education demonstrates the parents’ determination to provide a good education for their children. Education is seen as an avenue for upward mobility for the younger generation. Some graduates from town schools would not return to their village but rather find a job in town and become temporary or permanent rural-urban migrants.
Nowadays, more Hmong women attend colleges and universities. For example, before 1998, no females attended university in the Measa Mai Village, but now there are several female undergraduate students from this village. Most of the students finance their university by taking out loans. These students will begin to pay back their loans two years after graduation, paying one percent interest on loans within a fifteen-year term. This helps students from poor families when they want to pursue higher education. The Thai government and some non-governmental organizations also provide scholarship funds and welfare schools for poor but bright students. These measures have also promoted the higher education of the Hmong women as well. However, although the Hmong women have equal opportunity to continue their education beyond the compulsory years, the fact remains that the rate of educational attainment for the Hmong female students is lower than that of male students in the middle school and university.
Factors that limit education for Hmong females
First is the economic condition of the household. Although many parents are willing to support their daughters’ higher education, girls from well-off households have greater opportunity to continue higher education than those from the poor ones. For example, in Khun Krang Village, the only female graduate student was from a well-off household. Another girl in the same village wanted to continue her education after graduating from secondary school, but she had to give up this plan because her family was poor.
Second is the need for the girl to work for the family’s economic needs. If a girl is the eldest child in the family, she has to sacrifice her educational opportunity since she is burdened with a heavy workload.
Third is the traditional convention which is seen an obstacle for girls to continue their education. Like in the Hmong areas in China, the conventional ideas that ‘marrying early, bearing early, and having many children are blessings’ are also popular in the Hmong community in Thailand. Many girls just finish primary school or lower middle school and then leave school for marriage. It is a common phenomenon in the villages that Hmong girls at the age of 14 or 15 are already married and have one or more children before the age of 20. From the field research findings, the girls’ marriage age is connected with their educational years. Usually, the girls who are educated above the secondary-school level marry later than the girls who only finished primary school. In order to delay marriage and reduce fertility rates, girls should be encouraged to further their education.