Delivering Thailand’s Education For All Law

Moving from policy to practice to ensure access to education for migrant and refugee children.

Location: Thailand

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  In Thailand all children have the right to 15 years of free basic education, although there have been many obstacles to enrolment for refugee and migrant children.    Countries that notionally allow access to the national education system for all children often experience a significant “policy implementation gap”, meaning that policies aren’t enacted at the local level and therefore don’t improve outcomes for refugee children.    © Save The Children/Michael Amendolia

In Thailand all children have the right to 15 years of free basic education, although there have been many obstacles to enrolment for refugee and migrant children.

Countries that notionally allow access to the national education system for all children often experience a significant “policy implementation gap”, meaning that policies aren’t enacted at the local level and therefore don’t improve outcomes for refugee children.

© Save The Children/Michael Amendolia

Over 60%, or more than 200,000 migrant children, in Thailand are not attending school, and those that do attend mostly drop out before secondary level.

This staggering crisis in access to education for migrant and refugee children is a result of a significant “policy implementation gap”. Thai law stipulates that all children, regardless of their nationality or legal status, have the right to 15 years of free basic education, but implementing this strong legal framework has not been successful.

The policy implementation gap can be bridged, however. In December 2017, Save the Children released a research paper and policy brief aimed at finding sustainable and scalable ways to help the Thai government to meet its commitment to inclusive education for migrants and refugees.

We found that a combination of measures is required to support policy implementation, including: ensuring awareness of the right to access education, understanding the extent of the need, providing support to students, teachers, schools and communities to enrol and support learners, and providing financial support to refugee and migrant children’s carers to help them meet the indirect costs of education.

When these measures are combined successfully, significant impact for children can be achieved. In Thailand, the Foundation for Rural Youth with the support of Save the Children implemented a program combining these measures in Bang Khun Tian, home to a large community of migrants who predominately work in factories, and increased enrolments of non-Thai nationals in local schools by 76%.