Education & Training Sector in Thailand

An Expert's View about Educational Support Services in Thailand

Posted on: 21 Sep 2010

The EU is Thailand's third largest trading partner and UK exports to Thailand have averaged around £600 million for the five years between 2003-7.

Education & Training ? Thailand Sector Report Education & Training Sector Thailand Produced by: Stewart Gorman, Third Secretary (Trade & Investment), Bangkok Date 2 December 2009 Whereas every effort has been made to ensure that the information given in this document is accurate, neither UK Trade & Investment nor its parent Departments (the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office), accept liability for any errors, omissions or misleading statements, and no warranty is given or responsibility accepted as to the standing of any individual, firm, company or other organisation mentioned. Published by UK Trade & Investment. Crown Copyright © Education & Training ? Thailand Table of Contents OVERVIEW 3 OPPORTUNITIES 4 CHARACTERISTICS OF MARKET 5 KEY METHODS OF DOING BUSINESS 9 MORE DETAILED SECTOR REPORTS 10 EVENTS 10 CONTACT LISTS 11 Page 2 of 12 Education & Training ? Thailand OVERVIEW 2009 was a difficult year for Thailand, South-east Asia's second largest economy with the economy expected to show a contraction of 3% but there are positives. Thanks to the significant structural reforms undertaken in the wake of the 1997 Asian financial crisis, most of ASEAN?s economies including Thailand's remain relatively healthy in comparison to the rest of the world. Thai financial institutions are in pretty good shape but a drop in exports for 2009 projected to be the lowest for 18 years, foreign investments and tourism hit the Thai economy hard. That said the economy has now grown for a second straight quarter, boosted by a strong recovery in the country's manufacturing sector with manufacturing growing by 2.6% in the quarter July - September 2009. Thailand's economy began to decline in the last quarter of 2008 amid the global economic downturn and domestic political tension. The latter appears to have eased slightly with a Democrat led coalition coming to power in late December 2008. The situation is however still tense with continued social divisions between pro and anti Thaksin supporters. These tensions began in 2005 when opposition to former Prime Minister Thaksin surfaced in Bangkok and shows no real signs of healing. The economy continued to show negative growth for the first three- quarters of 2009 before it is expected to begin the recovery in the final quarter of 2009, and there are signs that the economy is on the road to recovery. Consumer confidence is on the rise, industrial production strengthening and GDP moving out of the red, though there are a few potential potholes along the way. The latest GDP projection from the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB) in November 2009 was a contraction of 3% for 2009. The final quarter of 2009 is seen as a turning point for the economy with the government's first stimulus package beginning to have an effect with about Baht 300 billion (approx. £5.4 billion) of public sector funding entering the economy by the end of 2010. The NESDB expects a return to annual growth of approx. 3-4% in 2010. Unemployment remains low with official figures in September showing unemployment at just 1.2%, or 440,000 of the workforce jobless with the rate expected to drop to near its normal levels of about 350,000 soon. Despite the drop in unemployment the government has confirmed it will maintain its Baht 7 billion (approx. £127 million) budget for job training programmes in 2010. There are positive signs from various sectors including semiconductor manufacturers, consumer goods, banking, technology and automotive reporting positive hiring activity from July - December 2009. Inflation was 5.5% in 2008 but NESDB is projecting inflation of minus 0.9% in 2009 and 2.5 - 3.5% in 2010. To address the economic problems the government introduced a short-term economic stimulus package to keep the economy afloat. It included support for all groups through cash handouts for low income earners, support for agricultural prices and free education programmes, special funds for senior citizens, job creation and training schemes, improvement of remuneration for public health staff. In addition to these short-term measures the government has longer term plans to create more jobs and employment. A training programme to benefit up to 500,000 people is under way. Of long-term importance are the government's plans to carry out major infrastructure development projects, especially railways and other mass transit systems and continued development efforts in key sectors such as energy, information and communication technology, water management, public health and education. The Government has announced plans for a second series of stimulus measures and is expected to spend Baht 1.43 trillion (approx. £2.7 billion) between Page 3 of 12 Education & Training ? Thailand 2010 and 2012. The sectors expected to benefit include transport, public health, water supply development and housing with Baht 140 billion (£2.55 billion) going to improve education. The Education Minister announced in June 2009 that 2.05 billion Baht (approx. £37. 