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    Title:     case study


Subject Education Systems Pages 7 Style APA


Case Study on Thailand Education Access Disparities

The growth and development of a country are dependent on several factors among them the government commitment towards the implementation of sustainable projects and equality in access to basic social amenities such as schools and hospitals. However, several challenges may hinder the realization of the development goals such as high poverty levels and political instability. It is therefore critical for countries to ensure profound measures are in place in steering the state towards achieving its set objectives. This paper examines the issues affecting development index in Thailand, a country characterized by major milestones towards achieving the upper-income status. The central issue in this case study is the inequality access to basic social amenities and in particular quality education. Although Thailand is currently recognized for its tremendous economic growth and happiness index, access to equitable quality education derails its development despite the numerous policies such as 15-year free education thus more reforms are required in this realm

Understanding Thailand Development Record

In the last four decades, there has been remarkable progress in the economic and social development in Thailand resulting in the country’s transformation from a low-income country to an upper-income state. In the late twentieth century, Thailand has been in the spotlight as a result of its achievement in reducing poverty levels and ensuring sustainable growth (World Bank, 2015). One of the historical milestones according to World Bank in Thailand is the 7.5% annual growth rate between 1960 and 1996 followed by 5% annual growth rate between 1999-2005 where numerous jobs were created thus pulling millions from the poverty. In 2016, Thailand was recognized as one of the countries that have expressed a high happiness index and was ranked 33rd globally (Sachs, Layard, & Helliwell, 2017)). Numerous policies have been developed aimed at completely eliminating the poverty levels such as free education and health insurance policies. However, 2005-2015 and 2014-2016 have shown a reduction in growth rates of 3.5% and 2.3% respectively (World Bank, 2015). As a result of high growth and rise in agricultural prices, poverty levels have greatly reduced in the last three decades from 67% to 7.2%. According to the OECD (2013) report, the 2013-2017 average economic outlook notes that the GDP growth is at 5.15% as a result of the increase in trade and exportation. According to Sachs, Layard, & Helliwell (2017), these growth rates are despite the political instability in the country where numerous military coups have been witnessed in the last three decades.

The Development Issue

Despite the above-mentioned growth milestones that Thailand has made in the previous three decades, there has been a decline recently as noted in the 3.5% and 2.3% annual growth rates in 2005-2015 and 2014-2017 timelines (World Bank, 2015). Notably, this country has profound long-term economic goals which are well stipulated in the 2017-2036 national strategy where it aims at achieving developed status through major reforms. Most of these reforms are centered on human capital, environmental sustainability, efficient government bureaucracies and economic stability. The rate of reigniting the growth of the country and economic recovery depends on how rapid Thailand can tackle its growth challenges while fostering inclusion (OECD, 2013). This brings to fore the major challenge affecting the country’s growth and development, that of equal access to basic social amenities and in particular quality education. Essentially, this emanates from the huge disparity between the rich and the poor. This disparity is described by the poor households having access to education of low quality resulting in high dropout cases. These challenges continue to manifest despite the medium-term policies that aim at addressing the disparities. Some of the policy focus include increasing the enrollment rates in the learning institutions.

Problem Analysis

As mentioned above, the issue of disparities in quality education has manifested despite the implementation of free education program in 2009. Notably, this has only managed to increase the enrollment rates in the learning institutions particularly at the lower levels making Thailand among the countries with high enrollment levels in ASEAN (OECD, 2013). A closer view of the education system and participation levels reveal that the current major issue with Thailand education emanates from the inequality among the poor and rich households, particularly in the urban and rural sectors (Singsalasang Et al., 2015). As argued by Fry & Bi (2013), there are still major gaps especially in the college and university education accessibility where despite the government’s active policy in supporting poor college and university students with education loans, the enrollment rate still remains low. The main implication is based on the fact that addressing the financial constraints is a short-term goal and is not sufficient in addressing the inequality issue (OECD, 2013). It is apparent that the basic education enrollment levels remain high as a result of the implemented education policies, but it is not sustainable for poor families as reflected in the quality issues. Fry & Bi (2013) notes that the 15-year free education policy is effective but is not sustainable to the poor households as a result of the students from these families having no support to address other financial aspects not covered in the program. This includes the transportation costs for those living away from the school.

