Program helps cut red tape to enrol migrant students in school
ALMOST a quarter of a million children will gain access to education under a plan that will go into effect in the coming academic year. The children of migrant workers on the ThaiMyanmar border can enrol in either Myanmar or Thai schools through the Welcoming School Program, the Migrant Education Integration Initiative has confirmed. The initiative works with 17 different groups on improving education for the children of migrants.
Myanmar students can be enrolled in the border area where migrant workers live, or in Myanmar, from Grade 1 up to Grade 9. However, many migrant families are not familiar with the schooling options for their children, or the documents that would be required to enrol. The Welcoming Schools Program has been working with the Ministry of Education and the Migrant Education Integration Initiative to help the migrant families complete the administrative steps necessary for their children to attend formal schooling.
In July, the MEII, the education ministry and BEAM, one of the member groups of the MEII, compiled a 15-chapter set of guidelines on how the project would work out in practice.
“Our program extends only to Grade 9 because the Myanmar matriculation takes place in Grade 10 across the country,” said U Kyaw Kyaw Min Htut, the network coordinator of the Migrant Education Integration Initiative.
While students have been able to take the matriculation exam outside of Myanmar since 2011, very few do so, and even fewer end up passing. Of the 102 Myanmar students living in Thailand who managed to take the matriculation exam this year, only 17 passed.
“We’re now drawing up detailed guidelines, to be completed by the end of this month in time for next academic year. It will be in use in October as a pilot program,” U Kyaw Kyaw Min Htut said.
According to an education foundation report by BEAM, there are nearly 400,000 children under the age of 15 on the Thai-Myanmar border. About 150,000 of them attend Thai schools or undergo informal education in Thailand, and more than 25,000 study in migrant learning centres. The remaining 220,000 do not access any educational program, and may lack the documentation needed for enrolment in Myanmar schools, a barrier the Welcoming School Program helps them overcome.
“There must be an accredited system for students, whether they are learning in the migrant region or in Myanmar,” said U Kyaw San, the head of the Dawn migrant learning centre.
“All migrant families want to eventually return to Myanmar, but it depends on the job opportunities and the families’ economic situation,” he said, adding that education opportunities for migrant children are needed in the meantime.
U Khaing Myal, director general of the Alternative Education Department in the Ministry of Education, said he could not yet confirm that his department would be involved in carrying out the plan.
Myanmar children whose parents work in Thailand attend class at a Catholic centre in Samut Sakhon province in 2014.