Why Study GED in Thailand?

Education Phuket PALS

In 2011 Phuket PALS founders Dr. Suttada Ruenagsuttapha and I recognized the opportunities that the US High School Equivalency Diploma (GED) could provide for students in Thailand. 

Since then our courses have helped hundreds of Thai students here in Phuket succeed and earn the qualification.

We believe the qualification is vital for young people in Thailand today.

This article explains the factors that initially drove us to become Phuket’s GED pioneers and why we feel it is important for many students. 

Last week I was working in my office when a parent knocked on my door. 

She told me a story that I’ve heard many times.

‘My son has been at school X for many years,’ she said. ‘He will take his X examination in two years time. However, the school has hiked their tuition fees again and now I don’t have the funds to pay. Can you suggest an alternative?”

Another common story I hear goes like this:

‘My daughter is training to be a professional (insert any sport) and needs more time to train before and after school. But she is also forced to take part in after school activities. She is too tired to train. She wants to follow her dream but needs more flexibility.’

I also hear stories like this:

‘My son has been homeschooled since (insert year) and I want him to study overseas. Traditional schooling with its uniforms etc. are not what he or I wants. Can you suggest an alternative?’

The common factor shared beteen these stories is that an increasing number of parents in Thailand recognize the need for an an affordable, internationally-recognized qualification taught by quality teachers in a relaxed and flexible environment.

The GED has become the key to opening this door for many.

What is GED and why should you care?

In 1942 the American Council on Education (ACE) developed a series of tests for the United States Armed Forces Institute aimed at measuring high school level academic skills. This was to give soldiers the opportunity to gain a high school equivalency diploma and enter higher education or the workforce once they completed their service.

Since then, the GED test has experienced a number of revisions, the latest and most significant being in 2014 when Pearson VUE began delivering a new, re-vamped test at its computer test centers around the globe.

The 2014 module of the GED test, which is aligned with the Common Core Initiative in the USA for Mathematics and English, raised the educational bar for the credential. 

About 86,500 people passed the new test in 2014, compared with 540,535 in 2013. (Statistics from GED Testing Service)

Thus, many have claimed that the new test is too difficult, but at Phuket PALS we don’t think so. We see the new test as a solid intellectual challenge for hardworking students.

Over 95% of colleges in the USA accept the diploma as part of their entrance requirements. More importantly for international GED students is the increasing recognition of the diploma globally.

Phuket PALS now has partners in Switzerland, the UK, Singapore, Germany, Taiwan to name a few who welcome our GED graduates onto their higher education programs and pathways. Hence, institutions are waking up to the fact that a student capable of earning their GED is more than ready to tackle third level education.

Blinded By Tradition

For too long traditional educational programs have blinded people to the range of options available.

I speak from first hand experience here.

As a student, I jumped from one educational stepping stone to the next without thought of an alternative and perhaps better pathway to higher education. I didn’t even know other options existed and neither did my friends.

Alternative educational pathways were not part of our discourse.

We followed the same schooling path as our parents, numbing us to other possibilities. For example, in the UK many students drift from GCSE to A Level when taking BTECs, a more vocational option, might be better for their future employment prospects.

What can we learn from this?

It’s important to keep an open mind when it comes to education. Remember there are a host of alternative educational options available, not just the ones our parents took. 

I urge all parents to think critically about what their child is doing and research the other available options.

GED as an alternative option for a high school diploma

The GED diploma has four different content areas – language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies – that  “measure a foundational core of knowledge and skills that are essential for career and college readiness.” (Source: GED Testing Service)

GED Testing Service call the new credential “A road map for life’s success” as it prepares students with the higher order thinking skills needs to cope in the workplace as well as in higher education. This focus on the growth of higher order thinking skills as opposed to rote memorization is something GED Testing Service, the creators of the test, are proud of.

Phuket PALS has been promoting GED for many years now. With so little initial awareness of the credential in Phuket, Thailand, this was a bold step.

Earning a GED diploma means students have a credential that is recognized as an M6 equivalent by the Thai Ministry of Education and a grade 12 equivalent by the US and Canadian governments.

Armed with a GED credential a Thai student has the option of studying in an international program in one of Thailand’s big name universities such as Chulalongkorn University, Mathidol University and Thamasat University to name a few.

Also, institutions in many nations around the globe accept GED for entrance onto their higher education courses. Phuket PALS sends its GED graduates to the following countries: Switzerland, Singapore, the UK, USA, Taiwan and Thailand.

So, studying for a GED diploma open doors for both domestic and overseas study.

