In less than a generation, Thailand has moved from a largely agrarian low-income society to an upper middle-income country and a key contributor to the economic development of the Southeast Asian region. At the same time, the country has enacted major education reforms and invested a significant proportion of its national wealth into educating its youngest citizens. Overall participation rates in the school system are now improving, particularly at the pre-primary and primary levels, and a large number of youth continues on to higher and professional education. However, not all sections of society have profited equally from this expansion.

Access and performance are particularly poor among children from disadvantaged backgrounds and those who live in rural areas. Huge disparities still remain and the benefits of the economic progress have not been equally shared by all children in Thailand.  This is particularly true for the children of ethnic minorities, migrants, refugees and the very poor who mainly live in remote or very poor areas, often along Thailand’s borders with Cambodia, Lao PDR, Malaysia and Myanmar. Children belonging to these groups often are not registered at birth and therefore are deprived of many rights such as access to healthcare and education.

Since 2006, the Foundation has partnered with grassroots NGOs and village communities to ensure that children are given access to school by providing them all the necessary support including supplies, uniforms, and transportation to the nearest public school, or by building school infrastructure in the most remote villages in partnership with the local government departments of education. In tens of villages, we have improved school and village infrastructure, building and renovating preschools, primary and secondary schools, dormitories, teacher accommodations, libraries, sanitation facilities, kitchens and canteens, computer rooms, playgrounds, and clean water systems. In most of these villages, the standard of living has improved significantly over the years, both because building schools in these villages has “placed” them on the map and attracted further funding from other NGOs as well as local government aid, and road infrastructure has been subsequently improved allowing families and communities to improve their income generating activities.  In these villages, we have supported thousands of children’s education from preschool to professional school and university, and many beneficiaries have in turn helped support their families and communities of origin once they have found employment.  This has contributed to our ultimate aim of empowering villages by providing free quality education and basic health to a generation of children.

As the villages we were working with have seen a substantial economic growth, and as the Thai government has also increased over the years its assistance to primary and secondary school students, our focus has progressively moved towards improving the school curriculum through teacher training and tailored educational and soft skills programs that are missing from the public school system.  To this end, we partnered with CIAI in 2017 and joined our competences to best serve our students.  Since 2014, we have been imparting computer classes, life skills training, environmental awareness classes, health education, and career counselling programs in schools to hundreds of children every year. We also reach hundreds of primary school children with our Bilingual Program whereby lessons are given both in the hill tribe dialect of origin as well as in Thai, as most of the children in hill tribe populations do not learn Thai until they reach primary school, and hence are at a disadvantage with respect to Thai native speaking children. The Bilingual Program enables them to learn Thai much more quickly and improve their educational outcomes.