Bridge to a Brighter Tomorrow

The Patani Malay-Thai Multilingual Education Programme

Students in mother tongue language class
UNICEF Thailand/2016/Preechapanich


Many children are being left behind by the education system in Thailand

Thailand has made considerable progress over the past two decades in increasing access to primary and secondary schooling through high levels of government investment in education. However, inequities in the system are evident, both in terms of access to education for disadvantaged groups of children and in terms of quality education and learning outcomes based on geography, language, and wealth.1 Unless these disparities are well understood and addressed by evidence-informed policies, Thailand will not achieve its ambitious education and development goals.

Disparities in learning outcomes based on language

In Thailand, children who do not speak Thai as their mother tongue face specific difficulties in learning effectively and can be considered as a group in need of special attention and strategies. On average, they are more likely than the general population of children to be excluded from school; they do poorly in national exams and are more likely to drop out of school. New ways to address this language-related disparity must be implemented for Thailand to achieve Sustainable Development Goal #4 - Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

Global evidence supports the mother tongue approach

The evidence from research is clear that children learn best when they have the opportunity to study in their mother tongue in the early grades of primary, and that this strong learning foundation provides children with the skills to master other languages and subject areas. A national language-in-education policy which acknowledges this evidence and which promotes mother tongue-based multilingual education in different parts of the country where ethnic minority children have difficulties learning the Thai language will contribute greatly to enhancing the quality of education and learning outcomes in Thailand.

Bridge to a Brighter Tomorrow English Cover
UNICEF Thailand and Research Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia, Mahidol University
Publication date
English, Thai


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