KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's progress in making education more inclusive for children of migrants and refugees is too slow, according to the 2019 Global Education Monitoring (GEM).
According to the report, children of Filipino and Indonesian migrants in Sabah are identified as orang asing (foreigners) on birth certificates and cannot attend public school.
The same goes for the Rohingya children in the country who are denied access to education due to their protracted statelessness.
Report director Manos Antoninis said: “Considerable changes are being made in countries from Chad and Uganda to Lebanon and Turkey to make education more inclusive for children, no matter their identification or residency status.
“It is time for Malaysia to do the same.”
The report, which is prepared by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco), was published in conjunction with International Children’s Day yesterday.
The report – Migration, Displacement and Education: Building Bridges, Not Walls – highlights each country's achievements and shortcomings in ensuring the rights of migrant and refugee children to benefit from quality education.
According to the report, in Malaysia, school leaders who were asked to implement an intercultural programme were hampered by the lack of guidance from the government and had little autonomy for adaptation.
It also said that while curricula could be adapted locally to embrace diversity, not all school heads were aware of the issues or motivated or equipped to lead the development of intercultural understanding in their schools.
“Particular emphasis is made on the chronic education needs of refugee children with disabilities in the country.
“Learning centre teachers in Malaysia observed that some families with limited means kept children with disabilities out of school in favour of sending their siblings,” said the report.
The executive summary of the report e-mailed to Bernama states the right of these children to quality education, which, although increasingly recognised on paper, is being challenged daily in classrooms and schoolyards and even denied outright by a few governments.
The report lists seven recommendations for the education of migrants and displaced people – their rights be protected, to be included in the national education system, to have their education needs understood and planned, their histories represented in education accurately to challenge prejudices, teachers prepared to address diversity and hardship, their potential harnessed and their education supported through humanitarian and development aid. — Bernama