Save the Children Thailand has been campaigning for migrant children’s rights to access basic quality education. Although an Education for All policy exists, over 225,000 migrant children are still currently out of school.

What's been committed?

The Royal Thai Government (RTG) adopted “Education for All” in 1990 – this Thai law stipulates that all children, regardless of their nationality or legal status, have the right to 15 years of free basic education. While a strong legal framework for EFA exists within Thailand, research conducted by Save the Children and World Education in 2015 indicates a crisis in access to education for children of migrants living in Thailand.

Last month, Thailand’s Office of the Education Council announced their commitment to develop a data system that allows enrolment of 225,000 unidentified migrant children in schools.

In February 2018, Senior Policy Maker, Secretary General Office of Education, Dr Chaiyapruek Serirak said that the Education Council is conducting data collection on migrant children, which means a linking of data collection systems between ministries will soon take place.

“We need to carry out a survey because a lot of migrants have moved to Thailand and we don’t have clear figures. We need the figures so that all migrant children can receive quality education,” Dr Chaiyapruek said.

He added, “They are all children of the world and need to receive an education in accordance with the convention on children’s rights that says all children in Thailand shall receive the same education rights as a Thai.”

There will be more children like Pyo Pyo* a 13 year old Burmese girl living in Bang Khun Tian, who can now attend school. She had previously attended school in Dawei, Myanmar prior to moving to Thailand when she was seven years old.

Background to Migrant Education in Thailand

Many migrant parents who enter Thailand illegally are afraid to identify themselves or receive contact from the government services. Although Thailand has opened its’ doors to legal migrants, many migrant parents do not have enough money to follow the legal registration requirement, are not able to proove nationality, or their employer does not support the registration of families, as well as not having enough information on their rights and processes.

Although central funding exists for Thai schools to enrol migrant children, many do not systematically apply the Education for All policy.

In our campaign, we identified the lack of data on migrant children as one of the key barriers to their access to education. The lack of data means that the government cannot allocate funding for their free education and that CSOs are unable to reach and provide these children with social services. This poses a challenge to match available services with the needs of the migrant families.

So how does this data get migrant children into schools?

Having data of the migrant children allows:

  1. Government and civil society organisations to locate and understand their needs, and reach out to out-of-school migrant children to increase their access to social services
  2. Schools to understand how many children are living in their area in order to project enrolment targets for each year

What did Save the Children do?

In December 2017, our research paper and policy brief was launched. Key stakeholders attended the report launch and discussion, including representatives from the Office of the Education Council, Office of the Basic Education Commission, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Social Development and Human Security from Bangkok and provinces that have high migrant populations. The research was conducted in association with Thammasat University and the Quality Learning Foundation.  Our research aim was to find sustainable and scalable ways of helping the Royal Thai Government to implement its commitments to realizing the right to universal primary education for all school-age children. This would be done by identifying numbers, profiles and whereabouts of unidentified migrant children and propose data collection methods so that interventions can be targeted.

Save the Children launched the “Every Last Child” Campaign in Thailand on June 1, 2016 on International Children’s Day, where policy makers from the Office of the Basic Education Commission and Office of Non-Formal and Informal Education Commission attended. A discussion at that event raised the lack of data collection system as one of the key barriers to migrant childern accessing schools.

We later participated in the 15 year National Education Plan Consultation Meeting organised by the Office of National Education Council (ONEC) in May 2016 and one of our key recommendations provided to ONEC is to develop a National Data Collection System.  

In 2016 we also joined the National OOSC (Out-of-School Children) Technical Working Group, with QLF (Quality Learning Foundation), UNESCO and UNICEF, and a panel of ministries to look into data collection mechanisms for collecting information on migrant children by education providers in all ministries.

Finally, in February 2018, the Education Council announced that cross-ministry data needs to be done, and they will be compiling data of all migrant children in Thailand, including children of unregistered migrant labours.

The data collection system is a breakthrough for migrant children living in Thailand as they will now be accounted for – how many of them and where they are. This will also help Save the Children help them to get access to education, and for them to receive proper identification.

In addition, the number of unregistered migrant labour will be known and this will give opportunities for the development of programmes to support them to become legal migrants in Thailand.