The reality is that majority of students attending the primary schools are from the middle, or low-income families thus have no ability to cater for other school costs such as transportation. This, therefore, results in poor performance due to low attendance rates as a result of most families opting to keep their children at home to avoid the transportation costs of approximately 3500 Thai Baht (THB) which is equivalent to 6% of the rural poverty annual line for a family of 3.5 individuals (OECD, 2013). To most of these poor families, this cost is a burden which results in high drop-out rates especially at the secondary school level. The long-term effect is that the poverty cycle will continue due to low literacy level in the rural sector. A close look at the issue, it is more evident in the higher education level quality which is considered the foundation of performance in the labor market. The quality of high education is reportedly a major determinant to one’s cognitive abilities which plays a major role to one’s earnings. This further influences the economic growth of a country. Notably, it is through these skills acquired in the higher education that a country can escape from the middle-income level trap (Singsalasang et al., 2015). Thailand faces a challenge of poor higher education quality thus may stagnate in the middle-income class level as a result of less growth and development.

Research Gap and Proposal

As identified in the above analysis, it is evident that there is a need to do more than implementing the free education policy. It is critical for Thailand to implement approaches that will address the quality factor and the education drop rates. The disparity between the poor and rich households will continue to impact the education sector negatively and by extension the growth of the country (Kijkul, 2013). Thailand’s target of regaining its growth rate may seem achievable, but the combination of few setbacks such as those related to the education and environment may hinder the 20-year National Strategy. According to OECD (2013), the effect of disparity in the education quality matters is reflected in the performance and life achievement differentials. In this regard, more studies need to focus on further reforms that can address these quality disparities.

The proposal, in this case, entails evaluating strategies through which the disparities in teacher and school quality between the rural and urban areas can be addressed. Among the theoretical foundation of the proposal is that reforms should be centered on increasing the budgetary allocation to remote schools while setting up more institutions to address the accessibility issues. In this case, the objective entails evaluating the impact of increasing resources to the remote schools and building more facilities in addressing the education quality disparities. Another foundation framework for this proposal is the quality of teachers where examining them should be done based on the management of the education realm and devising an effective accountability approach. The objective in this regard entails a regular evaluation of training needs among rural teachers to enhance their quality.  Also included in the proposal is evaluating the effect of increasing rewards and incentives for rural areas teachers who have contributed to increased performance among the remote children. In this proposal, the standards of education are the key targets where the difference between the rural and urban children are minimized.

Conclusively, Thailand remains one of the current countries with a positive reputation regarding growth and development records and happiness level where it is ranked 32nd according to 2017 World Happiness Report. With an increase in the annual growth rate and reduction in poverty levels in the last three decades, the country has in the last five years faced a decline in development. Besides environmental sustainability challenges, access to quality social aspects such as education remains a major hindrance to the achievement of the 20-year National Strategy. The disparity between the poor and rich households remains a major challenge to the country’s growth. This is despite the implementation of the 15-year free primary education policy. As reflected in the above case study, more research is imperative for reforms in Thailand education sector where critical factors such as increasing budgetary allocation to remote schools, increasing the number of institutions, and offering incentives and rewards to teachers should form the foundation of future proposals.




Fry, G. W., & Bi, H. (2013). The evolution of educational reform in Thailand: The Thai educational paradox. Journal of Educational Administration51(3), 290-319.

Kijkul, G. (2013). Political instability and Thailand’s economic growth.

OECD (2013). Structural Policy Country Notes; Thailand. Structural Policy Challenges for Southeast Asian Countries. Retrieved from https://www.oecd.org/dev/asia-pacific/Thailand.pdf

Sachs, J., Layard, R., & Helliwell, J. (2017). World Happiness Report 2017

Singsalasang, A., Laohasiriwong, W., Puttanapong, N., & Boonyaleephan, S. (2015). INCOME, EDUCATION, GEOGRAPHIC DISPARITIES AND HYPERTENSION IN THAILAND: RESULTS FROM THE NATIONAL SOCIOECONOMIC SURVEY. In PROCEEDINGS International Seminar and Workshop on Public Health Action” Building Healthy Community”.

World Bank (2015). The World Bank in Thailand. Retrieved from http://www.worldbank.org/en/country/thailand/overview



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