A large population of refugees and migrants from Myanmar has settled around Mae Sot in western Thailand; in the 1990s refugee teachers established informal schools called Migrant Learning Centres (MLCs). MLCs are not accredited, do not receive government funding, and many teachers lack formal teaching credentials. In 2006, a new government policy extended access to public schools for all children regardless of their legal status. However, a number of impediments have prevented most Myanmar children from attending Thai schools. This paper describes several initiatives to transition Myanmar children into formal education including: programs to transfer students to Thai government schools or, alternatively, to formal education in Myanmar; a three-year Thai government ‘catch-up’ program to introduce students to Thai language and curriculum; and a non-formal primary education program, established by the Myanmar government, that offers Myanmar classes and government exams in MLCs. Both the Thai and Myanmar programs offer accreditation, but neither provides funding support. In addition, community-based organizations are supporting the standardization and quality of instruction in the diverse MLC network in order to bring schools more in line with Thai pedagogical standards. Several challenges remain including: lack of funding and accreditation for MLCs; undocumented families are apprehensive about enrolling students in Thai schools; and economic hardships force children to drop out and work illegally. The authors suggest that in Southeast Asia, where migration and forced displacement have regional implications, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) could create an education framework to support legal status for MLCs, the transfer of academic records and certification of teacher expertise.
The Importance of Access and Accreditation: Learning from the Thailand–Myanmar Border
Mary Purkey and Megan Irving