Today, Myanmar lags far behind the developed world in terms of educational standards. Once at its zenith in the region, Myanmar today has unqualified teachers, very little resources, and aging materials. Many universities have been built and scattered throughout cities to prevent students from potential unrest. One exiled Burmese editor told Newsweek, “Knowledge in paralyzed. The most highly educated young people are the children of the military elite who in some cases have attended universities in the United States, Japan, Europe and Australia. Myanmar missed many advances during 50 years of being shut off from the world by the military junta and has been struggling to catch up since an elected government came to power in 2011. Few people in Myanmar know, for example, that a man walked on the moon. Aung San Suu Kyi said, “The education system event at the school level is so terrible because the teachers are so badly paid. There is no proper equipment in the schools. They will put up a show room of computers while there are children who cannot even afford textbooks and there are adequate textbooks for all the schools in Burma.” The educational system of Myanmar is operated by the government Ministry of Education. Universities and professional institutes from upper Burma and lower Burma are run by two separate entities, the Departments of Higher Education (Lower Burma and Upper Burma), whose office headquarters are based in Yangon and Mandalay respectively. The education system is based on the United Kingdom’s system, due to nearly a century of British and Christian presences in Burma. “The first Government high school was founded by the British colonial administration in 1874. Two years later, this Government High School was upgraded and became University College, Rangoon. Nearly all schools are government-operated, but recently, there has been an increase in privately funded schools which specialize in English. Schooling is compulsory until the end of elementary school, probably about 9 years old, while the compulsory schooling age is 15 or 16 at international level. The literacy rate of Burma, according to the 2014 Burma Census stands at 89.5% (males: 92.6%, females: 86.9%). The annual budget allocated to education by the government is low only about 1.2% is spent per year on education. English is taught as a second language from kindergarten. Most of the early mission schools are since 1860 (such as La Salle schools) in Burma were nationalized on 1 April 1965 after the order restoration of General Ne Win.
The education in Myanmar has long been regarded as important and significant. Traditionally, boys were taught at monastery schools, where they would learn Burmese and basic arithmetic skills. In the past, all boys eight to ten years of age would begin attending school in a nearby Buddhist monastery, where they would learn about Buddhism and be taught to read and write. Those schools gradually gave way to public schools, but many young men continue to receive some education in monasteries. Under that system, few women were educated; their education took place mainly at home as they learned how to perform domestic tasks.
Modern education began under King Mindon (1853–1878), who built a school for an Anglican missionary. British colonial rule caused a shift towards a Westernized education system. Christian missionary schools in Yangon, Mandalay and other major cities served as preparatory schools for the upper classes. During this period Burmese universities were thought to be the most prestigious in Southeast Asia.
Under the British, secular education spread and the country achieved a relatively high level of education. During British colonial rule, educational access for women improved tremendously. In the pre-colonial era, male education was emphasized in the traditional Buddhist monastic education system. The number of female students enrolled in school rose 61 percent (by 45,000 students) from 1911-1921, and another 82 percent (100,000 students) from 1921 to 1931 with expansion of the colonial and private education system, primarily in the form of all-girls schools. This was mirrored by an increase in female employment. From 1921 to 1931, there was a 33 percent increase in employment of women in public administration, law, medicine (96 percent increase), education (64 percent increase), and journalism sectors. [Source: Wikipedia]
In the 1950s, Burma was one of the richest countries in Asia. It had a high literacy rate. When Burma gained independence in 1948, the government sought to create a literate and educated population, and Burma was believed to be on its way to become the first Asian Tiger in the region. However, 1962 coup d’état isolated and impoverished Burma. All schools were nationalized and educational standards began to fall. Burmese replaced English as the medium of instruction at Burmese universities in 1965, with the passing of the New University Education Law a year earlier. This led to a rapid decline in English proficiency among the Burmese. English was reintroduced as a medium of instruction in 1982. In 1977, the 2 year regional college system was introduced by the Burmese government, as a way to disperse college students until they were about to graduate (the third and fourth years were spent at a traditional university), a system that was ended in 1981.
(1) Collect information and data on the education sector, including basic education, technical vocational education and training (TVET) and higher education (HE)
(2) Analyze and identify priority issues
(3) Design an effective approach to solve the priority issues
The Study Team conducted fieldwork in Myanmar from November 2015 to January 2016 and visited various educational stakeholders including government agencies, CESR working group members, development partners, universities and schools, private companies, and so forth. Additionally, the Study Team members supported CESR working group members as international consultants as well as providing collected information and analysis in higher education.
