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For a foreigner with a family moving to Koh Samui, finding your children the right school will be one of the biggest headaches. It might be difficult for children to try to adapt to a new social environment, a different kind of learning, a different system of education, and to make new friends.
In Thailand, the education system includes public, private and foreign/international schools (which are also private). The system and many of its schools are divided into three different phases, covering pre-school, primary and secondary education, and each phase consists of a number of distinct levels, much the same as kindergarten, primary and secondary schools are divided into separate years in Western countries. If you are already living in Thailand or are planning to travel here in the near future, if you have school-aged children in your family or plan to have children, you will need to become familiar with the education system and how it operates.
Whether to send the child to a government school (if permitted) or a private, foreign school would be your first decision. Places are not distributed on a catchment area basis in government schools, applications for all schools need to be made directly at the school. If a child has one Thai parent and their birth in Thailand has been registered, the child is listed as a Thai national and is entitled to all the benefits of a Thai national including being able to go to a public school.
If both parents are not Thai however then you will not be able to send your child to a public school, so this rules out this choice immediately.
For Thai nationals up to age 13, education in Thailand is free, at which point they need to meet academic entry criteria and start studying for university, which begins for students as young as 16 years of age.
For ex-pat parents who can't afford the high costs of international schools, private bilingual schools are a reasonable choice. Over the past decade, the quality in some of these institutions has dramatically increased, and in recent years, Western-style teaching philosophies that concentrate on student-centred learning have had more impact.
The detailed nature of the English programming offered differs between schools, so before making a decision, ex-pat parents should do their homework. You should note that some of these schools are religious, and a value-based learning framework that aligns with the specified religion of the school would definitely be included in the curriculum.
These private bilingual schools could be the best choice for families who plan to remain in Thailand over the long term. They provide children with an opportunity to establish stronger connections with Thai culture and society while also giving them access to a higher level of education, a broader variety of extracurricular activities, and the types of facilities commonly associated with private schools.
Many ex-pats chose to send their kids to international schools. In a language and familiar style to children, these bodies teach and allow consistency in education through the provision of Western curricula. These institutions are approved by external bodies, and both the quality of learning and the qualifications for the recruitment of teachers are strong. Almost always, these schools are also well-financed, with modern (even lavish) facilities, small class sizes and an impressive variety of extra-curricular activities. International schools in Thailand and Koh Samui offer a healthy range of curricula to satisfy many home-country requirements. Some schools prepare students for examinations for the SAT, A-Level, IGCSE and IB.
Expat parents should remember that there are long waiting lists in schools and admission could be dependent on language competence and academic achievement. Requirements differ from school to school, but beginning the admissions and registration process as early as possible is often best. Fees in Thailand for international schools appear to be very high, depending on the age of a student and the school. Expats will do well to try to negotiate their deal of employment with an education allowance, otherwise even the most generous bonus will end up spending on tuition costs.
The good news is that homeschooling is completely legal in Thailand whether you're a homeschooling family or looking to start homeschooling. The legislation acknowledges the "right to basic family education" of Thai children and homeschooling was legalized in 2004. Thai families, however, must request a homeschool application, and children are evaluated on an annual basis.
If you are an ex-pat/tourist, you are not tied to these local homeschooling laws. It's always a good idea, though, to follow a fixed curriculum and record the progress of your child in case any documentation is required when you return to your home country.
The International School of Samui provides an internationally recognized educational standard that follows the famous model of the British Independent School. The school follows the British Curriculum, sponsored by the curriculum services of the University of Cambridge, which has a very strong focus on giving every child the opportunity to shine. They deliver a rigorous and engaging curriculum covering a wide variety of subjects and abilities, as well as comprehensive after-school events, school trips, and excursions program. The school aims to make it fun to learn and to give every child the chance to grow a sense of self-confidence.
The British School of Samui, Panyadee, provides pre-school, primary and secondary education to children from both the international community and Thai citizens living on Koh Samui Island. The school is an accredited International Centre of the University of Cambridge and, as such, it operates as a non-denominational school with English being the primary language of instruction, adopting the Cambridge International Curriculum. Cambridge exams at the primary, lower secondary and IGCSE levels were externally identified by children at the school sitting level.
A trained teacher with English as their first language leads all year groups. The importance of Thai language and culture is not ignored in Panyadee. For all the students, Thai lessons are compulsory and all Thai lessons are performed by Thai teachers. Panyadee aims to grow students' academic, aesthetic, spiritual, physical, social and emotional capacity. The environment of the school promotes the loyalty of its students to their cultural heritage and encourages respect and tolerance among students and teachers of all cultures.
An International School which uses the UK Curriculum, catering for Foundation 3-5 years old, Primary 5-11 years old and Secondary 11-14 years old. A child-centred, green, caring atmosphere.
LIS has courses ranging from Foundation to Year 6 and has introduced a Cambridge Program that trained instructors to execute skillfully. At LIS, by integrating an Education for Sustainable Development aspect into the curriculum, they inspire students to be active people dedicated to a better environment. The LIS ESD plan, along with a significant aspect of Socio-Emotional Learning, is focused on the United Nations Agenda 2030 and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
Lamai International School is a remarkable place to learn from enthusiastic teachers and a united student body. Through limited class sizes and knowledgeable employees, LIS students study in an enriched atmosphere that caters to each child's unique preferences and learning styles. Their aim is to create a healthy and nurturing climate with a core curriculum that facilitates academic achievement while fostering a supportive culture that recognizes human differences and community values.
Their mission encourages students to thrive academically and socially, creating a better future for all. At Oonrak, they have a shared aim of 'learning through doing with happiness' to attain academic achievement. They are devoted to delivering a first-class college education paired with exceptional job prospects and training for the world of work. For the life of the school, personal, moral, cultural and social education is crucial. They offer a unique opportunity to master the Thai and English languages. In order to enable students to prosper in a global environment, we recognize the importance of English. They still understand, nevertheless, the value of studying the country's language and community in which we live.