Differences between Thai and UK Education systems
In this blog post, we will look at the differences between the Thai and UK Education systems and where those differences have come from. Many of our students have commented on how there are differences between the two systems so we hope this helps you prepare for your study in the UK!
Confucius and Socrates
The famous Chinese philosopher Confucius is viewed by many as one of the key influencers of East Asian education. Confucius felt strongly that to learn and master certain areas was the key to success both for the individual and their family. Well over 2000 years ago in China, a system of merit based achievement was introduced to give jobs to those who achieved a certain level through examinations. Achieving such a level would bring wealth and pride to the student’s family.
To be successful on these exams, the focus was more on learning and memorising facts and figures for the exam than it was about analysing and critically thinking about the situation. Confucius believed that passing along this knowledge would help citizens not only learn new things but instill a strong moral structure. This view of education has extended across much of Asia including Thailand where students and their families put an extremely high value on education and achieving a certain qualification.
Around the same time, the European system of education and research developed completely separately from what had developed in China. At that time, the most advanced society in Europe at was Greece. Socrates, one of the most influential Greek philosophers, devised a system where ideas were challenged by his peers so that a more robust argument could be put forward. Discussion and debate was encouraged. This system of debate and discussion spread across Europe and is the most common in ‘the West’ including the UK. In the UK, critical thinking, analysis and research are considered the most important elements when studying a degree.
Two key differences between the two systems that have evolved from these routes for more than two thousand years includes the emphasis put on education by family in many Asian cultures and the focus on debate and discussion rather than memorisation in many European education systems in Europe.
In the classroom
Because of the differences in the systems of education, Thai students are often surprised when they begin their studies in the UK when they notice the differences in the style and approach of education.
Like in Thailand, many of the units that make up a degree will have a series of lectures. These are delivered by a lecturer or professor and will introduce a topic. However, once the lectures are complete the differences become more apparent. Most units will also have tutorials. In these, your lecturer, professor or another academic member of staff will lead a discussion on the topic you’ve covered in the lecture.
You will be expected to participate in this discussion and not simply sit and takes notes. Most difficult for some students is that, sometimes, you will be expected to challenge your classmates and even your professor and present an opinion that disagrees with his or hers. Thinking back to Greece, this is just how Socrates expected his peers and students to debate his teachings.
Sine studied Bachelor Degree at Bangkok University in faculty of humanities. After she graduated here, she had an opportunity to study an MSc International Marketing Management in the UK at the University of Surrey. She found many things different between the Thai and UK education systems. For Thailand, students always listen and take notes of what lecturers say; moreover, they need to remember all of it for examination. Thai students hardly show their ideas because they are so shy to show what they are thinking. They are afraid that his/her idea will not be accepted by others.
She said “for UK, it was quite a new education system style for me but I loved it. I had a chance to show my ideas and did not have to care about what others think about them. Most people listened and accepted my opinions. Lecturers always let student think and analyse what topic students study in seminar classes. It is very useful. Students can learn other experiences and attitudes. For me, I can adapt real situations (case studies) with theories that I learn in the class, and then the result comes out very helpful”.
It is good for Thai students who have the opportunity to study in the UK. They will be able to merge the education systems of both Thailand and the United Kingdom. It is very good for students in daily life (work and further study).
Another big change for some students is how units will be evaluated. A student studying a UK Masters degree will have their performance marked based on continuous evaluation. In other words, in nearly all cases, students will be marked on several different quizzes, essays, tests, exams and major projects. While this may mean more work for some students, it also means that if a student does not as well as they hoped on an assignment, there is a chance to improve their final mark by doing better on the next one.
In the UK, many units will have a final examination but it is rarely worth 100% of that unit’s final grade. Some courses do not have final exams at all and are based on course work. There is much less emphasis on memorisation.
Another difference is that research is a big component of most degrees in the UK. Both undergraduate and postgraduate students in most subjects are expected to complete a dissertation – or major research project – at the end of their degree.
Students who have obtained degrees in both Asian and European universities will have received a more rounded education than those who stayed at home and only studied in the UK or only studied in Thailand. Employers like the flexibility of Thai students who have shown that they have the two different sets of skills required to obtain a Thai university degree and a degree from the UK.
Sources and links:
An interesting look at Socrates and Plato and their development of critical thought
An excellent history of Confucius’s life and his philosophy