“When I was a kid, I didn’t like my country at all. My idea was simple. One day, I would leave for Singapore or the US to get a better life. But in 2012, these moments changed my entire perspective.” PJW, a digital creator also known as Project Win mentioned in one of his contents.
He continued to say that in 2012, he began to see great changes in our country. Myanmar has developed significantly as more foreign investments rushed in with more internet transparency, and more professional citizens residing in other foreign countries came back to Myanmar for better movement compared to seven years ago, where SIM cards were priced at over US$100 each, and the mobile network was run by the single state-owned operator.
Some Improvements in Myanmar Education Sector
Echoing PJW’s thoughts since 2012, the British Council has been working with the Ministry of Education on teacher training, especially for English-language instruction, providing non-native teachers, trainers, and teaching materials.
The Asia Foundation, a San Francisco-based international non-profit has been donating new English-language educational and children’s books to Myanmar. In the past eight years, it has provided nearly 200,000 books to more than 400 educational and research institutions throughout the country.
Credits: Asia Foundation
Aside from teachers’ training, The National Education Strategic Plan(2016-2021) was developed as a result of a nationwide comprehensive education sector review, and represents an essential milestone for education in Myanmar, as the country’s very first education sector plan in the context of a significant transition towards democracy.
Moreover, The Inclusive Access and Quality Education (IAQE) project financed by US$100 million credit from the International Development Association (IDA) has been implemented as a national and focused approach, covering all states and regions to support programs to reach out to schools across the country placing greater emphasis on social inclusion and conflict-affected areas.
According to the Myanmar Times, Notably, Yangon University upped its world rank to 7116 from 13072 and reached 321st in the ASEAN region in 2020. Mandalay University and Yezin Agriculture University also improved in the world ranking.
Looking at these factors and major changes in the education sector of Myanmar despite having immense potential to become a more developed country, Myanmar youths have witnessed the disappearance of their freedom, dreams, and future plans before their very own eyes within the morning of Feb 1, 2021, as the military has taken power over the government and detained the elected leaders, taking us back to square one again.
Youths Speak out their Voices
“I applied for a China Scholarship but Kunming University declined the offer so I couldn’t go there anymore. I also saw many other youths having their scholarships declined. I wanted the elders to know how deeply it concerned those who were really interested in studying abroad.”Thet Zarni Oo, a graduate student from Government Technical Institute in Pyin Oo Lwin.
“I am worried about my future. If things get to the worst situation, I would be ashamed to say that I am a Burmese because the other countries won’t give us a second chance. People will look down on our country as one which will never get peaceful and I don’t want that.” Myint Mo, a medical student from the University of Medicine said.
“We all have our plans for life. How cruel they can be to block millions of youths’ future. I couldn’t even sleep peacefully at night, and all my class schedules were postponed.”Phyo, a student from Yangon Technological University also spoke about her worries.
In response to the military dictatorship, Burmese youths in both Myanmar and abroad have refused to stay silent, many expressing their fear and anger on social media platforms such as Facebook, twitter and Instagram to mobilize for collective non-violent resistance despite phone and internet connections being repeatedly cut off, with fake news relentlessly aired on the only two state-run television channels in the country, Myanmar TV and MWD TV while martial laws are imposed across major cities.
Many Universities and Institutions participated in the Civil Disobedience Movement. Children and teenagers living in the urban slums were drugged by the military soldiers and forced to set houses on fire during midnight. Within this unstable political situation, the future of millions of youths depends on the outcome of the protest.
Education in Myanmar before and after 2010
Despite the high value placed on education in Myanmar culture, the state education system has long been in decline, suffering from a lack of resources and skills. Due to the lack of investment, schools often charge unofficial fees causing many children from poor families in rural areas to withdraw from education. According to Arohana, Thabyay Education Network, Two-thirds to three quarters of children drop out of elementary school before the fifth grade.
