By Wannapa Phetdee
International education in Thailand is set to grow 10 per cent yearly and the government expects to have up to 100,000 foreign students enrolled here within five years, up from about 30,000 at present, a senior Commerce Ministry official said.
"The quality of international academic institutions in Thailand is acknowledged worldwide. Much lower costs than many other countries are our strong point," said Rachane Potjanasuntorn, director-general of the Department of Export Promotion (DEP).
"Also, the rich culture, hospitality, good living environment and attractive tourist destinations are crucial factors luring more foreign students to study here," he said.
"However, to achieve growth, prestigious Thai universities should reach out to other countries and offer interesting promotions to foreigners."
The Commission on Higher Education's Bureau of International Cooperation Strategy said there were 70,174 university students attending international and English programmes in 2008, compared to 60,221 in 2007. The number of foreign students also rose to 16,361 in 2008 from 11,021 in 2007.
President of the International Schools Association of Thailand, Usa Somboon, said that in spite of the world economic recession, the number of school students had remained steady over the past few years.
There were about 32,000 students in Thailand's international schools each year. Furthermore, more school students from South Korea and Japan are studying in Thailand.
"International schools in Thailand offer the same standards as ones in Europe and the US. They have been assessed by three international assessment organisations every five years and Thailand's Office for National Education Standards and Quality Assessment," Usa said.
"Lots of former school students here were able to enter many world-class universities. Studying here costs an average of only US$18,000 (S$25,200) per year, while in developed countries it costs US$28,000 a year," she added.
The DEP has been promoting Thailand's international education for more than 10 years. So far, about 420 international and English programme academic institutions in Thailand could provide around 900 programmes to 102,466 students.
The annual Thailand International Education Exhibition kicked off on Friday under the concept "Asia's Hub of International Education". The event is one of the strategies of the DEP to promote international education in Thailand.
Princess Yiwang Pindarica of Bhutan, who is furthering her bachelor's degree at an international university in Thailand, presided over the opening ceremony at Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre.
Rachane said the exhibition this year highlighted specialised fields in Thailand's academic institutions, including the Aviation Institute, which was accredited worldwide, and King Mongkut's University of Technology North Bangkok, which made the world championship rescue-robots.
More than 200 leading Thai international institutes will be available to give visitors information about their curriculum at the fair until today.
Different workshops, like short movies, learning Thai and English with famous experts and singing techniques as well as students' |performances are added attractions.
Visitors will also learn more about international education from interesting talks by well-known people who have been through the experience.