27 million) has been set aside to raise education standards at private schools. On 15 June the Government approved a further Baht 1.95 billion (approx. £35.45 million) for building schools and day care centres in the provinces. In terms of trade with the EU and the UK, the EU is Thailand's third largest trading partner and UK exports to Thailand have averaged around £600 million for the five years between 2003-7. In tandem, the UK continues to be an increasingly important market for Thailand. Thailand's exports to the UK in 2008 reached almost £2.3 billion, an increase of 14% over 2007 while UK exports to Thailand were around £713 million, an increase of 19% compared to 2007. The overall trade position remains strongly in Thailand's favour (3.2:1). However, the recent depreciation of the British Pound against the Thai currency should increase the competitiveness of UK exports. OPPORTUNITIES 1. We have seen opportunities building in the private sector for training in business English and bespoke corporate training programmes. Similarly opportunities are growing for English language training courses tailored to specific areas of industry. These need to be delivered in country with a suitable local partner. Use UK Trade & Investment services. In addition to English Language training there is a growing demand for Mandarin Language training and a shortage of qualified teachers. 2. There are now more opportunities for educational equipment with, the growth of private international schools in Thailand proving a niche area for more modern equipment and a potential stepping stone into the wider education market. 3. Direct student recruitment onto UK postgraduate and English Language programme remains the biggest and most dominant area of activity for UK education and training with nearly 90% of all student visas. 4. Efforts in VET may lead to mid-long term opportunities for UK VET service providers. In the short term there may be some direct business-to-business contact to meet individual institutions requirements. 5. The International Schools in Thailand are keen to develop Education Sustainable Development (ESD). They have held a number of events to highlight what they are doing to address climate change involving students and sponsored an ESD workshop around the time of WorldDIDAC: Bangkok: October 2009. 6. There are plans to step up spending on information and communications technology (ITC) in order to strengthen the education system and better prepare the country's youth to work in an increasingly knowledge-based society. As part of a programme of reforms for the education system, the government has announced it will quadruple the number of computers in classrooms, broaden the use of advanced technology and revamp school curriculum. A total of $1.15bn had been set aside from public investment programmes to fund eight dedicated projects to spread the advantages of ICT as wide as possible throughout the education system Page 4 of 12 Education & Training ? Thailand including Baht 10 billion (£187 million) to buy computers and satellite dishes for schools. UKTI publishes international business opportunities gathered by our network of British Embassies, High Commissions and Consulates worldwide. These opportunities appear in the Opportunities portlet on the relevant sector and country pages on the UKTI website. By setting up a profile you can be alerted by email when relevant new opportunities are published. New or updated alert profiles can be set in My Account on the website. CHARACTERISTICS OF MARKET Snapshot Population: 65,905,410 (June 2009 estimate) Number of students - nearly 20 million students in over 37,000 educational institutions including 258 universities and higher education institutions, 808 vocational colleges and 30,000+ schools. There are about 70,000 foreign students studying in Thai international schools and international programmes at university level. This figure does include foreign tourists who take short tem training courses such as cooking and boxing generating about Baht 20 billion a year (approx. £375 million). Literacy rate: 94% (UNICEF) a separate report by UNESCO indicates that 3 million Thai adults are illiterate. In July 2009 the Education Ministry announced plans to spend Baht 722 million (£12.9 million) to tackle illiteracy among primary school pupils including raising the quality of Thai language teachers. Thailand's education services sector is expected to continue thriving. The Baht 70 billion (approx. £1.3 billion) sector was expected to grow by at least 10% in 2009. GOVERNMENT EDUCATION POLICY. The government's education policy is linked to the 10th National Economic and Social Development Plan (2007-2011). One of its main focus is on decentralisation of administrative responsibilities to a local level with the consolidation of education planning at a central level. The education budget is increasing to help achieve a rise in the quality of the entire educational system. This will include every Thai citizen having access to no fewer than 12 years of free basic education with the attention focused on the disadvantaged; offering teacher training and development to ensure quality and high moral standards among teachers; and promote the intensive use of information technology to enhance learning. The increased budget makes provision to provide text books in all eight core curriculum subjects. It would also provide two sets of school uniform for each primary and secondary student. Learning kits such as notebooks, pencils, erasers, rulers, pens and geometry tools and what has been described as "Learners' quality development activities". Here the Government pays for academic and virtue-boosting camps, field trips, boy-scout activities and computer learning activities for one hour per week per student. The government would like Thailand to be established as a regional education hub. The current Thai education system stems from reforms set by the 1999 National Education Act that implemented a new organisational structure, promoted the Page 5 of 12 Education & Training ? Thailand decentralisation of administration and called for an innovative learner-centred teaching practice. Pre-school Over 70% of children between the age of three and five receive early childhood education. While the majority of Early Years Education is provided by government primary schools there is a significant private sector involvement that has been actively encouraged. This