Forced to flee from Myanmar various ethnic groups have been settled in camps just on the Thai side of the border. Some have been issued with a 10-year resident permit but still await a permanent decision as to their status in Thailand. The military coup d’état in Myanmar on February 1st, 2021, repatriation to Myanmar is not an option that will be possible anytime soon.
This social and political situation is exacerbated by occasional natural disasters affecting the border region, including landslides and flooding. As these camps are typically in regional and remote mountain areas, access to healthcare following these incidents is often limited. Creating educational opportunities that will improve livelihood skills and help refugee students to find work in Thailand and send remittances to struggling families at home.
Learning English is highly valued in Thailand, but in a predominantly teacher-centred and exam-oriented system has relied heavily on writing, rather than listening and speaking. Native English-speaking teachers who can assist with pronunciation and building language speaking skills are rare assets, appreciated for being helpful in motivating students to engage first in the more practical application of English.
How We’re Helping
For many years St Joseph School at Mae Ramat in Thailand has been welcoming children who cannot afford to reside in Thailand while being educated. With a shared fundamental value of providing a preferential option for the poor Palms Australia and St. Joseph’s agreed on a partnership in February 2019. After scoping a placement request from the school in December 2019, Palms recruited, prepared and sent two teachers to St. Josephs in January 2020.
The partnership is evolving with a new request for a qualified and experienced English teacher to both teach Thai students as well as mentor three English teachers. Originally refugees from Myanmar themselves, the three teachers are former dormitory students at St Joseph’s. They have recently returned from scholarship-sponsored studies in Taiwan to teach the Intensive English Course.
Palms has recruited and will prepare Frances Hayes, a teacher from Western Australia, experienced in working with refugees. Working alongside the three teachers she will teach English to Thai students as well as provide additional English language learning opportunities for the many current dormitory students from Myanmar who would otherwise be living in more remote Thai camps.
Is the Project Sustainable?
This project will offer two years of professional development assistance to the teachers at Saint Josephs School. The extended project cycle enables Sr Frances and her colleagues to build self-confidence in students and their English language skills including vocabulary, pronunciation, grammar and comprehension. Students will have greater opportunities to do well in national exams and win scholarships for further study.
This is one of several teacher training projects being implemented by Palms on the Thai-Myanmar border. Opportunities for collaboration and mutual development will strengthen long-term sustainability of education development in each school.