Thousands of migrant Burmese families living in western Thailand do not send their children to Thai public schools due to fear of discrimination, deportation, language barriers, and fees associated with uniforms and transportation. The Burmese Migrant Workers' Education Committee (BMWEC) arose out of a need for a separate education system that caters to these concerns and prepares children for a future in Myanmar, Thailand, or a third country. In the areas where Burmese migrant learning centers are easily accessible, an estimated 40-60% of primary school-aged children are currently enrolled, while as little as 10 to 20% of children are in school in areas without centers.
BMWEC is a community-based organization that serves as an administrative umbrella for 25 learning centers concentrated along the Thailand-Burma border in and around Mae Sot, Thailand and in Karen State, Myanmar (Burma). These learning centers receive financial and logistical support through BMWEC and provide access to education for nearly 4,000 children and young people. BMWEC Learning Centres are not classified as official schools by the Thai Ministry of Education and therefore not eligible for government funding. In 2012, BMWEC negotiated and received official recognition from the Myanmar government. This recognition permits students who return to Myanmar to enter public schools according to the grade level they achieved while attending BMWEC-approved learning centers. They can also register for and take the national matriculation exam that serves as a gateway to higher education and many employment opportunities.
The BMWEC Executive Committee works at a strategic level while also focusing on day-to-day activities. It is responsible for helping learning centers set and maintain high standards of achievement, providing curriculum guidance and support, coordinating funding, providing professional development, and collaborating with government and other external bodies.
Currently, BMWEC operates 25 full member centers, including:
- 16 early childhood and primary learning centers
- 1 secondary center
- 2 vocational training centers
- 3 night schools
- 2 schools for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Burma
- 1 stand-alone boarding house
The organization also provides administrative and professional support to a network of 13 associate member IDP schools in Karen State.
While BMWEC Learning Centers vary in size, the ages they work with, and specific courses taught, special attention is paid to language instruction in Burmese, Karen, Thai, and English. Most learning centers currently implement the Burmese curriculum. BMWEC vocational schools arrange for internships, apprenticeships, and have an arrangement with local vocational colleges in Thailand to recognize and accept BMWEC certificates.
BMWEC recruits and trains paid teachers from the local migrant population. Unique training opportunities are available in early childhood education and development (ECED) and reading, writing, and critical thinking (RWCT).
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CEI approaches in actionDeliveryChains or Networks of schools/centersPolicy & AnalysisStudent supportSchool supportEnglish languageLocal language/Mother tongue languageCulture/indigenous knowledgeVocational/technical skillsArt & MusicSports
Model details2000Not-for-profitComprehensive curriculumEnglish languageLocal language/Mother tongue languageCulture/indigenous knowledgeVocational/technical skillsArt & MusicSportsActiveLong-term projectFree service or product3,807
BeneficiariesDisplaced individualsOut-of-school childrenOrphans and vulnerable childrenOtherBurmese migrant communities (legal and illegal)
BMWEC also recognizes a number of associate member centers that do not receive financial support due to limited funding. These include 3 additional migrant learning centers in Thailand and 13 IDP schools in Burma.May, 2013
Since 2000, BMWEC has grown to serve as an umbrella organization for 25 learning centers and thousands of Burmese migrant children.
Currently, due to insufficient funding, BMWEC is working to support existing infrastructure rather than expand. Additional funding would make it possible to provide better transportation and bring more hard to reach and out-of-school children into established learning centers. It would also allow BMWEC to support more learning centers, particularly in areas where communities have limited access to education.
Monitoring & EvaluationYes
All learning centers formally track students' academic progress through regular testing and exams. BMWEC tracks student and teacher attendance with classroom observations. Additionally, each individual learning center provides data for BMWEC to monitor attendance, enrollment, and retention rates. BMWEC Learning Centers are frequently visited by donors and Ministry of Education representatives from both Myanmar and Thailand to evaluate quality and ensure transparency. The finance system was developed and is tracked by an external team based in Dubai and LA.Internal assessment performanceTeacher attendanceStudent attendanceStudent retentionIncreased enrollmentNo