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Scott Kingsley On Moving to Thailand

by S. Jack Heffernan Ph.D

Since moving to Thailand in 2009, I quickly became aware of the cost of education as an expat. I spent many years, to some extent, shocking people as to just how much it would cost to send their children through school and then university. When Peyton was born, I then experienced firsthand just how much it would cost. 

Like most parents, being able to provide for our children’s education is a non-negotiable. However, often it is the case that parents are prepared to sacrifice their future to give the best possible opportunity to their children. In writing this article, I hope to share some guidance and offer hope that there is a way to plan for the cost of education without impacting your own future financial goals. 

Given my experience both professionally and personally as an expat living in Thailand, I can appreciate the educational challenges many of my clients face. While the international school sector has grown significantly in recent years, finding the right school for your child in a convenient location, all at an affordable cost, is far from easy. Thankfully, with direct and indirect schooling costs continuing to rise, school fee plans provide a degree of security and are now a critical element of expat financial planning.

I wrote a LinkedIn article in 2019, which has served as an interesting reference point, especially when looking at the cost of international schools then and today.

Cost of international school education

Before we take a look at the cost of international schools in Thailand, it is interesting to put everything into context on a global basis. The international school’s database provides a fascinating snapshot of the cost of international schools across 76 different cities in 50 different countries. To give you an idea, this table compares the top ten most expensive international schools in dollar terms in 2022.

PositionCityRange annual fees(lower to upper quartile)Median fees
1New York City$37,303 – $52,907$43,100
2Beijing$30,444 – $37,838$36,243
3Shanghai$24,065 – $41,462$34,126
4San Francisco Bay Area$27,762 – $34,985$31,147
5Zürich$26,348 – $30,113$27,646
6Shenzhen$22,440 – $34,148$27,255
7Guangzhou$17,252 – $30,444$26,385
8Lausanne – Vaud$18,658 – $30,772$24,012
9Geneva$19,912 – $27,563$23,309
10London$12,585 – $27,108$21,758

Source: https://www.international-schools-database.com/articles/the-cost-of-international-education-around-the-world-in-2022

While the above figures take in a range of schools in different cities, focused on the lower and upper quartiles and median fees, the range of minimum and maximum costs are much broader. For example, at the end of 2022, the minimum annual charge for an international school in New York City was $25,220, while the maximum was $62,700. However, the above figures give you an idea of the average annual charges.

International schools in Thailand

It is estimated that up to 4 million foreigners live and work in Thailand, which has created significant demand for international schools with particular emphasis on English-speaking facilities. When looking for international schools, it is crucial to understand the structure and the additional costs.

In my LinkedIn article in 2019, I looked at the average fees of private schools and universities, focusing on three international schools in Thailand. While there are other facilities available, I thought it would be interesting to go back to compare and contrast the fees of 2019 to the fees of today.

NIST International School

2019

Elementary school – 680,000 THB (£17,600) p.a

High school – 900,000 THB (£23,310) p.a.

2023

Elementary school – 779,200 THB (£17,700) p.a

High school – 862,300 THB – 1,021,700 THB (£19,600 – £23,250) p.a

Regents International

2019 

Elementary school – 643,000 THB (£16 654) p.a

High school – 655 000 THB (£16 965) p.a.

2023

Elementary school – 569,700 THB – 682,740 THB (£13,000 – £15,500) p.a

High school – 682,740 THB – 698,940 THB (£15,500 – £15,900) p.a.

Bangkok Patana School

2019

Elementary school – 611 000 THB (£15 877) p.a.

High school – 820 000 THB (£21 238) p.a.

2023

Elementary school – 669,900 THB – 749,900 TNB (£15,250 – £17,000) p.a.

High school – 749,900 THB – 905,300 THB (£17,000 – £20,600) p.a.

As you would expect, over the last four years, there has been a significant increase in many international school fees. There was also an unexpected benefit for those converting from sterling to cover education fees. During the period, the Thai Baht fell by 13.5% against sterling, which has helped to offset rising costs.

Additional charges

In isolation, tuition fees are the most expensive element of any international school, but the cumulative impact of additional charges can be significant. Other charges in the application process are likely to include the following:-

  • Application fee – usually under 10,000  THB
  • Registration fee – variable, potentially over 200,000 THB
  • Enrolment fee – circa 100,000 THB

Once your child has been enrolled, you will almost certainly come across the following charges, which will vary between different schools:-

  • English language development (primary) 
  • English language development (intensive)
  • English language development (secondary)
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Boarding fees (not all students will be boarders)
  • School lunch
  • Learning resources
  • Medical insurance
  • School uniforms
  • Transport

When you consider not only tuition fees but also fees associated with the application process, it is essential to be financially prepared for what can be an expensive journey.

Wealth management

Wealth management incorporates not only investment but also tax management, insurance and protection of existing wealth. There may be various tax considerations which will assist in the long-term funding of your child’s education. As tax regulations change on a relatively regular basis, this is an issue which should be considered as part of your annual financial review.

I work with many clients planning for the long-term funding of their children’s education, taking in an array of different options such as cash savings, investments and even insurance. It is important to consider your options as soon as possible, taking a proactive approach while being aware of the cost of education in international schools in Thailand and the rest of the world. 

