Table 1: Level of Formal Education
Never enrolled in school 300 434 734
Pre-school 35 30 65
Primary school 351 261 612
Secondary school 98 51 149
Vocational college 16 6 22
(Source: Leepreecha, 2001: 148)
Thus, it can be seen that 1) 37.08 percent of the males and 55.5 percent of the females never attended school; 2) 43.39 percent of the males and 33.38 percent of the females attended only primary school; 3) 12.11 percent of the males and 6.52 percent of the females attended secondary school; 4) 1.98 percent of the males and 0.77 percent of the females attended vocational college; and 5) 1.1 percent of the males and no females attended university. In general, the Hmong’ levels of educational attainment were low. For example, 46.16 percent of villagers did not attend school and 38.47 percent of the villagers attended only primary school.
A majority of the villagers did not continue education beyond the compulsory years. Comparatively, the Hmong women’s educational level was lower than that of the men. From field investigation, it was found that many women over the age of 30 did not attend school during their school-age years. One of the reasons was that there were no schools in their villages and it was inconvenient for girls to attend school outside their villages. Another main reason was that women were considered inferior to men according to Hmong traditional conventions. The parents kept the girls at home to work on the land and only boys went to school.
The Hmong women’s access to education has improved over the past twenty years. In Thailand, education is compulsory up to the sixth grade. Today, there seems to be no discrimination against girls continuing their education beyond the compulsory level. This is because socio-economic developments have changed the educational attitudes of the Hmong. Many parents said they would like to support their sons’ and daughters’ further education. The Hmong villagers perceive that higher education will bring in higher income and better job opportunities. They also expect their children to land a good job in the city and not follow an agricultural way of life. Even though there are free primary schools in the villages, some parents would like to pay more to send their children to primary and middle school in town. One reason is the poor quality of the village schools. Another reason is that parents want their children to adapt to the mainstream culture early so they may have a better chance to pursue higher levels of education. To send children away from the village for their