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Education, Migration, and Disadvantage in Southeast Asia (individual papers)

Saturday 21 March 2015, 1630 – 1830, Lecture Theatre 7

Nick Rawlins
University of Oxford

List of Papers:

  • Urban refugees and the borders of refugee protection
  •  Education and life course aspirations in humanitarian settings – a case study with Myanmar refugees in Thailand
  • Still expecting a happy ending? Educational narratives of refugees in Malaysia
  • Solidarity in an oppressive world? The promise of Malaysia-African interactions in Higher Education

Paper 1: Urban refugees and the borders of refugee protection

Kirsten McConnachie
University of Oxford

In recent years, an urbanisation of forced migration has made urban refugees a key policy concern. What consequences does this changing pattern of migration and mobility have for refugee protection? This paper examines that question by tracing the experiences of Chin forced migrants in India and Malaysia. Based on empirical research in three cities the paper outlines the different security challenges faced by urban refugees, the different levels of access they have to international agencies, and the community mechanisms that have been developed to fill the gaps. By comparing the experiences of Chin migrants across three city spaces, the paper  highlights the ‘borders of refugee protection’ in multiple dimensions: regional and national territorial borders; jurisdictional borders between international, national and local mechanisms of refugee protection; and the conceptual borders of defining who or what is a refugee. 

Paper 2: Education and life course aspirations in humanitarian settings – a case study with Myanmar refugees in Thailand

Pia Vogler
University of Oxford

The experience of forced migration clearly affects the educational pathways of displaced girls and boys. While education is often interrupted by displacement, it can be resumed through training and learning programs in refugee camps and settlements. Often, education can be a powerful tool to foster social inclusion of refugees and forced migrants. This paper explores the impact of post-secondary education on life course aspirations in a humanitarian setting of Myanmar refugees´ local integration in northern Thailand. Fieldwork took place with 18 Karen refugees between 19 and 25 years of age. At the moment of research these youth participated to a faith-based programme of local integration in Huay Tong, a Karen village in Mae Win, northern Thailand. My qualitative research methodology uses participant observation and participatory research exercises as principal methods to learn about the role of education in young people’s lives and future aspirations. Preliminary findings of this small-scale study highlight that in this particular setting, education is not only about individual advancement but about refugees´ gradual social inclusion in local, regional and international communities. These communities also shape refugees´ aspirations for higher education, work and family life in Thailand and Myanmar.

Paper 3: Still expecting a happy ending? Educational narratives of refugees in Malaysia

Lucy Bailey
University of Nottingham, Malaysia Campus

This paper is an analysis of the educational narratives of refugees in Malaysia. Whilst the life histories of refugees have been extensively researched, there is a dearth of data focusing specifically on educational histories, despite the evidence that research is pivotal in settling refugee children in a new community.

Reporting on a study of children and young adults attending a learning centre in Kuala Lumpur, and situating their narratives in the context of educational policy towards refugees in Malaysia, this study addresses three questions

  • What are the educational histories of refugees and asylum seekers arriving in Malaysia, and how are these histories continued or discontinued in Malaysia?
  • What facilitators and inhibitors influence refugees’ and asylum seekers’ ability to remain in education as they relocate?
  • What significance do these refugees and asylum seekers place on education?

The paper concludes by considering the ways in which NGOs and other interested parties can support and sustain effective refugee education in this context.

Paper 4: Solidarity in an oppressive world? The promise of Malaysia-African interactions in Higher Education

Sandra Khor Manickam
Nanyang Technological University

This paper investigates how Malaysia’s foreign policy vis-à-vis African counties links to the push for the globalization of Malaysian private higher education (PHE) of which African students as customers plays a big part. From the 1960s, Malaysian politicians have fostered the idea that South-South development initiatives form a strong counter narrative to Western or Northern domination in the political and economic spheres. Leaders of countries involved in South-South initiatives promote this narrative as a better form of development that will lead to less dependence on former colonizing countries’ financial aid. This paper traces the early engagements between Malaysia and African countries and, in particular, Malaysian’s support of an anti-apartheid regime in South Africa and its positioning as a champion of South-South solidarity. From these political and economic angles to South-South engagement, the paper will concentrate on the promotion of Malaysian PHE to foreign students from Africa as part of an economic policy that is in line with South-South cooperation. Yet the solidarity implied in Malaysia educating the citizens of African countries comes up against the realities of inequality among Malaysia’s own citizenry, racism towards African students in Malaysian society and the corruption underpinning South-South partnerships. This paper will look at the contradictions in the promise of South-South development and, despite that, the continued appeal of Malaysia as a PHE destination for African students.