Migrant and Displaced Students Access Recognized Education in Thailand and Myanmar

June 22nd, 2018 | Stories

Migrant and displaced students living along the Thailand-Myanmar border and in Southeast Myanmar are often underserved and live in areas where schools, especially government schools, are not available. To fill these educational gaps, local education partners along the border and within Myanmar support education systems including migrant learning centers, nonformal education centers, and ethnic community schools. Although these systems provide an essential service for students, student achievement within these schools is not formally recognized, resulting in high numbers of out-of-school children and hindering older students from enrolling in tertiary education in Myanmar and finding gainful employment.

Paw Moo lives in Phop Phra, Thailand, near the border with Myanmar. She is the only one of her siblings who attends school, as the others left early to work and earn money for the family. This is not uncommon in Paw Moo’s community, where over 25% of children are out of school. Paw Moo attends a community learning center, established and run by community members. This is the closest educational option to her home and enables her to learn in her mother tongue. Learning centers are the most common option for migrant students, who face difficulties enrolling in Thai schools because they lack understanding of enrollment procedures, language, and transportation, and/or cannot afford school supplies and uniforms.

Although Paw Moo likes learning about the history of her country and culture, she will not receive any accreditation for her learning. Furthermore, due to decreasing funding, her school faces closure in the next academic year. This upsets not only Paw Moo, who wants to become a teacher one day, but also her parents, who want to ensure that she has access to the formal Myanmar education system, should they one day return to Myanmar.

Under the USAID-funded Project for Local Empowerment (PLE), World Education Inc. works with local partners to provide students with a high-quality education and ensure that their academic achievements are formally recognized. With the support of PLE, local organizations such as the Burmese Migrant Workers’ Education Committee (BMWEC) and the Migrant Education Coordination Committee (MECC) have created new opportunities for students to obtain recognition of their education, such as sitting for exams that allow them to enroll in Myanmar government schools at the appropriate level. Other programs that provide pathways to accreditation include the Thai nonformal education program, an equivalency certificate that enables access to Thai schools, and a similar program in Myanmar that provides out-of-school children an accelerated education, condensing five years of primary school into two years. World Education’s work through PLE has enabled over 4,000 students to access certificates or other recognized education opportunities in the past two years.

As a result of USAID’s support, Paw Moo now has options. She can study Thai and work toward enrolling in a Thai school through the bridging nonformal education program, or she can continue to focus on the Myanmar curriculum and take an exam that will allow her to transfer to a school in Myanmar. Paw Moo said, “Even if I have to move to another school, I can change easily because I have an exam certificate now. I am very glad and my teachers are proud of me.”

PLE has built a sustainable system for supporting migrant and displaced children and youth to continue their schooling and pursue livelihoods. BMWEC and MECC will continue the programs started under the project, working together to enroll students in nonformal education programs that provide bridges to accredited learning or to take exams that facilitate transition to Burmese government schools.

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