Bangkok University undergrad John Chaokasam completed his high school education at Takapuna Grammar School in Auckland - and said they were the best years of his life.

The 21-year-old was just 14 when his father told him he was heading to New Zealand, a country he didn't know anything about.

"My friends were going to America and the UK, and I was going to somewhere people never heard of," Chaokasam said.

"But I think it turned out good, and the time I spent in New Zealand was the best."


The Herald caught up with Chaokasam in his home city of Bangkok last month.

Now living with his girlfriend Autchariya Saejeng, also a Bangkok University student, Chaokasam said his biggest regret was "not studying hard enough".

He had wanted to do his tertiary studies in New Zealand, but did not qualify for admission into university here.

"I will recommend New Zealand to any Thai planning to study overseas."

Education providers here have been told that recent Thai government policy changes and the growing middle class meant there are now greater opportunities to grow the number of Thai students.

Thailand is New Zealand's sixth largest source of international students, with about 3000 students arriving here every year.

Education New Zealand said Thailand was its third largest social community, with 98,186 followers on its Study in New Zealand Facebook page.

"There is huge potential to reach more prospective Thai international students through social media," an ENZ spokeswoman said.

She said Thailand had the lowest English language proficiency in the Asean region, and its government was making English language capability a top priority.

"Our expertise in English language teaching makes New Zealand well placed to support the government in achieving these goal," the spokeswoman said.

"We are hearing from Thai students that New Zealand's teaching style is very appealing owing to its practical and personalised approach to learning."

She said ENZ was focused on raising awareness about New Zealand as an international education destination in Thailand.

Montri Mahaplerkpong, president of Thailand's Pulp and Paper Industries Association, sends his children to New Zealand for English language immersion programmes during their school holidays.

"They get plenty of opportunities to practise their English in New Zealand, and I feel it is also a safe place to send them to," Mahaplerkpong said.

"Cost is also a factor, because it is cheaper than sending them to America or the UK."

New Zealand's export education was valued at $2.85 billion in 2015, with $2.75 billion of the earnings from international students.

The largest proportion of overseas students last year came from Asia, with China (30,200) as the largest source, followed by India (20,200).

Most Thai students come to study for primary, high school and English language courses.

Thailand is the second largest source of students from the Asean region, behind Philippines.

Last year, a New Zealand Education Fair run by ENZ in Bangkok saw 900 student registrations with about 50 education providers.

Students from Thailand had been coming to New Zealand since the 1950s as part of the Southeast Asian "Colombo Plan".

• 3000+ annually
• 6th - largest source of international students
• 2nd - largest Asean source
• 98,186 - follow StudyinNewZealand Facebook page
(Source: Education New Zealand)