Removing barriers to migrant children’s education in Thailand

New report showcases successful examples for making education a reality for migrant children

19 December 2019
Migrant Student standing in the field
UNICEF Thailand

BANGKOK, 19 December 2019: A new report launched today at Thailand’s Ministry of Education underscores that while there are challenges to providing education to migrant children, there are successful case studies and good practices in effective provision of education services to migrant children, as documented from various provinces in Thailand.

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The report, commissioned by UNICEF with support from the European Union, and in collaboration with education authorities at national and sub-national levels, highlights case studies from Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Ranong, Samut Sakhon, Tak and Trat provinces. The documented case studies illustrate the varying contexts and complexities of migrant education in Thailand, and sheds light on the ingenuity and commitment of teachers and school directors, government officials, and civil society groups who are making a real difference to children’s access to education. 

“Children on the move is a global phenomenon. They are driven from their homes for several reasons– conflicts, poverty or disasters and are in great risk of becoming victims of trafficking, child labour and sexual violence. Often these children have limited access to education, which is key for protecting them against these threats,” said Dr Giuseppe Busini, Deputy Head of Mission, the European Union (EU), who added that “The protection of migrant children is a top priority for the EU. Regardless of their migration status, all children must be entitled to the same rights as other children, making sure that no child is left behind”. Dr Busini also stressed that “Investment on education is a net gain, not just for migrants but for the host community and countries that receive them”

An estimated 150,000 migrant children are currently enrolled in public schools in Thailand thanks to existing policies that allow all children, including documented and undocumented migrants, to access education, health care and child protection services. Under the 1999 Education for All Policy and 2005 Cabinet Resolution on Education for Unregistered Persons, every child is entitled to 15 years of free education regardless of their legal status or nationality.

“Every child in Thailand, regardless of their background or nationality, are entitled to quality education,” said Amnat Wichayanuwat, Secretary-General of Office of the Basic Education Commission (OBEC), “Providing a quality education for all children is among the priorities of Ministry of Education and all education service providers, and is also in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Having children from a diverse background together will help them learn to be resilient and live together peacefully and harmoniously.”

Despite the favorable policy environment, there are still an estimated 200,000 migrant children who are not in school - often due to practical barriers that stand in the way. Such barriers stem from negative attitudes towards migrant children, a lack of understanding of policies and procedures by service providers, and a lack of capacity among service providers to adequately support migrant children. The frequent movement of families also adds to the challenge, as well as the lack of awareness and knowledge in the migrant community about how to access available services.

‘This new report could not be more timely as we celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the commitment to protect the rights of migrant population, especially women and children, reaffirmed by Thailand at the ASEAN’s 35th Summit in November,’ said Mr. Peter Frobel, UNICEF Thailand’s Acting Representative. ‘We aim through this launch to recognize and celebrate the successful efforts made to provide education to migrant children, while sharing widely the valuable lessons learned from their experiences, so that all schools can be equipped with the knowledge and tools to provide such level of quality education to all children, regardless of their background.’ added Mr. Frobel.

The report highlights that many schools in Thailand are succeeding in providing an inclusive education for all children, Thai and non-Thai alike. The analysis of these case studies found five key ingredients for success: 1) adopting a partnership approach in policy implementation and programming; 2) building strong leadership, motivation and capacity to support migrant children; 3) implementing effective teaching and learning strategies; 4) improving the relevance of education; and 5) engaging migrant parents and the migrant community.

The report offers recommendations to help national and sub-national education authorities, as well as education professionals at the school level across Thailand to adopt new approaches and practices and encourages them to invest in what works to remove the barriers that stand in the way of children enrolling in public schools.

Providing education to migrant children, besides being the right thing to do, will result in tangible economic and social benefits for Thailand through increased productivity and the nurturing of a new generation of literate and skilled human capital. The benefits will also reverberate to other marginalized groups, as the barriers to education faced by migrant children are generally similar to those faced by other disadvantaged children in the country.

Many countries around the world are currently facing the challenges – as well as the opportunities- brought to them through migration. Thus this report offers lessons and experiences that can benefit not only education providers in Thailand, but in the region as a whole and beyond to support efforts to improve services for all children under their care.

The full report is available for download here: http://bit.ly/borderlesseducationen

Media Contacts

Iman Morooka
Chief of Communication
UNICEF Thailand
Tel: 061-414-6488
Nattha Keenapan
Communication Officer
UNICEF Thailand Country Office
Tel: 086-616-7555

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