Indigenous Education in Southeast Asia

After completing the activities in Module 2, and taking into account the fact I am living in Southeast Asia, I am looking at focussing my attention on educational issues of the Indigenous peoples that live here. This area of the world attracts a lot of tourists and foreigners every year coming for sun-filled vacations and mountain getaways. The region has also seem a booming manufacturing sector continue to grow and has been pushing forward various education plans over the past couple of decades to bring their living standards up to Western standards. However, little is known or talked about when it comes to the Native people of the region. As is the case with countries like Canada, the education systems in these countries are also failing to meet the needs of their Native peoples.

The first site is the official site for the “Second Malaysian Indigenous Peoples Conference on Education” that was recently held last month. Although there was government involvement, it was organized by a local Native group, the Dayak Bidayuh National Association, and it demonstrates an awareness of the needs of the Native peoples of Malaysian Borneo. The site gives the outside world some insight as to what kinds of issues are being discussed in terms of Native issues in Malaysian Borneo. Interesting to note that there were some Canadian connections on the speakers list.

Working off of the above website, I decided to look into the Dayak Bidayuh National Association. Their official site listed below. On the site you can find information regarding the founding history of the organization, pictures, as well as news articles regarding the Dayak Bidayuh community. There are some very interesting articles that also detail an initiative that they have taken to start a Multilingual Educational Project. This project looks to incorporate the Native tongue of the Bidayuh people into the school curriculum of local schools (along the lines of the initiative Lorna Williams was part of).

This article tells the heartbreaking story of the seven Temiar Native children that ran away from their boarding school in northern Malaysia. Only two of the children were found alive, and the others had perished due to dehydration and starvation. The story brings to light an education system that parallels that of the Canadian reservation school system. This is a bleak look at how the education policies of some governments are still looking to eradicate the culture of the Native people residing within their borders.

An education in captivity

This article from the Indigenous Voices of Asia website details another shocking loss of life, this time in Thailand. The students, again, were indigenous youths and this article outlines how the government’s education policies in Thailand have worked to oppress the culture and rights of the indigenous people living there. The theme of using education as a tool to separate the indigenous people from their land and their culture comes up once again.

Thailand: The death of 17 Indigenous students reflects the poor government policies on education

This is a link to a video produced by the Inter Mountain Peoples Education and Culture in Thailand (IMPECT) Association. The video outlines a lot of the issues we have been discussing, specifically the loss of language and culture of the indigenous peoples there. It does offer an inspiring community school project that the indigenous Mowakhi people in Thailand worked hard to set up that incorporated a ‘bicultural’ curriculum. However, the mistrust of the government by the community is still apparent and the lack of support given by the government mirrors the situation indigenous people in other countries are facing.

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