Only a third of the 300,000 to 400,000 children of migrant workers in Thailand appear to be in any form of education, according to research by two international non-government organisations.
Save the Children and World Education say that of children enrolled in primary education, only about 4 per cent make it to secondary level.
While the number of migrant children in school has been increasing thanks to the Thai government's "Education for All" policy, it was not always consistently implemented in different regions and schools.
Other barriers for migrant children were financial constraints, language barriers, and a lack of awareness of their rights, the research said.
"Not only is education a fundamental right for children of migrant workers, it is key to enabling the migrant community in Thailand to offer better skills and to integrate successfully into society," Save the Children in Thailand's country director Allison Zelkowitz said.
"Equally importantly, migrant children are the most common victims of human trafficking, a serious issue for Thailand, and education is a key strategy for their protection," she said.
Children who are not in school are at risk of becoming the victims of traffickers, who subject them to some of the most dangerous work in the construction and sex industries.
Hoping to overcome challenges
As Thailand seeks to overcome serious challenges in human trafficking, where migrant children make up the majority of victims, education is an essential strategy for equipping children with the skills and knowledge to protect themselves. With ASEAN integration, there will be more and more mobility of workers between countries. Literate, skilled and educated migrants are essential not only to a robust and effective Thai economy, but to the greater ASEAN region.
Save the Children has developed a three-point plan to address the crisis and is calling on the Royal Thai government and the international donor community to:
l Gather accurate and current data on the number and location of migrant children so that adequate resources can be allocated for their education;
l Raise awareness and promote Education For All among schools, communities and to migrant parents and children;
l Increase support to and scale up initiatives that prepare and support migrant children to access and succeed in education.
"This report is the result of many months of research into the situation of migrant education. It shows that while Thailand has made progress in providing education for migrant children, there is still a crisis of access to education for this community, as less than half of the children of migrant workers are in school," Save the Children in Thailand's education specialist, Tim Murray, said.
"The report uncovers the different barriers children face and provides detailed recommendations for the Thai government, donors and NGOs. We hope this will lead to significant improvements in education for migrant children in Thailand in the future."