Schools in Chiang Mai
For parents in Chiang Mai, deciding on where to send their children to school is a difficult and very important decision. While on the surface there may seem to be limited choices, in reality Chiang Mai has a lot of excellent schools with variety to suit budgets, curriculum preferences and expectations. In this we investigate the various options on a scale from the local Thai schools to the world class International Schools.
First up homeschooling. If you have the time, skills and energy, then homeschooling is definitely an option in Chiang Mai. You can follow whatever curriculums you like, and guarantee that your child will learn the way you want them to!
For most of us that isn't an option so then there are the local schools. Lets face it, quality education isn't cheap in Thailand and not everyone can afford to pay big bucks for it. So, one option is to send the kids to the nearby Thai government school - there are plenty, and they are free - although there are generally some extras for instance to use computers or have a foreign instructor, so budget around 3-4k per semester. The downside is that generally classes are big, teaching style is often still by rote learning. The teacher for English will be a Thai, who will often replicate the simple mistakes. However, I have friends who have taken this route, and then volunteered to assist with English teaching with some satisfaction.
At the other end of the scale are the International Schools and at the top end is the internationally acclaimed "PTIS", or Prem School. Located just to the north of Chiang Mai, with boarding facilities the school has world class standards and facilities including golf academies. The number one choice if money is no object as a year could set you back in the region of a million Baht! It isn't the only international school though - another great school, with boarding facilities, located beautifully in the Sameong valley is the American Pacific International School.
The four international schools located closer to town are Nakorn Payap, CMIS, Lanna and Grace. These have comparable fee structures, in the region of 100k per semester, but each has it's own unique features. Nakorn Payap is on the 2nd ring road to the north of the city, with excellent facilities and a friendly, relaxed atmosphere. CMIS, Chiang Mai International School, is the oldest, located behind Prince Royal's College, under the umbrella of the Church of Christ in Thailand. Lanna is the only international school following the British curriculum, on the Hang Dong road close to the airport. Grace was founded by the missionary community in Chiang Mai and is the de facto choice for children of missionary families.
Increasingly there is another option as many of the Thai private schools are now offering a variety of "English Programs". These are essentially bilingual programs, where core subjects (English, Maths, Science etc.) are taught through English medium, and students will still get to study Thai. Generally each class will have a native English speaker as the teacher, with Thai teaching assistants. As some courses, and support activities, make use of Thais, the cost is much less with a semester costing in the region of 50k. The exact composition of the English program varies though.
Montfort was the first such school to offer an English Program (EP), beginning with a primary school on their town campus, and expanding to secondary education on their main campus. My oldest (adopted) son was in this program for 5 years, and I was very satisfied with how his English ability improved. Prince Royal's College is another very well respected and established Thai private school that has recently opened an English language section. The school is widely regarded as the top school within the Thai community. Another school is Varee which has done a fantastic job of growing as a Thai school, but has focused heavily on international education over recent years, with a new 'International Annex'.
Another option is a pure Bilingual School. This follows a similar structure to the English programs at a Thai private school, but the whole school is set up to be bilingual - i.e. it isn't just a sideline to the main Thai school. Ambassador Bilingual School (ABS) is located on the Super Highway as you approach Chiang Mai from the south and was ultimately my choice for my kids. It was built from the Little Stars nursery and the kids love it! For me, it is a compromise between a full International Education and a Thai education - on the one hand a compromise in terms of budget, but on the other hand a compromise in terms of keeping both parts of the (Lug Krung) kids backgrounds included in their education.
If you are looking for international education, but not through English medium, then you have limited choice! The Christian Deutsch School Chiang Mai offers a German language education, but is the only non-English, non-Thai school.