The evolution of educational reform in Thailand: The Thai educational paradox

Gerald W Fry, Hui Bi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to analyze critically the evolution of educational reform in Thailand. Three major phases are identified. The special focus of the paper is an assessment of the third reform which began with the passage of the Office of the National Education Commission (ONEC) (2002). Design/methodology/approach: The methodology for the study is mixed methods including document analysis, direct participant observation, and compilation of major statistical performance indicators from diverse sources. Findings: The success of the most recent reform has been clearly mixed. Major structural and legal changes have occurred but overall system performance remains disappointingly low, despite large Thai educational expenditures as a percent of national budget and the presence of much impressive educational leadership talent. The paper identifies what is called the "Thai educational paradox". The essence of the paradox is Thailand's failure to achieve its educational potential. The paper identifies key factors explaining the paradox. Originality/value: The paper has significant theoretical, policy, and practical implications. From a theoretical perspective, the study confirms the persistence of strong regional disparities and a lack of fiscal neutrality associated with a neoliberal model of capitalistic development. From a practical policy perspective, it is imperative for Thailand to improve the overall quality of its educational system and to reduce regional disparities. There have been numerous studies of each of Thailand's three phases of reform, but this paper's original contribution is its presentation of a historical, interdisciplinary, and integrated perspective on the evolution of educational reform and the many obstacles associated with its implementation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)290-319
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Educational Administration
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2013


  • Decentralization of education
  • Education
  • Education and inequality
  • Politics of educational reform
  • Regional disparities
  • Thai educational paradox
  • Thai educational reform
  • Thailand


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