Thailand: Education desperately needed for migrant and stateless children

Thailand has accepted less than 16% of registered migrant children into its education system, according to the Foundation for Rural Youth (FRY). In Bangkok, the situation is particularly critical with less than 4% of migrant children enrolled in registered schools, says FRY, which is working to increase registration of migrant children in Thai schools.

Since 1984, there has been mass migration of people from Burma into Thailand, in order to flee ongoing political and military conflict, chronic poverty and human rights abuses along the border which is home to the world’s longest running civil war.

While there are over 141,076 displaced people from Burma staying in camps along the Thai-Burma border, a further 2 million unregistered migrant workers from the region are estimated to be living in Thailand. Migrant registration can be a very difficult and costly process for workers in Thailand, further complicated by the lack of cooperation from the Burmese government. As registration has very few obvious benefits for the migrants, most opt to remain unregistered. The children of these migrants are in a very vulnerable position with inadequate social services and various legal restrictions imposed on them in Thailand.

In principle, the children of migrants are permitted to attend Thai schools in their communities as the Ministry of Education adopted a Cabinet resolution in July 2005 to ensure education for all children in Thailand, regardless of registration or Thai nationality. However, in practise, only a very small percentage of these children are permitted to register. Recent studies suggest less than 16% of registered migrant children are enrolled in Thai schools; while a similar study including the larger unregistered migrant communities in Bangkok, found that 4% of school aged migrant children were attending Thai public schools.

There are many reasons for this. Local schools often refuse to accept migrant students due to language barriers or a lack of registration documents. Migrant families face challenges in meeting the expenses of a Thai education - uniforms, books and other materials can be costly. Families are often unaware of their child’s entitlement to enrol in Thai schools. Furthermore, many migrant children aged 12-14 are forced to join the labour market to support their families financially, where they are often exploited and treated to substandard working conditions and wages. A lack of education ensures these children will have very limited employment opportunities and face considerable difficulties integrating in Thai society due to poor literacy and local language skills.  

The project: Education for migrant and stateless children

Education for migrant and stateless children aims to provide all children access to a quality and recognised education, as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The project will work with policy makers, education providers and the community to ensure that all children are allowed to register in Thai schools, according to the Thai government’s Cabinet Resolution, which provides for access to the public school system for all stateless and migrant children, regardless of registration status. The project activities will include:

Research in local schools and communities in order to identify the challenges facing migrant enrolment and plan for positive action to counteract these obstacles   

- Collaborate with the Thai Ministry of Education to clarify government policy and create guidelines for registering migrant children in Thai schools

- Organise seminars and information-sharing sessions between local schools to inform of guidelines on migrant enrolment; offer guidance on inclusive teaching practises for integrating migrant pupils; and collaborate to share best practise and methods for dealing with common issues relating to migrant enrolment

- Publish a booklet and hold community events to raise awareness in local communities on the importance of obtaining a recognised education for all children and increase knowledge among migrant families about a child’s rights to register in Thai schools and the process involved

- Organise learning exchanges and study visits for local schools and government officials to visit other provinces where there has been  significant success in registering and integrating migrant students into Thai public schools

- Share project results and lessons learned with NGOs in other provinces so the work can be replicated to increase migrant registration in schools throughout all of Thailand

Foundation for Rural Youth (FRY) – What We Do

FRY is a is a registered Thai NGO  working in migrant education in Bangkok since 1985 to improve access to education for all children and young people, regardless of status or background. FRY work with several national and international organisations as a member of the Migrant Working Group, including Volunteer Services Overseas, International Rescue Committee and World Education. The different areas of education that FRY provide include:

- Unregistered learning centre for migrant children and children of migrants from Burma, awaiting registration in local Thai schools

- Non-formal education centre for migrant factory workers from Eastern Thailand; Laos; Cambodia; and Burma

- Sexual health awareness and life skills education for migrant sex workers in local karaoke bars

- Thai language lessons for migrant workers based in local factories

FRY recently published a report on the Provision of Education for Stateless Children (2010) and organised a seminar to promote mutual understanding on the policy and implementation of education for migrant children among key stakeholders in the Bangkok area. The project is building on this previous work and lessons learned in the area of migrant education.  

Photo: Stateless Child, Phayam Island, Ranong, Thailand, April 2010.

Credit: Tim Morch,

< back 

Date: 08/04/2011





Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License

Press Contact Information

Name: Nicola Hoyne

Telephone: 0845233752

This website has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union.
The contents of this website are the sole responsibility of Minority Rights Group International and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union