Moreover, Corruption is common throughout the state education system where good results can be acquired with money and influence whilst most curriculum and learning materials in the Myanmar state education system are desperately out of date and have little practical application to the current context.
Prior to 2010, campuses in Yangon and Myanmar were forced to relocate to isolated locations, keeping them under close surveillance and forced to close up for four years. The government had discouraged large concentrations of students, the development of student unions and prioritized the expansion of distance education programs. The curriculum was inspected by the military regime and was forbidden to teach in languages other than Burmese.
When the new government arrived, education had been put in the heart of its reform agenda, more money being channeled into the sector to build 21st century Myanmar education system to help build the country into upper middle-income nation by 2030. The curriculum will undergo a revision, emphasizing not only problem solving and high-order thinking skills but also personal development and employability.
Not long enough with the plans, the COVID 19 pandemic occurred, the education sector of Myanmar has been postponed and delayed for months, along with young people having suffered from lack of internet connection to access online learning modules to continue their studies, from accomplishing their degrees, and applying for jobs and Internships. While they thought, they had seen a freckle of hope for schools reopening, the current political situation had made them want to rethink about both the country and their futures. The fear of several years going to waste without any guarantees for the career paths and losing hope chased away our optimistic mindsets. The support of COVID 19 medicine from India had been delayed due to the military coup and many people were left not getting vaccinated.
Consequences of the Military Coup
- With the recently formed Cyber Security Law, the bill includes clauses which could violate the rights to freedom of expression, data protection and privacy and was drafted to oppress those who are against its rule to restrict mobilization and momentum of online resistance.
- Since nearly everything we do requires the internet due to the pandemic, this draft law shook the entire generation of youth in Myanmar to its core, threatening digital marketers, SMEs, businesses, content creators and e-commerce to lose their job opportunities as well as the revenue stream.
- The escalating political uncertainty now facing Myanmar is putting new investments on the country on hold. Two major investors, Kirin Holdings and Amata Corporation have pulled out of the country so far, the situation could prompt the key executives of businesses to leave and put the operations including funding on hold.
- All these disruptions would be obstacles in replenishing Myanmar’s economy which is already reeling with restrictions imposed due to COVID-19. Combining with the after effects from the Civil Disobedience Movement, job unemployment rate would rise, recent graduates and civil workers to be the ones to face difficulties first.
- Furthermore, concerning the online usage of social media for peaceful protesting and breaking news sharing, the recently formed rule of cutting off the internet from 1 am to 9 am daily brought devastating news to those who required internet access for early morning classes, work or tasks, losing opportunities compared to youths in the neighboring countries.
- Over 400 students from both University of Medicine 1 and Yangon University had been arrested for the act of protest on 28th Feb and 3rd March 2021 accordingly. Although medical students were sent back home, hundreds from students from Yangon University and other universities were still detained while some had been called to litigation. Many students in their 20s and teens, young people and teachers had sacrificed their lives, many futures had been destroyed inhumanly.
Children participating in the protest against military dictatorship
Decisions amidst the uncertainties
Many middle-classed young people came and asked about what they should continue to do for their future. Some of the questions they asked most of the time include,
“I have finished my high school. When will I get to attend my university?” “When will I get the degree?” “When will I get the first job?” “Will the job I have right now be able to last long?”
In fact, there aren’t any exact answers to those questions.
Depending on the current situation, some people would advise to leave, but little did we know, most of us don't have the chance to choose between leaving abroad and continuing staying here, fighting for our rights till the destination. In the end, it is up to us, youths to make decisions on our own, whether the choice is right for the future or not.
“I could only advise you to invest in yourself. And Don’t believe everything you see on the internet unless the proof is strong enough.” PJW explained.
“Please participate and Continue fighting until we achieve our goals.” Sister of Mya Thwate Thwate Khine, a 19-year-old student who passed away after being shot by a gun while protesting in Naypyidaw.
History should never be repeated. Citizens in Myanmar should be proud of today’s youths’ efforts, potential and desire to make changes and fight for justice and freedom.