in the near future.

International schools in Thailand offer one of four main curriculums:

British Curriculum

The National Curriculum of England is a world-renowned curriculum that is offered by more than half of all international schools in Thailand. It features a very clear structure, which enables students to move seamlessly between any schools that offer the curriculum. Students who complete the British Curriculum gain an International General Certificate of Secondary Education, followed by AS and A-Levels.

American Curriculum

The second most popular curriculum taught in international schools in Thailand is the American Curriculum. Due to different state-specific standards, it’s a little tricky to define what the American Curriculum entails, but it generally covers a diverse range of courses that provide students with a balanced education.

International Baccalaureate

The International Baccalaureate has an impressive history spanning 50 years. The curriculum focuses on helping students develop creative learning skills in a cooperative learning environment.

Other Curriculums

A variety of other curriculums can also be found at a few international schools in Thailand, including French, German, Australian and Singaporean curriculums.

When Does the School Year Start?

The school calendars of international schools are roughly in line with their home countries. School runs from August through to June, with breaks over the Christmas and Easter periods. In contrast, Thai schools usually start in the middle of May and end in February, with a long break over April and the beginning of May.

What to Think About Before Enrolling in an International School in Thailand

With more than 150 quality international schools to choose from, you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to selecting a good school for your children. Here are a few factors to take into consideration when weighing up the options:

  1. Location of the School

If you’ve spent any time in Thailand’s urban centres, you’ll know first hand how chaotic traffic can be. With this in mind, one of the most important things to consider when choosing an international school is where the school is located. Some schools are centrally located and may be in close proximity to reliable public transport options, while others may be a little more remote and require a longer commute. Neither parents nor children want to be stuck in traffic every day for hours on end, so be sure to consider location and transport options when looking at prospective schools.

  1. Quality of the Teachers

It goes without saying that teachers have a direct impact on your children’s learning experience. As such, it’s essential that you take the time to find a school whose educational values are most aligned with your own.

As noted above, the vast majority of teachers at top-tier international schools are of Western descent and have gained their qualifications and teaching experience in Western countries. The standards for teachers are usually high, and most are required to have a bachelor’s degree, teaching certification and at least two years of teaching experience.

school teacher with 2 school children

As you drop down through the tiers, you’ll find more Thai teachers and slightly less qualified Western teachers. By no means does this imply that non-Western teachers are worse educators; rather, it simply means that lower tier schools simply don’t have the budget to maintain a highly qualified and experienced Western teaching staff body, who tend to command higher rates of pay than their local counterparts.

The key takeaway here is to look at a teacher’s qualifications and experience, rather than being influenced by an educator’s nationality.

  1. Number of Students in the Class

Another factor you’ll want to take into consideration is class size. Smaller class sizes allow teachers to create a more personal learning environment, which results in a better educational outcomes for students. A teacher who can spend more one on one time with an individual student is better able to help them build on their strengths and identify learning areas that have room for improvement. Many international schools set a limit on the number of students who can be in the classroom at once.

Of course, small class sizes does come with a downside: it imposes limitations on how many students can enrol in the school. This enables the school to maintain a high level of quality, but it also increases competition for entry.

You’ll also want to think about the size of the overall school. Large international schools in Thailand often feature great facilities and provide many extracurricular activities for children to partake in. On the other hand, some families prefer the sense of community associated with smaller schools. There’s no right or wrong answer here. Your best bet is to discuss your options with your children and decide as a family which is best for your unique circumstances.

class of young children at GES international school

  1. Learning Support Team

While teachers may have the biggest role to play in your children’s day to day school life, it’s important to remember that there are many other faculty members who will shape their learning experience. For example, if your children would benefit from learning support, it’s a good idea to do some research and find out what facilities the school offers. Some top tier schools have dedicated staff for supporting students with learning difficulties, while others may have systems in place to help non-English speakers get their language skills up to speed.

Depending on your family’s needs, you may also wish to investigate the school’s counseling facilities. Smaller schools have a modest counselling team, while larger schools might have specialist staff and advanced counselling facilities. If emotional and academic support are high on your list of priorities, be sure to do your due diligence before enrolling.

  1. What Extracurricular Activities Are Available?

Developing a student’s critical thinking is a core focus for any school, but it has to be said that a well rounded education involves more than classroom lessons. Many international schools offer a great selection of extracurricular activities that cater to a broad range of interests. Whether your children are interested in sports, music or performing arts, they’re sure to find something that resonates with them. Options for extracurricular activities can vary quite significantly depending on the size, facilities and funding of the school, so take the time to check before committing to an international school.

muay thai presentations at GES

Understanding School Fees

As mentioned earlier, school fees can vary quite significantly. In addition to the regular course fees, there are often a number of additional fees that can raise the overall cost of education. Additional fees might include:

One-off Fees

There are a number of one-off fees involved with enrolling your children at an international school. Long before your child steps foot in the school, you’ll need to fill out and submit an application. The application fee covers the costs associated with processing your application and usually costs around 5,000 baht for Tier 1 schools

You may also have to pay a registration fee. This is a one-off fee for students who have newly enrolled at an international school in Thailand. You might expect to pay 150,000-200,000 baht for the registration fee.

Recurring Fees

Some schools also impose a campus development fee, which goes toward maintaining the school’s facilities. Depending on how the school structures its fees, it may be a one-off fee, or it may be an annual payment.

If you’re sending your children to a boarding school, there are also boarding fees that are usually separate from the regular school fees. They can cost anywhere from about 250,000 baht to 600,000 baht per year.

Learn More About Global English School

As you can see, there are many things to take into account when choosing an international school in Thailand. If you’re looking for an excellent school in the Nonthaburi region, we’d love to hear from you. Global English School is a private international school made up of a team of passionate educators who are committed to teaching and inspiring young minds. To learn more about Global English School, email us at enquire here or call us on 02-525-1302 or 02-525-0268.