According to each subsector (i) Education policy, administration, finance and legal system (ii)Basic education including inclusive education and non-formal education (iii) Teacher education and Curriculum (iv) TVET, (v) Higher education
According to Arohana, Thabyay Education Network “Despite the high value placed on education in Myanmar culture, the state education system has long been in decline, suffering from a critical lack of resources and skills. Education, particularly higher education, is often perceived as a potential threat by the authorities who exercise strict control over education institutions. Investment in this sector is accorded a low priority by the government. Teachers in state education institutions commonly earn around US$2030 per month, leading to a lack of motivation, difficulties in recruiting quality teaching staff, and encouraging teachers to prioritize paid private tuition over their school jobs. [Source: Arohana, Thabyay Education Network]
Due to the lack of investment, schools often charge students a range of unofficial fees. Many families, particularly those in poorer rural areas, cannot afford to pay these fees and so are forced to withdraw their children from education. According to UNESCO figures, the average adult in Burma has received only 2.8 years of schooling, and only 36.5 percent of eligible students enroll in secondary education. Today two-thirds to three-quarters of children drop out of elementary school before the fifth grade.
According to the U.S. Department of State, The government continued to discriminate against minority religious groups, restricting educational activities, proselytizing, and restoration or construction of churches and mosques. Some Christian theological seminaries and Bible schools continued to operate, along with several Islamic madrassas. However, a representative of the Islamic community reported the closure of Islamic madrasahs operating as ad-hoc mosques in Thaketa Township. Some Christian schools did not register with the Myanmar Council of Churches (MCC), a group representing 14 Christian denominations, but were able to conduct affairs without government interference. [Source: U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor International Religious Freedom Report for 2011 “Corruption is common throughout the state education system; good exam results can be acquired with money and influence. Consequently, state-accredited education has lost much of its credibility in society. Most curricula and learning materials in the Myanmar state education system are desperately out of date and have little practical application to the current context. Graduates lack the necessary practical and analytical skills to tackle Myanmar’s immediate humanitarian crisis, and the chronic political, social and economic woes that have blighted the country for two generations.
Team decided to implement CESR in order to realize the development mid/long term Education Policy/Plan which new government is requesting. CESR with the support of DPs has been implementing a phase of activities as detailed analysis from November 2015 to January 2016
After the formal launch of Myanmar’s reform process in March 2011, remarkable changes have been observed in the ways Development Partners (DPs) engage with the country. In recognition of the swift reform initiatives taken by the newly elected Myanmar government, major Western donor countries either eased or suspended various sanctions imposed on Myanmar and decided to resume and expand formal engagement with the new government. This led to successive announcements of resumption or expansion of in-country operations by numerous bilateral/multilateral aid organizations as well as by international non-governmental organizations in Myanmar, followed by the opening of their respective country offices and hiring of new personnel. Accordingly, commitments of support in the education sector by various DPs have significantly increased. On January 2012, a number of bilateral agencies(including AusAID, British Council, DFID, Danish Embassy, GIZ, Japanese Embassy, JICA,and Norwegian Embassy), multilateral agencies (including ADB, EU, UNESCO, UNICEF, and World Bank) and NGOs (including Nippon Foundation, Open Society Foundations, Save the Children and many others) have shown interest or committed to support education or human resource development in Myanmar.
The basic laws concerning education in Myanmar are Constitution of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, 2008 (the 2008 Constitution), Basic Education Law of 1973, and the University Education Law of 1973. Basic Education Law sets out the structure of basic education which comprises five (5) years of primary level, followed by four (4) years of secondary level, and the specified duration of higher level education. Major education policies in Myanmar have been implemented according to the 30-Year Long-Term Education Development Plan and the five-year medium-term plans that are formulated according to the Long-Term Plan. In November 2012, however, the MoE newly drafted National Education Promotion 20 Year Long Term Plan for 2011/12-2030/31, which corresponds to the Comprehensive National Development Plan for 2011/12-2030/31 formulated by Ministry of National Planning and Economic Development. Hereafter, this 20-year Long Term Plan will supersede the existing 30-year plan and the four new fiveyear plans will be prepared nationally and by each sector.