is very evident in Bangkok where 59% of Early Year education is covered by the private sector compared to the national average of 28%. Basic education The Thai education system provides nine years compulsory education but offers 12 years free basic education: six years of primary education known locally as Prathom and six years secondary education known as Mattayorn. Enrolment in the basic education systems begins at age six. There are eight core subjects in the National Curriculum - Thai language, mathematics, science, social studies, religion and culture, health and physical education, arts, careers and technology and foreign languages (usually English). Some flexibility is built into the curriculum to try and integrate local culture but within consistent learning standards. The Office of Basic Education Commission (OBEC) implements the policies of the Ministry of Education and assesses the results. It has a mandate to promote and manage basic education providing learners with equal access to basic education. It is responsible for improving the standard and quality of basic education and at the same time decentralising administrative authority. It can also develop new innovations in education and manage gifted and special needs students. Higher Education Universities and colleges predominantly provide higher education with two distinct levels of educational attainment at diploma and graduate degree level. Over 2.2 million students are currently enrolled in higher education. In recent years there has been a significant increase in the number of universities both public and private. The Commission on Higher Education (CHE) is responsible for education at undergraduate and graduate levels with the authority to strategise, manage and promote higher education. This includes establishing higher education institutions and community colleges and providing financial support for them but it can also close them down. The CHE co-ordinates strategies to increase standards of education aligned with high quality international levels. Vocational training Vocational and technical education is conducted at three levels: upper secondary which leads to the Lower Certificate of Vocational Education, post secondary that leads to a diploma or vocational associate degree and university level leading to a degree. There are over one million students enrolled in various vocational studies with eight fields of study taken as majors: trade and industry, agriculture, home economics, fisheries, business and tourism, arts and crafts, textiles and commerce. The Office of the Vocational Education Commission (OVEC) is responsible for vocational and professional life long learning. OVEC has a mandate to provide the general public with access to technical and vocational education. Page 6 of 12 Education & Training ? Thailand Academic year Thai schools have two terms. The school year starts in May and would go through to end September when schools break for approximately one month and return late October / early November with the school year ending end February early March. Normal school hours are 08.00 - 15.00 but can vary and it is not unusual for students to do extra curricula activity. The International Schools would follow their own national terms. Not sure when purchasing decisions are made because for the Thai public schools much would depend on when their budgets are approved (the Thai fiscal year runs from 1 October - 30 September). I know that for local suppliers the busiest time of year for them is during the school holidays before the new school year begins in May. It is most unlikely that UK companies would be able to sell direct to Thai public schools. UK Student Recruitment The 1997 economic crisis had a major impact on the number of Thais studying in the UK. However these figures have turned around and the figure for students who travelled to the UK in 2007-8 has now increased to 7,000. The UK is one of the top three choices for students wishing to study overseas with competition from Australia and the US. Thais are in general agreement that the UK has the highest quality of education with price tending to be the biggest obstacle to them selecting a UK institution. The strength of sterling compared with the US$ against the Thai Baht has meant that the UK has looked very expensive but that maybe changing as the Baht strengthens against the £ and the dollar remains relatively stable against the Baht. There are over 50 education agents in Bangkok, most of which recruit for UK Universities and colleges. Universities looking to recruit Thai students will be more competitive using an agent. Thai students like to have a Thai contact to talk to and agents have commented that students remain in contact with them throughout the duration of their stay and even after graduating. This reflects the importance of relationships to Thai people. A lot of the credit for the increase in the number of Thai students studying in the UK goes to the efforts of The British Council, which manages a number of events to introduce UK Education providers to Thailand. The main event in their calendar is their annual Education UK exhibition, usually held in January / February, known as Edfest. This has seen noticeable increases in the number of visitors over the last 3 years. In 2009 Edfest in Bangkok was held on 7-8 February and attracted representatives from 72 universities with 7,200 visitors over the two days, up 40% on last year. About 500 students visited Edfest in Chiang Mai with 24 exhibitors. At this year's Bangkok event Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva spoke about education in Thailand and he outlined his own vision for the future. He hoped that the Thai curriculum would change and take a more international focus. He would like to see it scale back on knowledge with more emphasis on learning skills as people who will