Unlock Every Child’s Potential

Equity study in migrant learning centers in Thailand


This report details an equity study examining child development in Migrant Learning Centers in Thailand in comparison to children studying in nearby Thai ECCD Centers. Early learning, development and home environment status of the children are examined.

Author: Jonathan Seiden, Siripen Ungsitipoonporn, Mayuree Thawornpat, Kate McDermott, Khem Krairit, Rung Nuchsuwan, Kaewta Sangsuk
Organization: Save the Children
Date: February 28, 2018
Country: Thailand

Executive Summary

Save the Children is implementing programming in Migrant Learning Centers in three districts of Thailand: Mae Sot, Phob Phra, and Tha Song Yang. This report conducts an equity study by examining a representative sample of children in Migrant Learning Centers and compares them to children studying in nearby Thai ECCD Centers. We examine the early learning and developmental status and background characteristics of these children and try to understand where gaps exist in an attempt to better target programming.

We used the International Development and Early Learning Assessment (IDELA) to measure 418 children’s developmental status and the IDELA-Home Environment tool to interview 333 caregivers about their family and home characteristics. Overall, we are surprised to find few gaps in IDELA scores between children in MLCs and Thai ECCD centers.

While actual development did not appear to vary much between MLCs and Thai ECCD Centers, we find large and significant gaps in their home characteristics. Children studying in MLCs come from significantly more disadvantaged backgrounds. Children studying in MLCs are less likely to own common home possessions, have access to fewer learning resources, and have fewer positive learning interactions than their peers in Thai ECCD centers. These same children also experience higher levels of harsh discipline (hitting, spanking, and yelling), more time outside the care of an adult, and have less-educated parents. Children from MLCs

We also examined the relationships between background characteristics and IDELA scores. We find many of the expected relationships: more advantaged children perform better on IDELA. The language of instruction clearly plays a role as well. Children who speak Burmese (the language of instruction of MLCs) and Thai (the language of instruction of the Thai ECCD Centers) scored similarly on IDELA. However, children who spoke Karen scored significantly lower.

Girls generally performed slightly better than boys, especially on tasks requiring motor skills. Numeracy skills were correlated with higher levels of caregiver knowledge about positive discipline, and motor skills were correlated with caregiver’s health status. We were surprised that positive caregiver interactions were not predictive of improved IDELA scores.

In general, we find that the relationship between development and background much more complex than simply “migrant children are disadvantaged”. Language, gender, nutrition, health, and caregiver practices all interact in a complex process to affect child outcomes. Programs must not only work within MLCs but strive to influence the home environments that children experience.