Academic journal article Australian Journal of Adult Learning

On the Borders of Pedagogy: Implementing a Critical Pedagogy for Students on the Thai Burma Border

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Adult Learning

On the Borders of Pedagogy: Implementing a Critical Pedagogy for Students on the Thai Burma Border

Article excerpt

This article uses an auto-ethnographic approach to explore the reflections and insights that occurred during my teaching of a subject in adolescent development on the Thai Burma border. This paper adopts a relatively descriptive style to a personal reflection of teaching on the border and how it transformed the way I teach and made me look at the pedagogy that underpins my teaching practice. I found a lack of congruence between the pedagogical theories that are espoused and how I could apply these to a border setting. Therefore, the purpose of this article is to explore some of the ways I began to develop a Thai Burma classroom praxis that drew on the theoretical underpinnings of a humanising critical pedagogy.

Keywords: refugee, Burmese, critical pedagogy, transformation, collaboration

Introduction

The border between Burma and Thailand represents the beginnings, endings, and blending of languages, cultures, communities, and countries. It also reflects the complexity, juxtaposition, and intersection of identities, economies, and social and educational issues. Since 2008 the Australian Catholic University has delivered a diploma in liberal arts for Burmese refugees living in this border region. The circumstances for students in these borderlands create significant and complex challenges within a tertiary education environment. This article uses an auto-ethnographic approach to explore the reflections and insights that occurred during my teaching of a subject in adolescent development. This paper adopts a relatively descriptive style to a personal reflection of teaching on the border and how it transformed the way I teach and made me look at the pedagogy that underpins my teaching practice. I found a lack of congruence between the pedagogical theories that are espoused and how I could apply these to a border setting. Therefore, the purpose of this article is to explore some of the ways I began to develop a Thai Burma classroom praxis that drew on the theoretical underpinnings of critical pedagogy.

Background: Burmese Refugees and Education on the border

For decades Burma's population of approximately 50 million has struggled for democracy and human rights against a brutal military regime (Allden, 2015:4). With over one hundred ethnic groups, Burma is said to have the richest ethnic diversity in Asia. The largest ethnic minorities typically live in mountainous frontier regions. Minority group demands for autonomy and self-determination, often in the form of militant insurgency have been brutally supressed by the Burmese military. Civilians in these ethnic areas suffer the most and thousands have been forcibly relocated and their land confiscated. Increasing campaigns against ethnic groups have driven an estimated 500,000 people from their homes into Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) areas inside Myanmar or across the border to refugee camps in Thailand (Allden 2015:5).

The conflict has resulted in over 3,000 ethnic villages being razed to the ground, poor farmers being killed or abducted, and educational, health and social services being destroyed. While the inhabitants of the camps have mostly fled violence and oppression in their homeland, an increasing number are leaving for reasons of poverty and educational opportunities (KHRG 2009).

Zeus (2011) estimates that around 150,000 refugees live in refugee camps along the Thai Burma Border, and have done so for a quarter of a century (2011:257). Until 1995, refugees on the Thailand-Burma border lived in village-type settlements and were allowed to travel outside the camps to get food and shelter materials. Camp life changed dramatically in 1995 after attacks by the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army and the village-type settlements were merged into large, sprawling camps that became increasingly dependent on outside aid as residents became more and more restricted on space and movement (TBC, 2004). Due to this restriction on movement, there has been a 'whole generation who have been born and raised in the artificial environment of a refugee camp' (Zeus 2011: 257). …

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