Contradictory laws regarding schools duty to publish fees

Photo: BrianAJackson

While most international schools in Thailand publish their fees online, some still refuse to.
Thai regulation is contradictory and somewhat vague about schools’ obligations in this.
Losers are families trying to choose a school for their children.

As part of our research TIS Monitor has visited the websites of close to 120 Thai international schools to collect data on fees.
Roughly three quarters presented a complete fee structure on their websites, 15% gave only parts of it, and 10% presented no information at all regarding their fees.
This lack of comparable information on fees makes it more difficult for families to choose a school for their children.
The Private School Act of 2011, which regulates international schools in Thailand gives clear guidelines on this issue – but isn’t much help to parents.
Section 33 of the act, which gives the impression of predating the birth of Internet, clearly states that all fees, including tuition “shall be announced in an open area,” presumably in the form of a paper notice attached to a wall at the school.

Contradicting Laws
Contradicting this the Ministry of Commerce recently passed regulations which make it mandatory for anyone selling or offering goods or services online to display the prices clearly.
While this regulation is seemingly aimed at e-commerce, which enrolling a child in a school wouldn’t normally be seen to be included in, it actually takes a much broader approach.
Staff in the legal section of the ministry’s Department of Internal Trading clarified the issue in a written email exchange with TIS Monitor.
The staff member, who doesn’t want to be identified due to not having the authority to talk to the media, writes that a school will be regarded as an online merchant if the presentation on their website aims at making the reader “decide to attend the school based on the details on the website”.
If this is the case, then the school is required “to show the selling price or service charge” in a manner that is “clear, complete, revealing and can be easily read”.
Many schools’ websites would clearly fall in this category, as they even give the reader the option of applying directly from the webpage.
The fine for not following this regulation is however unlikely to deter any school, as it is capped at a meagre 10,000 baht.

Schools avoid answering questions
Unity Concord International School in Chiang Mai is one of those that doesn’t present its fees openly.
In a reply to an email from TIS Monitor, the school’s Public Relations director writes: “We usually provide our tuition details directly to parents when they enquire about the fees”. Follow up questions from TIS Monitor have been left unanswered.
However, putting the school’s name together with “fee” into a Google search brings up the school’s complete fee structure. As it turns out, the fee structure is actually published online and available for all to see, but there are no links to it from the school’s main webpage.
Anglo Singapore International School is an example of a school which gives only partial information about their fees. “Our tuition fees are very reasonable,” they write for one of their campuses in Bangkok, before presenting the fee range from kindergarten to seniors, not including any extra details, such as other fees associated with enrolling a child.
On its website, it is possible to initiate the application process by filling in and submitting a form.
The school did not reply to an email from TIS Monitor.
Australian International School in Bangkok until recently did not display their fees. In a complete reversal of policy they now publish their full fee structure online.
Repeated requests from TIS Monitor by phone and email to explain this sudden change in publishing policy have been ignored.

Unclear responsibility
At OPEC, the Office of Private Education Commission within the Ministry of Education overseeing international schools in Thailand, a staff member informs TIS Monitor that there have been internal talks aimed at asking schools “for their cooperation in putting fees online for everyone to see.”
While this issue seems to bear the hallmark of belonging in the area of consumer protection, staff at the Consumer Protection Board informs TIS Monitor that this issue is not their responsibility.



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