get on in the future are those who learn fast rather than those who remember best. He believed that there was a lack of qualified teachers particularly for science and languages so there would be plans to re-train teachers. The Prime Minister would Page 7 of 12 Education & Training ? Thailand like to give more autonomy to local authorities so that education resources were more evenly distributed but admitted there was no consensus on this as yet. Education in Thailand The Thai Government has long recognised that the national education system has not kept pace with economic development in Thailand and the 1997 economic downturn forced officials to look at these problems. The National Statistics Office reported improvements in education for 2007 with 98% of children entering primary school and 80% entering secondary school. Literacy rates are among the highest in Asia at around 94% but achievements do vary from region to region and different socio-economic groups. The Higher Education Commission (HEC) believes the increase in student numbers is too fast paced and questions whether all students are qualified to continue with university studies as school performance has not been taken into account. An added concern was that the number of lecturers available has not matched the substantial increase in courses. The HEC is trying to address that by making 1,000 scholarships available each year for doctorate degrees. The Ministry of Education is a giant organisation with 600,000 civil servants most of whom are teachers working in more than 30,000 schools. This gives the Ministry considerable influence in the public sector where it runs 80% of primary and secondary schools. Another area that we are assessing for potential is vocational education and training (VET). The British Council has focussed on this area and is working with key Thai players having formed a Thai UK Vocational Education and Training Working Group (VETWG). The group runs projects that are aimed at developing a Thai Vocational Qualification (TVQ). This process is taking time and Cabinet approval remains unclear. However, the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) Human Capacity Building Association has stressed that Thai Industry should adopt the principles of occupational standards/sector skills. Furthermore other VET colleges in Thailand are interested in the UK model and are working with the British Council to look at partnering. It is worth noting that at present there is no national standard in VET and one significant obstacle is the poor level of English language skills in Thailand. There are some companies here with interests in providing business English language training. More and more emphasis is being placed on the ability to do business in English and to compete on an international level. As noted above, the levels of English language skills are generally poor. This is seen to hamper local recruitment for Multi-National Companies. It is also worth noting the International Schools market in Thailand has grown considerably. In 1992 there were only 10 International Schools, that number rose to 62 in 2002 and now there are 120 international schools. There are currently 361 international institutions in Thailand including the international schools, 53 universities with international programmes and 187 schools under the Ministry of Education that use English as the medium of instruction and 11 vocational schools. There are 400 international programmes for students to enrol in. More International Schools are expected to open due in part to an increasing number of parents recognising English fluency is essential in the modern business world and that international schools in Thailand can provide a comparable quality of education Page 8 of 12 Education & Training ? Thailand to studying abroad but at a cheaper cost. China and other Asian countries are beginning to choose to send their children to study in Thailand where tuition is cheaper than in the USA or Europe. Established institutions have opened new campuses outside of Bangkok and other new, high profile, institutions have set up here e.g. Harrow (11 years old) and Shrewsbury (five years old). These schools, offering international qualifications such as UK, US and IB systems of education, are seen to be better-resourced and more forward thinking than the Thai private and state schools. An area of concern that has been identified in a minority of international schools is that they have an insufficient number of overseas students and cannot truly be considered international. In addition to the International Schools, bilingual schools are becoming a popular alternative for Thai parents who want their children to be proficient in both English and Thai languages. Currently there are about 200 private and public bilingual schools nation-wide. A key difference between international and bilingual schools is that the bilingual schools use the Thai curriculum. The Ministry of Education classifies bilingual Schools into two types: English Programme and Mini-English Programme. English Programme Schools can use the English language in all subjects except Thai language, social science, law and Thai culture. Mini English Programme Schools can use English for 50% of the weekly teaching hours. Elementary and Secondary schools that want to use English or Mini English programmes must have at least one native English-speaking teacher for every class. The Ministry of Education supports public schools offering the English Programme and has done so since 1995. It also encourages Mini English Programme Schools to become English Programme schools and to date there are about 100 public English Language Schools nation-wide. There are no UK universities established in Thailand. KEY METHODS OF DOING BUSINESS Although Thailand offers good business opportunities, this does not mean it is the right