On 27 and 28 October 2014, the Mekong Migration Network (MMN) in collaboration with the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, Chulalongkorn University, and the Foundation for Migrants from the Mekong Neighbourhood held a Mekong Symposium on Migration titled “Embracing Diversity: Seeking Multicultural Values and Mutual Understanding.” The symposium was attended by over 50 people including representatives from the Thai Ministry of Education, community based organisations, international NGOs, intergovernmental organisations, educational institutions and universities.
The symposium theme was a follow through from the Symposium on Living Together organised by MMN in February 2013, which focused on the issues of integration and social cohesion of migrants in the Mekong region. The Symposium on Embracing Diversity this week focused on the need for understanding multicultural values in order to achieve social cohesion, peace and human security in the region. Participants agreed that it is important to promote multiculturalism and that teaching this value in schools would help cultivate tolerance and celebrate diversity throughout society.
Also discussed at the Symposium were the specific challenges faced by migrants in the Mekong region, including limited educational and work opportunities, exploitation and abuse, and social problems such as discrimination, stigma, and social exclusion.
During the symposium, two educational materials developed by the MMN were launched. The first was an illustrated book for children aged 6-7 years old, entitled “Dragon Lake.” The story follows a community of dragons who have a variety of characteristics and explores the importance of living together with neighbours who have different ways of life. The story is written in Thai, Burmese, Shan, Khmer, Lao, and English. The second educational material launched was a set of lesson plans on the history of migration in the Mekong region for children aged 10-11. Through participating in these interactive lessons, children are expected to learn that migration has always been a natural part of human history and continues to form an integral part of today’s interconnected world.
Representatives of Thailand’s Office of the Basic Education Commission fully participated in the Symposium. In response to the introduction of the above-mentioned educational materials, they stated that they were very inspired by the development of such materials, and that they believed that learning about migration was very important for children in the region. They also stated that the lessons on the history of migration could be integrated very well into the Thai curriculum on social studies.
The Symposium ended with participants proposing several future key actions that they would work on in order to further the aim of promoting social inclusion of migrants and celebrating the benefits of diversity. These included the following:
1. Develop an animated film version of the picture book “Dragon Lake” to enable wider circulation;
2. Develop more illustrated books on migration for children, including for children who stay in their countries of origin;
3. Advocate for the recognition of teachers in migrant learning centres and the provision of teaching and lesson planning materials for them;
4. With the aim of rolling out the lesson plan in all GMS countries, participant organisations will review current relevant initiatives in their home countries and hold consultations.
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PDF versions of the PowerPoints presentations are available below:
Dragon Lake Book Feedback Forms