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22May 2017

Education In Remote Areas of Burma, from a Shan perspective

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Education in Myanmar’s remote villages

My name is Noom. I was born to a family in a remote village of Burma/Myanmar. I started my education at a primary government school in my village when I was five years old. I was often beaten as I liked to run away from school. Most of the teachers were Burman and they did not speak my language, Shan.

After I finished my primary education in my village my life totally changed. Instead of continuing learning in the school I had to stay at the Buddhist temple and learn monastic education. I did not learn much from school in my mother language. I could only learn how to speak and write Burmese, my language at the temple. I assume that there are a lot of children who were born in remote villages of Burma who have the same story.

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Current education in Burma

The Burmese education system which is used in schools and universities is rote learning. The exam answers have to be exactly the same as the textbooks otherwise they are incorrect.  It is one of the only countries that still practices this method in the twenty first century.    

The schools in the remote villages have several different systems.

Government schools are supported and run by the government. Community schools use the government curriculum but are run by community leaders and teachers. They do not get any support from the government. Monastic education schools use the government curriculum as well and are run by the Buddhist monks and community leaders. They do not get any support from the government. Lastly, national schools run on their own resources. They get no support or approval from the government.

Difficulties in education in the remote communities

There are three major problems with education in remote communities. These are finances, language barriers, and politics. First, the villagers have to build the school, run the school and support the teachers. This makes it very expensive. Second, most of the time the teachers who were picked up and sent by the government to different states do not speak the local language but only speak Burmese, and the kids do not understand Burmese. The teachers go only to get experience to apply for a better job in the city. The third is unstable politics. In areas of ethnic army influence the government will not provide education.

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How we are helping

In 2012 we conducted a small survey in one of the remote village tracts. It showed that less than ten percent of the people finished primary school. Most parents could not afford the cost, school is not compulsory, and there is a lack of education and knowledge for the parents. Some parents had a negative attitude to education saying education won’t bring in more money.  

Sustainable schools is a helping project that is aimed to support financially and spiritually education where the funding of the government does not reach. We fund a school committee with a small amount of capital, who then start a business with the money, whose profit goes to running the school. Some projects issued loans, some are raising cattle, and some are growing crops. Once the project makes a profit, it is allowed only to use the profit on education such as teachers’ salaries, the school building, teacher’s accommodation, toilets for the school, and learning materials.

This project gives us access to meet parents, children, teachers, and community leaders to help give them a better understanding of the value of education. It also gives us the opportunity to build relationship that will help us to have deep conversations on issues in the communities.

Results

After some projects had been implemented they made a profit which allows the schools to keep running. We also got a lot of good feedback from the community such as they will try hard to encourage their children to go to school. Because of our projects, some of our community schools have been upgraded to government schools. Once the school has been running continuously it is able to apply to become a government funded school.


Noom is the head of the Social Development Department. He has been working with Partners since 2012. He has two daughters. One is four and a half years old, she is going to start school on the 15 of May 2017. The second was just born on 3 March 2017. Noom is a sporty father and likes to play soccer in the evening after sitting eight hours in front of his computer.