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The economics of international schools in Thailand

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A report by The Fry Group examined international school fees across Asia –Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Indonesia – as well as the UK. It found that Thai international school fees are among the lowest – 21.7% cheaper than Singapore. 

Singapore gdp per capita $57,000
Thailand gdp per capita $6,500 
 

I can appreciate that land prices in Bangkok are quite expensive, but private school fees do seem quite expensive by any measure in Thailand.  

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In fairness, a few factors make this more reasonable:

  • While Thailand's GDP per capita remains low in comparison to Singapore and other more developed economies, the share of wealth held by the top 20% has been decreasing since the early 1990s, while those of the second 20% and third 20% have been increasing, meaning there is a robustly growing middle class. (I suspect that if we were able to isolate the top 1%, however, their share of the wealth would also be growing.) Although many of the larger international schools would still be out of their reach, a significant number of affordable schools are affordable for a middle class Thai family.
  • This is particularly true of Bangkok, as the greater metro area accounts for nearly half of Thailand's GDP. The average household income in the city is thus significantly higher than it is in other locations, and the greatest concentration of international schools is naturally there.
  • Demand for places at international schools has stayed high despite the market being saturated. Over 100 international kindergartens and schools are now in operation in Bangkok, yet only one (St. John's) has closed due to enrollment issues (as well as other factors). Even more are set to open in 2020--most of which will be on the higher end in respect to fees. Combined with the projections of continued growth in GDP per capita, it's unlikely this will change.

 

That being said, I do agree that there is a significantly higher disparity between overall GDP per capita and international school fees here than in other countries.

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From what I have heard, a lot of Chinese coming to Thailand for the international education. The ones I have spoke to said cheaper than China, but not sure where in China they came from.

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Teacher and staff salaries represent roughly between 70% to 80% of the overhead of international schools.

 

In Thailand, local staff salaries are competitive against Singapore or Tokyo but the foreign teachers are recruited from the same pool.

 

Many schools have nil or fixed low profit margins. Those that do not, can only charge what the market can pay and the ability for demand to move to lower cost alternatives is quite high. This makes fees competitive and similar between like for like comparable schools.

 

Thus, fees in any location and  across the region generally are reasonably similar. Fees charged are not at all based upon or directly related to macro economic measures such as GDP etc.

 

 

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On 11/20/2019 at 7:52 AM, cmsally said:

From what I have heard, a lot of Chinese coming to Thailand for the international education. The ones I have spoke to said cheaper than China, but not sure where in China they came from.

Guanzhou

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On 11/20/2019 at 7:52 AM, cmsally said:

From what I have heard, a lot of Chinese coming to Thailand for the international education. The ones I have spoke to said cheaper than China, but not sure where in China they came from.

Also coming from Korea. 

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And the Thai international schools trying to make a buck off of the Chinese students trying to save money on "International Education". At Assumption College(A private Catholic school) in Bangkok 2018, it was announced to us; the foreign staff that a large number of Chinese students were to become a part of our "English Program" later in the year. I left before they came, however there is no doubt in my mind that the administration at Assumption advertised for students in China to make more money. I had a problem with this because we as a staff, and a program were barely able to deliver quality education to the Thai kids we had in our department. It really felt like an impending screw up.

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Khun millionaire, we are 20% less than Singapore, London, or New York

 

Ok ok, but your best Unis are somewhere in 300-400+ category

 

Khun Somchai - mai mai, different, Thai different!

 

Ok ok, where are the jobs offering salaries similar to Singapore, London, or New York to support the prices?

 

Khun Somchai - *blank face* .... mai meee, you bring money from home!

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The massive influx of Chinese families is certainly a major factor for the increased demand.  In CM, the percentage of Chinese students in International Schools was around 3% just a few years ago. Now it's over 35%, and over 50% for Elementary grades (most new admissions are at younger ages).  Schools increase supply by building more classrooms and moving to larger campuses (e.g. Lanna), and in parallel increase the tuition fees each and every year.

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5 hours ago, richard_smith237 said:

Of course, if someone is unable to see the value in an excellent education then unless they have been lucky they are unlikely to be in a position to afford it for their children and will claim such things 'a bloody rip-off'...

Except that high fees and the word "international" doesn't make it excellent.

 

Thailand has one of the worst education system in the world - as confirmed over and over. Even IF the school is excellent just having the education from Thailand puts stigma on the CV.

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10 hours ago, asiamaster said:

Still a bloody rip-off

 

No its not. Its good quality,  international education  at a reasonable price. It allows kids to return to their home countries and continue with the relevant curriculum.

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Not sure if I’d call it a “rip off” when I see the prices quoted.  Overpriced for what you get, but considering the next step (for high school) would be (to use the US as an example)...schools such as Andover, Exeter, St. Pauls, Groton, Hotchkiss, Deerfield and Choate, with tuition running $60k+ (not including travel) and some people actually want to raise their kids rather than ship them off to boarding school....what are the better options?  

 

If I had the money (and kids) though, I’d probably prefer to send mine off to the government school, tell them to just daydream their way through classes, and put the money into investments for their future while diligently homeschooling them after hours.  I sure wish my parents had done that for me.  Haha.  If you think the International Schools or even New England prep schools are expensive, you should see how much “alternative” education (secretive corrupt private “reform” schools) costs.

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