(1) Effective implementation of compulsory primary education
(2) Supervision of activities related to school retention at the lower and upper secondary levels
(3) Effective implementation of scholarship and stipend programs
(4) Effective implementation of CCA in basic primary level education
(5) Strengthening Early Childhood Care Development and education activities nationwide
(6) Awarding prizes to well-rounded students and forming scout and Red Cross Organizations in schools (changed from the pre-discussion item: Supplementary education activities in basic education sector)
(7) Participation of private sector in education services and systematic supervision of establishment of quality private schools
(8) Development of educational management and information system
(9) Upgrading Basic Education Curriculum and Syllabus to international level and developing Educational Assessment System accordingly
(10) Strengthening basic education teachers’ competency and maintaining continuous professional teacher education development
(11) Implementation of Non Formal Education and continuous education
(12) Development of quality teaching learning environment in basic education schools Higher Education: (1) Organization of Faculty at the Universities under the Ministry of Education (2) Development of Quality Assurance System and extension of cooperation with International Universities and Educational Organization (3) Revision of University Entrance System Data Collection Survey on Education Sector in Myanmar Final Report (Summary) (4) Extension of Technical Vocational Education Trainings (TVET) through Human Resource Development Programme (HRD) in order to be able to produce medium skilled technicians and workers necessary for development of the Economic and Industrial sectors of the country within a short period of time (5) Strengthening capacity of the University Management officers, teachers and laboratory technicians (6) Strengthening capacity of the students (7) Prescribing respective laws for the participation of private sector in education services (8) Promotion of education to the international level (9) Development of Good University Education Atmosphere (10) Strengthening network with International Universities
(11) Upgrading English teaching (12) Promotion of teaching International Relations, Laws and Economics (13) Production of outstanding intellectuals in respective subjects through awarding local scholarships
As a general rule, school inspection at the basic education level is to be conducted regularly by TEOs, SEOs, and REOs. According to the findings of the Study Team at Thinggandun TEO, Schools are divided into a number of groups, and the Assistant Township Education Officer (ATEO) leads the inspection team together with subject teachers invited from schools other than those to be inspected. In the case of middle schools, the inspection team is comprised of Township Education Officer, school head teacher, and subject teachers (one from middle school and another from high school, each for science and arts subject), and Township Education Officer leads the inspection. For the upper secondary schools, inspections in Yangon Region are conducted by DBE3, and inspections in the areas under DBE1 and 2 are done by State/Regional Education Offices (SEO/REO) lead by Assistant State/Regional Education Officer with subject experts (science and arts subjects). A set of evaluation forms called KaSaSa is used for school inspection. KaSaSa is specified by the MoE for (1) a regular inspection (for primary, middle and high school), (2) for an unannounced inspection (for primary, middle and high school), and (3) a detailed questionnaire. In total a set of 7 forms is to be completed by the schools. The forms for the regular inspection (1) and the unannounced inspection (2) are to be completed by the inspection team leader, while Data Collection Survey on Education Sector in Myanmar Final Report the questionnaire (3) is to be completed by the school head teacher. In the case of Thinggandun TEO, these forms are kept at DBE3.Each school is given an evaluation rating (A, B, C, D or E) according to the inspection results based on the following criteria (a) Accomplishments of the school head teacher (b) Level of school attendance (c) Implementation of monthly lesson plans (d) Students’ achievements(e) Use of teaching aids, facilities and laboratories (f) Cultivating morals and ethics (g) Capacity of teaching staff (h) Adequate classrooms and furniture (i) School sanitation and tidiness (j) Adequate teaching aids and multimedia facilities (k) Greening of school campus; and (l) Good physical setting of schools. In addition to the regular school inspection, Continuous Assessment and Progression System (CAPS) is being introduced throughout the country. This is aimed to improve the quality of education and completion rate by providing special teaching for students who are trailing behind in class11. CAPS was piloted in the 1990s with the support of UNICEF, and it is presently applied to all middle schools. According to recent discussion with government officials, decisions regarding the reformation of the school system reformation will likely be made soon. It is obvious that the curriculum must be revised based on the new school system.
The Child Centered Approach (CCA) is being introduced throughout the country as a national policy. It was firstly introduced in cooperation with JICA in 2004-2005 to promote the development of children’s creativity, analytical skills, critical thinking, and problem solving skills, and is recognized as contributing to the improvement of education quality. However the current curriculum does not consider the CCA method since most of the curriculum was developed before CCA was introduced. Teachers and students continue to anticipate the development of appropriate contents suitable for CCA.
Question 1: Under the 2008 Constitution, free compulsory education for primary and basic education is contradicted.
Answer 1: Here is some clarification regarding the articles under Constitution 2008. Chapter I: Basic Principle of the Union states that “28 – Implement free, compulsory primary education system” and Chapter 8: Citizen, Fundamental Rights and Duties of the Citizens states that “366 – Shall be given basic education which the Union prescribes by law as compulsory.” In Myanmar, the law for free, compulsory primary education has not yet been developed and we expect to develop it. So we will start with free primary school education, and later extend the free education to the lower secondary level.
Question 2: TVET institutions are under various ministries, and the private sector also conducts TVET programs. What do you think about the way to unify them?
Answer 2: The TVET sector in Myanmar has many training institutions and each of them have their own policies, strategies and activities. One way to solve it is the formulation of National Skill Standards initiated by the Ministry of Labour. The Ministry of Labour, however, cannot formulate the skill standards for all areas in TVET, such as computers and transport. Therefore, currently specialists from other ministries and the private sector are also collaborating for the development of skill standards in their respective fields. Though collaboration among each of the specialized ministries and private training institutions may take time, the sector can gradually improve the skills of trainees towards the equivalent level to ASEAN standards if all stakeholders continue this kind of collaborative work.
