Question: My wife and I have been considering Thailand for quite some time now, but we now have a son to consider. Do you know where I can get some information on schooling? So far, it appears that international schools are the only option, but the costs seem to be in the stratosphere!
There are outstanding schools in Thailand for American Expat Kids. But yes, they are very expensive. When you leave the US, you are truly independent and cannot expect any assistance from the Thai or US government in anything. Actually, that’s the way most expats like it, there is no Nanny State here for you, but you are able to have the freedoms that come with living fairly independent and being personally responsible. If you have kids, it will be the parents that have the total financial responsibility for education, but it also gives parents better control on the level in which their kids are being taught.
The best schools available to Expat Kids are the International Schools, and there are many throughout Thailand. The level of education will be considerably higher than the level in a typical (or probably any) Public High School in the US. For the American and British Curriculum Schools, classes are taught in English, and there are also French, German and other types of International Schools in Thailand working in their respective languages. Students in International Schools in Thailand will definitely be educated with cultural diversity between Western and Asian worlds all around them. Many of the schools show the progress of student tests on their websites, and usually students in the Sophomore Level in High School in a good International Schools are already up to the US University Level , and nearly 100% of the graduating students in these International Schools go on to a University after high school.
Just about the best resource on the web is at the International School Association of Thailand website (note: this site is apparently down quite a lot — it’s not you). Another good site is a blog about the International Schools in Thailand HERE. Be sure to get to the school list page that shows each institution around the country, and direct links to the websites for the schools. Perusing the different school websites, you will be impressed. Unlike an American Public School that operates almost as a monopoly in their area, these schools compete with one another in providing the highest level of education. Of course, as with anything as important as a school for your kid, it would be essential to visit the school and learning everything possible about the programs before a commitment of your kid attending.
Be aware that several of the International Schools are sponsored by Christian Church organizations, and religion is a strong part of the curriculum. That may be unsettling to some families, and something that is welcome in others, but the parents need to find a school that has a curriculum that fits what they are looking for in a school.
The cost of an International School varies by a huge amount, but you can count on costs for high school level starting in the neighborhood of US $6000 per year per student, with many far above that amount, as high as US $20,000 per year. If you have a family with three or four kids, that makes a very large investment necessary for this level of education, and certainly above the financial capability of most people, however most schools do discount for multiple students from the same family. The schools cost as much or more than a private school in the US. Some parents have told me, however, that you can do a little negotiation with the school on fees. If the student is an American kid, the school wants him to attend because it will help in the education of the Asian kids. This gives the American Expat kid a little leverage in getting the school to cut some of their costs. These International Schools are first and foremost a business, and savvy business people know that almost anything in business is negotiable.
Fees do differ significantly between the schools, so it is best to do a lot of research on each school.
If one of the parents happen to be a teacher in the International School, then they are likely to be able to send their child to the school at no cost. The value in this makes the compensation as a teacher very good, as most International School teachers get a base salary of around US $2000 per month or more.
Another option for those that cannot afford the International School route at all is home schooling through an online educational program on the computer. This is not for every family, and takes a special kind of kid and parent to maintain disciplines and learning levels to a high level. For some, home schooling is a great alternative, of course.
Government schools in Thailand for American kids are not an option.
So the reality is that having American Expat Kids in Thailand is going to require a major investment and commitment on the parents. Maybe having the kids stay with Grandma back in the States is not looking so bad after all.
Of course, one of the great resources for Expats living in Thailand is the Thai Visa Forum, and for questions on education, the Thai Visa Forum Section on Family and Children is loaded with first-hand experience by Expat Parents.
Understand that I do not have a personal experience of having a kid in school in Thailand, so it is a good idea to network with other parents that have kids enrolled. My information is all second hand info. – Expat