Title: Education and Work Opportunities: A Path to Social and Economic Development of Thai-Karen Communities in the Border Districts of Tak Province
Author: Phalehcher Komonjaroon
Keywords: SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT / EDUCATION / WORK OPPORTUNITIES / THAI-KAREN PEOPLE / TAK PROVINCE
The objective of the research is that, firstly it is going to study the situation of the livelihoods of Thai-Karen communities living in the border districts of Tak province. Secondly it is going to examine their contemporary social and economic development. Thirdly and finally the research is going to explore the interrelationship between education, work opportunity and economic development of Thai-Karen communities in the area. The research hypotheses are that; (1) formal tertiary education of Karen students provides work opportunities in NGOs, and for the provision of tourism business and regional economic cooperation projects in the local districts; (2) their informal education, such as English language and local dialects proficiencies from apprenticeships and occupational trainings, enhances their work opportunities; and (3) social and economic development of Thai-Karen people can be appraised in terms of opportunities of Karen young adult students towards education and works. Qualitative research was employed as methodology of study. From July 2005 to January 2006 the anthropological field study, documentary research, focus group discussions with primary and secondary students, non-participatory observations in the Thai-Karen villagers, and in-depth interviews and formal and informal interviews with NGOs staffs, village administration staffs, foreign missionaries, farmers, Karen students and young adults were conducted as methods of information and data collection.
The research findings are as follows. Firstly, if taken as a whole the livelihoods of Thai-Karen communities in the border districts of Tak province rely on different kinds of agricultural farming, and their economic status is at subsistence level. Secondly there are disparities among different groups. The poorest are farmers who own or not own a piece of farmland for household consumption. A big number of young people have approached to cities and urban areas for low-paid jobs in factories and shops. Farmers with a bigger piece of farmland can earn extra crops and improve their earnings. Very few better-off Thai-Karen families own home-shops or family business based on farming. Thirdly farmland scarcity, a lack of skills, low education and a lack of supports for tertiary education pursuits of Thai-Karen students, remote and scattered communities, and a lack of adequate public services are the main burdens to their development. Lastly but not least the research has found that the attainment of Thai-Karen young adult students for formal tertiary education at government education institutions such as Rajabhat University, Vocational Training College or any other University in Thailand, together with informal education, informal in the sense that students learn it from outside school, such as English language skills and local dialects from apprenticeships and occupational trainings provided by non-governmental organizations (NGOs), has enhanced their work opportunities in NGOs and for the provision of tourism business and regional economic cooperation projects in local area. These kinds of livelihoods have provided better earnings for Karen young adult students, which lead to social and economic development of their communities. Therefore it can be concluded that formal and informal education of Thai-Karen young adult students will be a tool for their work opportunities, and it will be a path to the social and economic development of their communities.
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