So, why did we choose to promote GED here in Thailand with so many competing high school diploma qualifications already in the market?

Thailand needs a educational middle way – GED provides it

At the time of writing, Phuket PALS sits proudly as Southern Thailand’s only Authorized GED Testing Center and partner of GED Testing Service (USA).

Getting to this point was the culmination or hard work, determination and belief in the need for an alternative educational option for the youth of Phuket.

Step inside a time machine and travel back 10 years ago in Phuket and the educational landscape looked very different.

In 2009 Phuket’s residents had fewer programs to choose from, especially ones taught in English.

Education was polarized.

On the one hand, international schools catered for the elite while on the other hand Thai government schools catered for the other 99 plus percent.

Although both these options work, many students have the need for an alternative educational option. The reasons for this range from the social to the financial and beyond.

The English Program (EP Program) and the International Program (IP Program) set up around a decade ago were an attempt to find a middle way between international and Thai government schools.

These programs, taught primarily in English using the Thai curriculum, offer a halfway house between the Thai educational system and something more exotic. 

I’ve heard a range of stories about these program over my 10 plus years in Thailand, ranging from the ghastly to the average to the good. 

How much a kid ‘gets’ from school is subjective and difficult to measure, and as education managers will tell you, managing parent/student expectations is a perilous task.

Over the years, I’ve seen many students excel academically from English/International programs here in Thailand, and I’ve seen the opposite, too. Critics argue it’s regressive delivering programs in English when many students struggle with basic language skills. Defenders say 100% immersion in the English language is what the students need to push them on.

Whatever your opinion, the jury is out.

Thus, English/International programs were the Thailand’s first attempt (that I’m aware of) at forging a middle way between the glittering lights of international schools and the more commonplace world of the government high school.

GED is a viable alternative to the aforementioned. 

Here at Phuket PALS our GED Program focuses on the four core subject areas needed to pass the credential: Mathematics, Science, Reasoning Through Language Arts (RLA – English) and Social Studies. 

Focusing on these core areas allows teachers to go into depth and focus on improving critical thinking skills.

Our program also uses English as the medium of communication but we do this in small groups, allowing more discussion, debate and presentations. 

Our syllabus for Mathematics and English focus on the standards laid out in the Common Core Initiative and pushes learners to become active critical thinkers and problem solvers.

So, why are so many parents and students looking for an alternative to the English/International Program and the international school system?

The answer to this lies in the quality and cost of the GED credential. When students finish M5 and M6 in the Thai system, they have just spent two full years studying to get their high school diploma. The same is true for students in international school who sit through two years of A Level or IB.

As anyone with kids knows, two years of tuition fees, pocket money etc. adds up to considerable sum. This is one of the reasons we set up our GED Program here at Phuket PALS. Students who work hard enough are able to take their GED (US High School Equivalency Diploma) from the age of 16 and above, meaning learners can cut out a costly year or so while still gaining a quality US credential.

Presently. the Thai MInistry of Education recognizes GED as an M6 equivalent. Similarly, in North America GED is a grade 12 equivalent. Thus, GED is less of a financial burden, providing Thai citizens with the opportunity to gain a quality academic credential and keep costs down.

Another reason GED is becoming increasingly important in Thailand is that many students now want an alternative option to traditional schooling with its uniforms and regimentation. 

Here at Phuket PALS we strive to create a less formal educational environment, one in which learners feel free to express themselves openly without judgement.

A laid back atmosphere does not mean our students lack discipline, far from it. What it means is learners build a more personal relationship with their teacher, one of mutual respect, where the teacher’s door is always open for consultation.

Of course, this is not to say more traditional schools can’t create this type of environment, for many of them do, it is just less likely with large classes and strict hierarchical structures in place.

GED’s future is bright in Thailand

Here at Phuket PALS we firmly believe GED has only just started its journey in Thailand. With more parents and students experiencing its positive impact word is spreading fast. 

Phuket PALS, as Southern Thailand’s only partner of GED Testing Service and Pearson VUE, will keep tirelessly raising awareness both here in Phuket and further afield. We are proud to offer the youth of Thailand a path through the complex maze of educational options and provide them with a credential that not only gives them access to great universities but also saves them time and money.

GED is here to stay in Thailand because the young people deserve an alternative.

Phuket PALS partners with the following institutions at the time of writing:

  • GED Testing Service (USA)
  • Pearson VUE
  • British Council IELTS registration 

 Mr. Michael R. Keag

Director and Co-Founder

Phuket PALS

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