The 2019 GEM Report, released at a regional launch event in Bangkok today (Nov 20) co-hosted by the Government of Thailand, celebrates a shift away from exclusionary education policies towards refugees in countries all over the world.
The report notes that in Thailand, despite policy shifts to expand access to migrants regardless of nationality, there is still an urgent need to improve their inclusion in education.
Titled ‘Building bridges, not walls’, the report documents efforts made by the government to improve inclusive education for refugees and migrants, notably through the 1999 Education Act and a 2005 Cabinet resolution, which grant access to education for all people regardless of nationality or status.
Yet, the report also shows that, as in Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico and Nauru, asylum-seeking children and youth in Thailand are detained often with limited or no access to education.
For asylum seekers from Myanmar, Pakistan and Somalia, their detention can be indefinite.
In addition, Karen refugee children often do not attend Thai public schools, often due to language barriers; the schools that they do attend follow the Karen rather than the Thai curriculum.
Manos Antoninis, Director of the report said, “There is no doubt that Thailand is making steps to include refugees and migrants in its education system, but it cannot be called fully inclusive until they are following the national curriculum and helped to overcome language barriers to accessing public schools.”
The report finds monitoring of school decisions is weak, which means that many school leaders still resist admitting undocumented immigrants, citing the cost of providing them with education and their higher rate of dropout.
Thailand has not ratified the International Convention on the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families. Frequent crackdowns on undocumented workers as a result have negative consequences on education. In the Tak province, for example, most immigrant teachers lacked residency documents. Undocumented immigrant parents were less likely to send their children to schools for fear of being arrested, noted a Unesco release announcing the report issued today.
Mr Antoninis continued, “Thailand is signing up to the two new global compacts on refugees and migrants, which shows that it recognizes education as an opportunity. We hope this will be a much-awaited turning point away from discrimination in education”.
Recommendations made in the report were:
1. Protect the right to education of migrants and displaced people
2. Include migrants and displaced people in the national education system
3. Understand and plan for the education needs of migrants and displaced people
4. Represent migration and displacement histories in education accurately to challenge prejudices
5. Prepare teachers of migrants and refugees to address diversity and hardship
6. Harness the potential of migrants and displaced people
7. Support education needs of migrants and displaced people in humanitarian and development aid
To download the report, click here.