In Chiang Mai, Liu Jing belongs to the group of Chinese parents who arrived early and were fortunate. Her eldest son is no longer averse to studying and became interested in road cycling two years ago. He trains independently, participates in competitions, wins awards, and aspires to become a professional road cyclist, even aiming to participate in the Tour de France. The younger son is not as athletic but performs well academically and has a good social circle, which satisfies Liu Jing. Since arriving early, Liu Jing has built a new career in Thailand, including hosting Chinese business groups and assisting with visits to international schools in Bangkok and Chiang Mai. In recent years, the number of Chinese students studying in places like Chiang Mai, Bangkok, and Phuket has grown rapidly. Although there are no accurate statistics, it is a real phenomenon that Chinese students account for over 50% of some international schools in Chiang Mai. Starting from 2022, the number of Chinese families has increased two to three times compared to the pre-pandemic period, according to interviews with parents and long-term study abroad consultants in Thailand. The rapid growth of Chinese parents and children studying in Thailand has become a significant scene in the Chinese community there. However, even in Thailand, the level of academic pressure and competition varies among different regions and schools, and it is quietly changing with the situation. Whether this niche path is a wrong or hopeful choice depends on each family’s circumstances.
Mr. Tang, who lives in Hangzhou, has sent his children to Chiang Mai for a year. He works in English education and hopes his children will improve their English skills. The direct reason for sending his children abroad was the state of his eldest daughter. Since kindergarten, the pressure on the child has been significant. After entering the first grade, they had to learn pinyin, recognize characters, and do mental arithmetic every day, often working until 9 or 10 PM. Both the parents and the child found it unbearable. The daughter’s situation in the class also made Mr. Tang feel sorry for her. He said, “Her talent is in sports. In the first grade, she participated in sports events and won two championships. However, she still couldn’t receive the same attention as the best-performing, most knowledgeable, and most diligent children in the class.” These factors prompted Mr. Tang to decide to send his children to study in an international school abroad. There are several reasons for choosing Chiang Mai. Firstly, it’s close. Mr. Tang told his daughter, “If you go to Western countries, it would be troublesome for me to travel back and forth while working in China. But Chiang Mai is close to Xishuangbanna, only a 45-minute flight, and it only takes a little over three hours to fly to Hangzhou.”
Secondly, the cost-effectiveness is high, which is the main reason. Thai visas are easy to obtain, and the cost is low. Once the child is accepted by an international school, they can obtain a student visa, and parents can obtain a dependent visa. The price for both visas is only about 400 RMB per year. The tuition fees at Chiang Mai International School are also attractive to middle-class families in China. For kindergarten to elementary school, the annual cost for one child is around 50,000 to 100,000 RMB. The fees increase for middle school to high school, ranging from 80,000 to 150,000 RMB, with prices varying depending on the school’s environment, faculty, and other conditions. When compared, these prices are approximately one-third to half of those in China. The cost of living in Chiang Mai is also not high, with villas available for 1 million RMB and two-story detached villas available for rent at 3,000 to 5,000 RMB. If a mother accompanying her child hires a nanny, the price ranges from 2,000 to 3,000 RMB for housekeeping, cooking, and taking care of the child.