Equality of Opportunity in Education: A Way to Reduce and Prevent Conflicts in Thai Society

  • Pradit Chinudomsub Faculty of Political Science, Maejo University at Chumphon
Keywords: education, resentment, conflict,, social class, middle class, lower class, equality, opportunity


There are many ways to describe the 2013-2014 political turmoil that led to a series of clashes. It can be described as a conflict between classes; possibly between the middle and lower classes. Many scholars have pointed out the resentment between classes in the political arena, where the middle class seemed to gain an upper hand in influencing national policy until the arrival of Thaksin's regime. However, resentment also appeared in the form of the differences in income, occupation, education, healthcare, and, above all, life chances. It is generally accepted that a person’s class can be identified by various means such as level of income, type of occupation, and level of education. These means are highly related. Higher education is needed for any occupations that provide enough salary to reach middle class status. In practice, education in Thailand is not free and can be enormously costly. This makes it harder, if not impossible, for the lower class to climb up the class ladder and receive the same life chances as the middle class. This creates resentment between classes and often leads to conflict. This article aims to demonstrate that, firstly, Thais do not have an equal opportunity in higher education (or at any level); secondly, the level of education contributes to a person's level of income and ability to live properly; thirdly, the lack of educational opportunity prevents poor people from being in a better position in life, it is perpetual and creates resentment between and within social classes which leads to conflict. Finally, this paper suggests it is possible to reduce resentment and prevent conflict by creating more equal opportunities in education for Thais.


Download data is not yet available.


Albritton, R. B. & Bureekul, T. (2007). Public opinion and political power: sources of support for the coup in Thailand. Crossroads: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, 20-49.

Anderson, B. (1977). Withdrawal symptoms: Social and cultural aspects of the October 6 coup. Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars, 9(3), pp. 13-30.

Funatsu, T. & Kagoya, K. (2003). The middle classes in Thailand: The rise of the urban intellectual elite and their social consciousness. The Developing Economies, 41(2), 243-263.

Giddens, A. (1981). The class structure of the advanced societies. London: Hutchinson.

Hamill, S. P. (2010). A moral perspective on the role of education in sustaining the middle class. Notre Dame JL Ethics & Pub. Pol'y, 24, 309-325.

Haveman, R. & Smeeding, T. (2006). The role of higher education in social mobility. The Future of Children, 16(2), 125-150.

Hughes, H. & Woldekidan, B. (1994). The Emergence of the middle class in ASEAN countries. ASEAN Economic Bulletin, 11(2), 139-149.

Kaufman, P. (2005). Middle-class social reproduction: The activation and negotiation of structural advantages. Sociological Forum, 20(2), 245-270.

Kodelja, Z. (2016). Equality of opportunity and equality of outcome. CEPS Journal, 6(2), 9-24.

Kraus, R., Maxwell, W. E., & Vanneman, R. D. (1979). The interest of bureaucrats: Implications of the Asian experience for recent theories of development. American Journal of Sociology, 85(1), 135-155.

Lefranc, A., Pistolesi, N., & Trannoy, A. (2009). Equality of opportunity and luck: Definitions and testable conditions, with an application to
income in France. Journal of Public Economics, 93(11-12), 1189-1207.

LoGerfo, J. P. (2000). Beyond Bangkok: The Provincial Middle Class in the 1992 Protests In R. T. McVey (Ed.), Money & Power in Provincial
Thailand (pp. 221-270). Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press

Lynch, K. & O'Riordan, C. (1998). Inequality in higher education: A study of class barriers. British Journal of Sociology of education, 19(4), 445-478.

Ockey, J. (2001). On the expressway, and under it: representations of the middle class, the poor, and democracy in Thailand. In Y. Souchou (Ed.), House of Glass: Culture, Modernity, and the State in Southeast Asia (pp. 313-337). Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.

Ockey, J. (2004). Making Democracy: Leadership, Class, Gender, and Political Participation in Thailand. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.

Phongpaichit, P. & Baker, C. (2008). Thailand: Fighting over democracy. Economic and Political Weekly, 43(50), 18-21.

Power, S. (2000). Educational pathways into the middle class (es). British Journal of Sociology of Education, 21(2), 133-145.

The Asia Foundation. (2013). Profile of the Protestors: A Survey of Pro and Antigovernment Demonstrators in Bangkok on November 30, 2013.
Retrieved December 10, 2018 from https://asiafoundation.org/resources/pdfs/FinalSurveyReportDecember20.pdf.

The Office of the Higher Education Commission of Thailand. (2015, March 17). Data of Thailand’s university students. Retrieve December 11, 2018 from https://bit.ly/1RR9c3c

Torche, F. & López-Calva, L. F. (2011). Middle classes, education and mobility. Americas Quarterly, 5(1),39-43.

Ungpakorn, G. J. (2009). Class war for democracy in Thailand. Economic and Political Weekly, 44(12), 21-24.

Vichit-Vadakan, J. N. (1979). Not too high and not too low: a comparative study of Thai and Chinese middle-class life in Bangkok, Thailand (Doctoral
Dissertation). Berkeley: University of California.

Winichakul, T. (2008). Toppling democracy. Journal of Contemporary Asia, 38(1), 11-37.

Watson, K. (1981) The higher education dilemma in developing countries: Thailand's two decades of reform. Higher Education, 10(3), 297-314.
How to Cite
Chinudomsub, P. (2019). Equality of Opportunity in Education: A Way to Reduce and Prevent Conflicts in Thai Society. Social Science Asia, 5(3), 25-37. Retrieved from https://socialscienceasia.nrct.go.th/index.php/SSAsia/article/view/164
Research Article