The tech boom in Bangkok is a major draw for digital nomads, who are likely to be after the social scene and the mouth-watering food, rather than shopping for international schools. However, for expat execs with offspring, probably here for a longer stint, there’s a satisfyingly wide educational choice.
The full translation of Los Angeles, is City of Angels but these words are only the first phrase of Bangkok’s ceremonial name. This is a memory busting 168 letters long and is not shy, stating that it is “the great city of immortals” and “home of the gods incarnate”, amongst other claims. In reality, this is not a preposterous claim as it provides the foreigners, who flock here, with an urban lifestyle in a city of contrasts, full of gilded Buddhist temples for the spiritual and skyscraper condominiums for the hedonists. On top of that, it is relatively cheap and within reach of stunning beaches and mountains.
A more down to earth soubriquet for Bangkok is the ‘Big Mango’ and big, it certainly is, with predictions that it will be a megacity of over 10 million by 2030. It is also fiendish to navigate by car and where you live is doubly important, if you have to do the school run, as well as get to work. Luckily, there is a pretty efficient over and underground transport system so most expats live where they have easy access to a station.
Sukhimvit and particularly Asoke probably tick the most boxes as Asoke is one of the top business areas, transport links are excellent and there are several top international schools. American School of Bangkok, Bangkok Patana School, Bangkok Prep, Berkeley International School, International Community School (ICS) and Wells International School are all within reasonable reach.
Slightly closer to the centre is Lumpini, complete with the biggest park in Bangkok and the gloriously Edwardian sounding Royal Bangkok Sports Club, conjuring up gentle games of tennis pink gins and punkah wallahs. However it is also home to the New International School of Thailand (don’t be fooled, it actually opened in 1992), one of the small number of international schools with a reasonably sized (roughly 20 per cent) cohort of American and British students.
Bangkok has attracted some of the big names in English education and there are now offshoots of several famous British schools. The first on the scene in 1998 was Harrow International School followed by Shrewsbury International School Bangkok in 2003 and recently, Brighton College International and Wellington College International have come to join them. The latter is only teaching up to the age of 13, but plans a swift expansion upwards. Nord Anglia Education, a particularly successful global education group, has taken over St Andrew’s International School and is also involved with Regent’s International School.
Relative proximity to Australia has led to the establishment of the Australian International School and the globally ubiquitous Agency for French Education Abroad (AEFE) runs the Lycée Francais de Bangkok teaching a French curriculum but incorporating an international division, with additional classes taught in English. There is also a trilingual option (English/Chinese/Thai), Concordian International School but the vast majority of enrolled students are local.
Apart from Bangkok Patana, there are two well-considered survivors from the 1950’s, the International School Bangkok and Ruamrudee International School. KIS International School and St Stephen’s International School (very largely Thai students) round off the probable choices in or around Bangkok but two hours south-east, in Pattaya, another English goliath, Rugby has set up Rugby School Thailand complete with full boarding.
Phuket sits two hours (by plane) south of Bangkok and is home to two international schools, the longer established boarding school, British International School Phuket and the United World College International School (UWC Thailand).
If you are looking for an independent primary school, the accredited ELC International Schools runs five schools in the city, in particular ELC - City.
For more information on these schools, please go to each school’s individual entry on the GSGI database or The GSGI article 'Best schools in Bangkok considered by expats'.
Thai educational system
The first option is the public system which follows the national curriculum, set by the government, up to the end of the first three years of secondary and then divides into two non-mandatory streams – academic and vocational/technical. However, expats are far more likely to choose the alternative route of Thai private schools, which are cheaper than their international counterparts and expose students to local language and culture. These schools offer a bilingual programme in English and Thai but check them out carefully as the quality of the programme can vary significantly.
You could be forgiven for dreaming that you were considering schools in the UK, as there are so many candidates with familiar names, but don’t forget, that although these schools may be following the ethos of their originators, they are operating in a totally different atmosphere and, often, with an entirely different audience.