market for every company. Initial research is crucial to assessing your prospects. Thais like to build relationships with potential business partners and may use feelings and emotions more than information when making decisions - certainly more than we do in the UK. While there are exceptions to every rule to succeed in doing business in Thailand it is necessary to have an in country presence. Certainly most UK companies successfully doing business here have local representation either by establishing their own offices or appointing agents / distributors. Such a presence shows that companies are serious about the market and willing to provide local technical support to partners and their customers. Whilst the Thai market is price sensitive technical support is the next most important issue after pricing. When visiting research the market and the companies you intend to contact. ? Many Thai companies have web sites - some in English. Much information is readily available on both government and corporate web sites. ? Plan your visit - organise appointments before you depart the UK. Follow up with telephone calls on arrival to confirm availability. Meetings can be arranged over breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as normal office hours. Page 9 of 12 Education & Training ? Thailand ? Arrange a market discussion with the relevant Commercial Officer at the British Embassy in Bangkok. ? Take plenty of business cards and corporate literature. If possible have the reverse of your business card translated into Thai. It usually creates a very good first impression. ? Follow up meetings by letter / e-mail on return to the UK. If possible keep the Embassy informed of progress. ? Do not expect to do business immediately or necessarily on the first visit. ? Think about intellectual property rights issues. MORE DETAILED SECTOR REPORTS Research is critical when considering new markets. UKTI provides market research services which can help UK companies doing business overseas including: ? Overseas Market Introduction Service (OMIS). Bespoke research into potential markets, and support during your visits overseas ? Export Marketing Research Scheme. In-depth and subsidised service administered by the British chambers of Commerce on behalf of UKTI Contact your local International Trade Advisor if you are interested in accessing these services, or for general advice in developing your export strategy. When considering doing business in Thailand it is essential to obtain legal, financial and taxation advice. A useful contact list of lawyers and other relevant professional bodies as well as further information on the education sector in Thailand is available from the British Embassy. For further details, please contact: Stewart Gorman Third Secretary (Trade and Investment) British Embassy Bangkok 14 Wireless Road Bangkok 10330 Thailand Tel: +66 (0) 2305-8350 (Direct) Fax: +66 (0) 2255-8619 Email: EVENTS PLANNED UK TRADE & INVESTMENT ACTIVITY INVOLVING THAILAND Date Activity Current status 14-17 BETT 2009, London ? educational ICT British Embassy January 2010 exhibition Commercial Officer to Identify Thai company to visit UK attend. UKTI support available to 2 Page 10 of 12 Education & Training ? Thailand eligible Thai buyers. 4-6 March The Education Show, Birmingham UKTI support available to 2 2010 Identify Thai company to visit UK eligible Thai buyers. UK Trade & Investment?s Tradeshow Access Programme (TAP) can help eligible UK businesses take part in overseas exhibitions. Attendance at TAP events offers significant benefits: ? possibilities for business opportunities both at the show and in the future ? a chance to assess new markets and develop useful contacts ? grants are available if you meet the criteria ? UKTI staff overseas will be available to assist delegates Find out if you are eligible to apply to attend this event, and more about the support UKTI can offer, on the UKTI Market Entry web page. Details of TAP events can be found in the Events portlet on the Thailand page. Other Market Visit Support may be available via your local International Trade Advisor. CONTACT LISTS Please note this is not a validated list: Mr Greg Watkins Executive Director British Chamber of Commerce 7th Floor, 208 Wireless Road Bangkok 10330 Tel: +66 (0) 2 651 5350-3 Fax: +66 (0) 2 651 5354 Email: Web: Peredur Evans Director of Education British Council Thailand 254 Chulalongkorn Soi 64 Siam Square Phyathai Road Pathumwan Bangkok 10330 Tel: +66 (0) 2657 5623 Email: UK-based contacts Linda Lally Education and Skills team UK Trade & Investment Kingsgate House 66-74 Victoria Street Page 11 of 12 Education & Training ? Thailand London SW1E 6SW Tel: 020 7215 4365 Fax: 020 7215 4078 Email: William Prieto-Parra International Manager British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA) 20 Beaufort Court Admirals Way London E14 9XL Tel: 020 7537 4997 Fax: 020 7537 4846 Email: Mr Garry Winstone Marketing Officer Office of Commercial Affairs Royal Thai Embassy 11 Hertford Street London W1J 7RN Tel: 020 7493 5749 Fax: 020 7493 7416 Email: UKTI?s International Trade Advisers can provide you with essential and impartial advice on all aspects of international trade. Every UK region also has dedicated sector specialists who can provide advice tailored to your industry. You can locate your nearest advisor by entering your postcode into the Local Office Database on the homepage of our website. For new and inexperienced exporters, our Passport to Export process will take you through the mechanics of exporting. An International Trade Adviser will provide professional advice on a range of services, including financial subsidies, export documentation, contacts in overseas markets, overseas visits, translating marketing material, e-commerce, subsidised export training and market research. Page 12 of 12
Posted: 21 September 2010