Nam is a regular contributor to the JRNEY blog, and I admire him a great deal. In fact, I hope to be able to visit him in Vietnam in the very near future. In this blog, he discusses an important topic, within in context of Vietnam, that increasingly affects every educator around the world: migration. When homes are no longer safe or opportunities arise or diminish, people move. People have always moved, and they will always continue to do so. How education responds depends on you.
Educational Path for Immigrant Children
By Nam Ngo Thanh
I was born in a rural area of Vietnam. I spent five years of my childhood in that peaceful countryside. However, when I was 8 years old, my parents decided to emigrate to the city. Since then, I have encountered many difficulties in this new environment. One of the difficulties that occurred was in my school. Because of my own experiences as a child, I became interested in educating immigrant and migrant children. I believe that every child deserves a good education. For the education of a well-to-do country, we need to pay attention to all classes of people in that country. Migration affects many factors of a city or country. One of them is education.
Causes of Migration
In any country, migration is always happening. In Vietnam there are two main types: migration within the country, which can be families moving from countryside to city and migrating from one country to another. There are many reasons for migration such as adults seeking a job or finding a better job. For some households, migration is to achieve higher levels of education and a better education environment. Sometimes it is even forced upon families. Regardless of the cause and the often hope-filled reasons for leaving, there can be some unanticipated consequences especially for children.
Migrant and immigrant families in Hi Chi Minh City, Vietnam face many challenges when it comes to access to education. Parents have to work long hours for little money, making childcare and play secondary. Many children of these families do not participate in local activities because their parents do not have information or spend most of their time working so they do not have time to pick up their children from these activities.
In addition, most of the children of immigrant workers are dominated by family-run business. Therefore, children have difficulties in learning and playing. Some parents think that earning money takes priority over learning, so they often let their children trade and make a living. This can create learning disruptions and negative effects on their children.
Public schools are also cautious about accepting migrant and immigrant children in their educational setting. High fees at private schools are also a major obstacle for these families, although they are welcome in these places. Education policies are primarily targeted at children in the local area, with little consideration to immigrant children.
Sometimes, in some cases, obstacles encountered by migrant and immigrant children come from the teachers who receive them. These teachers are uncomfortable teaching a student with many learning limits. They think these students will make their work harder.
Cultural differences are also a challenge that children often encounter. In some cases, although they have access to a new learning environment, differences in lifestyles, religions, the gap between the rich and the poor, and communication skills make it difficult for them to integrate. Others are easily bullied without the proper attention of the teacher and the school. When migrating to another country, language barriers are the biggest problem they face. We can easily visualize the obstacles they face when they have to study in an environment where they are not able to communicate in a common language.
Children are always innocent of their family’s migration. Therefore, localities, schools and teachers need to be empathetic when it comes to accepting and giving them opportunities to learn in a new environment. We need to realize that learning is the right thing for every child to enjoy. There is no reason for them to be pushed out of a school. Local authorities should also have a mandatory requirement for parents of immigrant children to bring their children to school. Teachers also need to change their minds when faced with a new student in their classroom. They need to understand that these children need them. Teachers should also be provided with the training and knowledge of the learning limits of immigrant children and how to help them be successful in their new educational environment.
We do not know for sure whether a child will have to move in the future, however, every school and teacher needs to be ready to adapt if that happens. All children in the 21st century need to learn as well as orient themselves to cross cultural boundaries, regardless of ethnic boundaries, race, age, geography, or other boundaries. The skills of self-protection when at risk of harm and sharing their thoughts and difficulties encountered should also be the school’s interest in the process of educating the children. Children also need to be taught sympathy and love of human kind so that they are ready to welcome new friends to their class and community.
Addressing the issue of education for immigrant children has never been simple for us. However, if it comes from love for children, I’m sure we will find a solution to this problem. Every child has the need to be educated so that he or she can act as an independent economic actor in the future and ensure his or her life.
Nam Ngo Thanh is now a manager of technology academy department in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. He has authored multiple articles, and he has been nationally and internationally recognized for the implementation of creativity and the integration of technology into his teaching. He is the founder of many global projects including Five Safe Fingers, Kindness Everyday, Stem, and SGDs in action Follow him on Twitter @mrnamvas.
The language of migration can be complicated. Here’s an article from the IRC that explains more.