Question 3: Which approach of curriculum design will be the best for Myanmar: Content Based Approach (CBA), Outcome Based Approach (OBA), or the combination of both?
Answer 3: Myanmar currently follows CBA. Continuing to follow CBA is recommended. Based on my experience in various countries, attempts for a dramatic curriculum change always seem to fail, mainly because teachers cannot follow such kind of drastic changes. Teachers need costly training Furthermore, parents who may not accept new curriculum approach will complain. CBA is an old curriculum design approach and the new approach like OBA seems a better one to improve education quality. However, Japan has consistently performed well in terms of education quality even though it still follows CBA. Japan always ranks as one of the highest in international achievement tests such as PISA or TIMSS. There is no perfect solution. Both CBA and OBA have strengths and weaknesses. If we think critically, we can improve either approach based on the analysis. So again, following CBA is recommended for Myanmar.
Question 4: The Government of Myanmar is in the process of changing its education system to 5-4-3 and it is under consideration at the President Office. With this change, what will be the challenges for us?
Answer 4: Changing the education system to 5-4-3 will mean having extra grades. So there will be a need for more classrooms, teachers and budget. Short term implementation will be difficult and requires strategic planning. Thailand, for example, expanded compulsory education from 6 years to 9 years by topping up classes in primary schools.
Question 5: The starting age for schooling is also under consideration to be changed to 6 years-old in the future. What do you think of that?
Answer 5: Curriculum/content is more important than age.
Question 6: According to the promotion system of teachers in Myanmar, a primary teacher with some teaching experience will be promoted to a junior teacher, and then be promoted to a middle school head teacher. When teachers become rich in teaching experiences, they are promoted and positions of primary teachers always become vacant and recruited yearly. It affects the quality of education. What are your suggestions to solve this problem?
Answer 6: Here are some of the ideas for solution: Competency-based teacher promotion system Specialized courses for teachers Specialized education degrees for primary, middle and high school levels (e.g. Bachelor in Primary Education, Bachelor in Middle School Education and Bachelor in High School Education) Teacher education policy, support for professional teaching (including budget for training), and promotion of social status of teachers
Question 7: In Myanmar, there are so many ministries involved in higher education. Do we need to administer all the HEIs under one ministry, the Ministry of Education, or not?
Answer 7: As long as the main objective of HEIs remains to produce high quality human resources necessary to their belonging respective ministries, there are meanings to have HEIs under different ministries. In such circumstances, coordination mechanism among ministries must be strengthened. After a private sector is more expanded and the majority of graduates from HEIs become not necessary to work in the government sector, it may be time to consider bringing back HEIs under the Ministry of Education.
Question 8: Should there be autonomy for curriculum at respective universities?
Answer 8: Yes. Each university needs to have autonomy over curriculum decisions. In Myanmar, HEIs are not allowed to determine their curriculum, syllabus and textbooks. All departments of the same study field, even at different HEIs, must use the same curriculum, syllabus, and textbooks authorized by Council of University Academic Bodies. Universities located in different regions may have different demands and needs of human resource development from local communities and labor market.
Question 9: Among teachers, should most outstanding teachers teach in grades 1 to 6?
Answer 9: For students to have a good education, it is very important that they have a strong foundation. Thus, it is reasonable to say that basic education teachers for grades 1 to 6 should be the most outstanding teachers. Teachers for grades 1 to 6 have to make more efforts than teachers for other grades because the foundation built during students’ early learning has long lasting impacts at later stages.
Question 10: Myanmar hopes that many foreign countries will come to Myanmar to do business and apply their technology and knowledge with their own approaches. But now it seems that the amount of FDI is less than our expectation. What do you think about it?
Answer 10: Myanmar is still going through a transition period. It seems that foreign countries are waiting to see the changes in every aspect of Myanmar especially in FDI policy. After the FDI policy is approved, there will be incentives for FDI and many foreign companies should come here to carry out investment and apply their own technology and knowledge with their own approaches.
Question 11: In the future, which sectors will be the best for FDI in Myanmar?
Answer 11: Myanmar has labor-intensive industries and good human resources. Manufacturing sectors especially in the garment sector will have more demand for FDI.
Question 12: How can Myanmar meet the gaps between supply and demand for good human resources?
Answer 12: To meet a gap between supply and demand for good human resources of foreign affiliated companies in every sector of business, people should have appropriate skills such as language skills for communication, management skills, etc. and sufficient knowledge of marketing not only in Myanmar but also in foreign countries. Some activities or programs to upgrade skills should be initiated to generate efficient and effective workers and employees. For example, internship programs in universities should be promoted. Some experts from local and foreign countries with experience should be invited to hold seminars in universities and so on. To identify whether graduates from universities can apply the knowledge and skills which they learn from their universities in the practical world after graduation, universities should conduct a trace survey of graduates and their employers.