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Unlocking the power of citizenship education


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Preansika, 18, had a troubled childhood. Born in a remote village along the Thai-Myanmar border, she only had access to basic education. Her father struggled with substance abuse and her parents got divorced when she was seven years old. Fearing for their safety, Preansika, her mother and younger sister fled to live with her grandfather in another village.
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With no father to support them, Preansika’s mother had to go out to work. Preansika had no choice but to join her. The family needed her income. She was just 11 years old.

Work meant long days in the field, sometimes starting from 5:00 in the morning and lasting until 10:00 at night. This stopped Preansika from getting the education she deserved.

'When I saw other people go to school, I felt sad. Why could I not study like other people? Instead, I had to work hard to provide for my family. I needed education to help change my life'.
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When she was 15 years old, Preansika made the decision to attend adult education classes in the Ban Nai Soi Community Learning Centre. She learnt how to read and write English. She also learnt essential Information and Communication Technology (ICT), life skills, a livelihood subject and local languages such as Burmese and Karenni.

Learning the Thai language was special for Preansika. Growing up in a remote village on the Thai-Myanmar border, Preansika predominantly spoke Burmese and knew no Thai. Now fluent in Thai, she plans to teach her sister the language.

'My biggest challenge was learning how to write, how to read and how to speak the Thai language. Thai grammar is also very difficult for me, but I really love to learn the Thai language. If I do not speak Thai, it will be very difficult for me to get a good job'.
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    As part of Preansika’s adult education classes, she also learnt about agriculture. Now she is able to grow her own vegetables, reducing her family’s expenditure on food.

    With her new computer skills, Preansika can now sell goods such as yama dresses on Facebook Marketplace where she earns extra income for her and her family. She posts these ads in many languages, reaching a wider audience.
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    Preansika’s three-year journey in adult education has positively impacted her family and friends, too. For her friends, most of whom are ethnic minorities who do not speak Thai, Preansika can translate at the market when they buy food or clothes.

    She can also help her mother in the hospital, as her health is failing.  

    'Before, when I could not speak Thai, I needed to hire other people to take my mother to the hospital. Now I can do it myself'.

    She can also help her sister with her homework.

    'Before, when I was young, my parents didn’t have education, so I had no one to help me do my homework, but now my sister has me to help her. I am really proud of myself that I can help my sister do her homework'.

    Finally, Preansika can now go back to her village and teach others who do not know Thai how to speak the language.

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    For Preansika, the future looks bright. She has ambitions to go to university and to support her family with a good job. She wants to be a tourist guide for those who visit Thailand and show them around her village.

    Preansika considers herself one of the lucky ones. Without adult education, she would have continued working out on the fields with her mother and would likely be forced into early marriage.
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    The developments in adult learning and education in the Ban Nai Soi Community Learning Centre and 170,000 others across the region are featured in the Fifth Global Report on Adult Learning and Education (GRALE 5), launched on 15 June 2022 at the Seventh International Conference on Adult Education (CONFINTEA VII) in Marrakech, Morocco. GRALE 5 combines survey data, policy analysis and case studies to provide policy-makers, researchers and practitioners with an up-to-date picture of the status of adult learning and education in UNESCO Member States.
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