We have covered the cost of education above, showing a gradual increase in charges in Thai Baht terms and how this can be impacted by exchange rates. We’ll now take a closer look at the funding of education fees and the options in more detail.

Education fee planning

As with any investment/savings plan, the sooner you start, the greater the potential for long-term capital appreciation. Indeed, many people will begin saving for their child’s education upon birth, ensuring that they can budget for the future with confidence. When it comes to education fee planning, there are several options:-

Cash savings account

Many parents prefer the relative safety of a regular cash savings account to cover their child’s future education fees. While inflation can impact this, effectively reducing spending power, this can be offset to a certain extent by interest. The sooner you start saving for your children’s school fees, the greater the influence of compound interest, i.e. interest on interest in the longer term.

Investment accounts

Historically, stock markets have outperformed all other major asset classes in the longer term, but there can be short-term fluctuations. The opportunity to invest savings for your child’s further education can enhance returns, although it is essential to consider diversification. 

There are many different types of investment funds available such as those tracking indexes, those focused on capital appreciation, income or particular asset classes. Consequently, it is important to discuss the options with your financial adviser so that you choose the correct one for your situation.

Insurance cover

Many people also consider insurance coverage to ensure funding is available for their children’s education, even if they cannot work due to illness or death. This type of insurance can be shaped around your situation, finances and long-term plans. Effectively, a financial safety net means that your children’s education will not be disrupted.

My personal experience with international schools

As a proud father, we all want the best for our children, with education providing crucial foundations for the future.

At the start of this school year, upon receipt of Peyton’s Term 1 Fee Invoice, I thought it would be a good idea to really delve back into the true cost of sending him to school for the next 13 years. For many expats, international school fees may well be covered (at least to a degree), but for others and local parents, the cost, which I calculated to be over £260,000, will feel like a tremendous burden, and this is where I want to help.

The thought of having to save this much in cash to cover the cost is one that I do not want to consider. Therefore, from the moment we found out Zen was pregnant, it was my goal to ensure that I could minimise this burden by using the money I have now and earn in the future to work for us. This is where the value of compounding is very real. If I asked anyone the question, ‘Would you rather pay £260,000 cash for schooling or reduce this in cash terms by having your money work for you’ I know what 99% of people would say. 

If you are fortunate enough to have school fees covered by your employer, then all of the above may not daunt you. However, for almost all the people I have met over the years, very few have the support of their company when it comes to further education and the cost of university. 

Below we will take a look at the cost of university in 4 different countries, as well as the additional living expenses that must be considered when planning for the cost of further education.

International students

The following table gives an idea of the average cost of university education for international students in the US, UK, Australia and Switzerland.

University LocationInternational Student, Tuition Costs
USAverage cost of a Bachelor’s Degree$15,000 (£12,000) to $45,000 (£36,000) per year
High Side Universities$54,768 (£44,000) to $85,536 (£69,000) per year
Average living expenses$25,000 (£20,000) to $28,000 (£22,500) per year
UKAverage cost of a Bachelor’s Degree$12,500 (£10,000) to $32,500 (£26,000) per year
Undergraduate Medical DegreeUp to $84,500 (£68,000) per year
Average living expenses$17.250 (£14,000) to $18,750 (£15,000) per year
AustraliaAverage cost of a Bachelor’s Degree$13,000 (£10,500) to $29,000 (£23,500) per year
Postgraduate Master’s DegreeUp to $32,500 (£26,000) per year
Average living expensesCirca $13,750 (£11,000) per year
SwitzerlandAverage cost of a Bachelor’s Degree$8,600 (£6,900) to $ 45,000 (£36,250) per year
Master’s DegreeUp to $46,250 (£37,250) per year
Average living expenses$16,750 (£13,500) to $22,000 (£17,750) per year

Sources: See note 1 below

It is difficult to identify the average cost of an international student’s university education due to the broad range of topics available and varying costs of living. Is there a ballpark figure? In some popular international universities, you should expect to pay between two and three times that of a home student.

Hypothetically speaking, if Peyton were to finish school at Patana and then go to university in the UK for only 3 years, the total cost could quite easily be close to £400,000,

Summary

All parents aim to give their children the best start in life, with education a crucial factor. Therefore, it is vital to be aware of the cost of international schools in Thailand and other areas of the world, which allows you to plan forward concerning finances. While the tuition fees will bear the bulk of your long-term financial liability, as mentioned above, there are also several other issues to consider.

While school fee plans have been a popular element of wealth management for many years, the rising cost of education is prompting more clients to plan ahead. There are numerous options, whether looking towards cash accounts, investment accounts or insurance cover. Effective management of your finances may also result in helpful tax breaks and tax relief, which can reduce the overall cost of your school fee plans. 

These are all issues I have experienced on a personal level when researching and funding education for Peyton. Therefore, this article is written from your perspective, a mother, father or grandparents looking to give their children the best start in life. Never underestimate the impact of planning ahead, even if you only start with relatively small regular savings. 

If you would like to discuss the options and my own experience in more detail, please contact Scott Kingsley

Scott Kingsley

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