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Educational Decentralisation in a Developing Country: A Case Study of the School Transfer Policy in the Thai Education System



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Dulyasittikorn, Vimunchalee 


This study explores the school transfer programme in Thailand, which is a form of educational decentralisation delegating decision-making authority from regional branches of the Ministry of Education to local authorities which are called Local Administration Organisations (LAOs). The objective of the school transfer programme is to seek insider stakeholders’ insights into this school transfer policy in order to inform how it can work optimally. A mixed-methods case study was adopted with interviews and survey questionnaires as data collection tools. It was conducted in six provinces located in five different regions of Thailand with 29 interviewees and 986 respondents. The findings suggest that the most effective transfer programme, as perceived by stakeholders, are characterized by five elements which comprise: politics, autonomy, the relationship between schools and local authorities, local authorities’ capacity, and teachers, with politics at the top of these five factors. As an emerging theory based on empirical findings, it proposes that having all five of these conditions in place is a pre-requisite for the school transfer progamme to perform well. Particularly, political dimensions affect the development and the continuity of the school transfer programme as key local players can shape, reshape, resist, or prevent the implementation. Hence, many obstacles are structural which requires a top-down institutional change with the legislation. However, this study suggests that some of these intractable problems might be overcome through a culture of cooperative innovation, practice sharing, or develop professional learning communities which could help move implementation to a new phase of implementation and development. Any education systems that decentralise their educational management by having local government manage and maintain schools could refer to this study.

A second finding from this study is that paradoxically most transferred schools experienced less autonomy after transfer unless the LAO delegated powers to the principal. Further important findings suggest that schools retain an inclusive approach to education despite inter-school competition and the none-adoption of published performance tables in the school transfer system. However, there is still evidence that education quality is suffering in many areas. The study calls for further research into these effects and a potential review of the programme as a whole in order to elucidate the best approach for any next, potentially more collaborative next phase of development.





Dudley, Peter


Educational Decentralisation, Thai education system, School districts, Local authorities and school management, Neoliberalism


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge