Bridging education systems for migrant children in Thailand and Myanmar

Bridging education systems for migrant children in Thailand and Myanmar

Migrant children are among the most vulnerable members of our communities, whose futures invariably depend on the educational opportunities available in their host countries. Thailand, as a major migrant destination country in South East Asia, stands out for its commitment to all students in the country, beginning with the landmark 2005 Cabinet Resolution stating that free education would be available for all children regardless of nationality. The enormity of the challenge, however, means there is much more work to be done.

Based on the recognition that quality education for migrant children depends on cooperation, the 1st Joint High-Level Education Working Group Meeting on Migrant Children and Education held in Bangkok on 6-8 August 2019 built on previous multilateral efforts. The meeting sought to establish an official Joint High-Level Working Group and initiate dialogue between the Ministries of Education in Myanmar and Thailand on potential collaboration and action plans to support transitions and access to quality, accredited education for migrant children in both Myanmar and Thailand.

“The Thai government will continue to support all children in Thailand including those who are non-Thais to go to school,” said Ms. Duriya Amatavivat, Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education Thailand. “This meeting is an important step for both governments to take collective action to promote access to education and enhance quality of life for all children. This platform will strongly contribute to Thailand’s commitments towards SDG4 and other SDGs.”

“Every child including migrant child deserves an education. Despite some challenges, we have been making positive progress,” said Dr. Aye Myint, Acting Permanent Secretary and Director General of the Department of Technical, Vocational Education and Training in the Ministry of Education Myanmar, who co-chaired the meeting with Ms. Duriya. “We will try our best to accommodate and support returning migrant children to continue their education and collaborate with all stakeholders.”

Reduce language barriers for migrant children and provide assistance to teachers in school, support educational transitions in Myanmar and Thailand, and strengthen data management mechanisms

With representatives from UNESCO Bangkok, UNESCO Yangon, UNICEF Thailand, UNICEF Myanmar, UNICEF EAPRO, IOM Thailand, Save the Children Thailand and Migrant Education Integration Initiative (MEII), the meeting built upon the two consultative meetings, “The 1st  Consultation Meeting between Thailand and Myanmar” in November 2014 and “The 2nd Consultation Meeting on Education for Myanmar and Thailand Children” on 2‐3 December 2015, both of which were held in Bangkok.

“Today, migrant children still constitute the largest group of children out of school in Thailand, with some estimates indicating that half of all migrant children are not receiving any form of education,” said Ms. Dana Graber Ladek, Chief of Mission of IOM Thailand, on behalf of the UN Country Team at the opening session. “Numbering at about 200,000, this figure is of significant concern. On the part of the United Nations, we will continue to provide both countries technical support as and when needed.”

The bilateral meeting between the two governments on 6 August was held to report on the current situation and challenges in accessing education for migrant children, including those who study in Thailand and return to Myanmar. Representatives from the Embassy of Myanmar in Thailand,  the Ministry of Interior and Office of the National Security Council, Thailand, and the European Union also attended the meeting.

To address the needs of education for migrant children, the two governments agreed to cooperate on three key priority areas: (1) reduce language barriers for migrant children and provide assistance to teachers in school, (2) support educational transitions in Myanmar and Thailand, and (3) strengthen data management mechanisms.

On 7 August, the two Governments and other stakeholders met to exchange information and discuss potential collaboration with other stakeholders whose work is related to migrant education. A total of 65 participants including UN agencies, NGOs, community-based organizations and universities participated.

“There is still a big gap in education for out-of-school children and migrant children,” said Mr. Cynan Houghton, Country Director of Save the Children Thailand. “We need to promote access and quality education for migrant children through the support of all partners towards accredited education. There are needs to improve data monitoring system, consider participation of migrant parents in the process and support on migration related policies.”

During the discussion, key issues related to on-the-ground experiences at migrant learning centres (MLCs) in Thailand were raised, such as support for teachers, including recognition of their status and capacity development, regularizing MLCs for sustainability, establishing migrant education coordination centres in Thailand in addition to Tak province, support teaching and learning materials, safe migration, and equivalency and transitions for children returning to Myanmar.

After the meeting, Myanmar government officials also conducted a visit to the Foundation for Rural Youth in Bangkok to meet with Myanmar teachers, children and parents and observe the foundation’s Non-Formal Primary Education programme.

The two governments agreed to organize the Joint High-Level Education Working Group Meeting on Migrant Children and Education on an annual basis. The next meeting will be held in Nay Pyi Taw tentatively in August 2020.

To access presentations and photos from the meeting, please visit this link.