BURMA: Education for sale 


Education is one of the most important elements both as an indicator as well as a tool of a country’s development .Without a good education system that guarantees the future of the new generation the country cannot develop.

After a military coup in 1962 the education system in Burma was changed from a nationalist education system to a socialist education system.

The education system is divided into three parts, primary education, secondary education and higher education. The primary education starts when the child is 5 years-of-age up to 10 and the secondary education is from 10 to 16. The government only spends 1.1 percent of country’s income for education.

Until the primary and secondary schooling, the system is a “no-failure education system”. This is where no student fails and all of them progress to next standard. In other words, every student has to take exams but irrespective of the performance, no one fails and all get promoted to next class. However, the system changes at the upper secondary level where an examination is introduced at the 10th standard level. The exam is conducted to select candidates for the college or university level education. Only the students who pass the 10th Standard examination are eligible to enter the universities and colleges, according to their performance in the exam, i.e. their scores and rank.

The education system is essentially centered around a textbook based teaching system where the focus is on memorizing content from text books. The system, however, fails badly in terms of teaching the students how to think. Teachers are not well-trained and they don’t know how to explain their respective subjects such as mathematics, English and science. The quality of education is terrible in the government run schooling system because of the flawed focus and parents, therefore, prefer to send their children for private tuition which, generally, is perceived to be far better in imparting education.

The dropout rates are very high in the Burmese schooling system and most of the dropouts belong to poor and lower middle classes. Poverty and the resulting incapacity to afford education is a primary but not the only reason behind this. Many of the poor students drop out also because of the fact that they cannot understand what is being taught as there is a very wide gap between their life conditions and the course material.

Corruption is a rampant problem plaguing the education system of Burma and the reasons are located in the systemic failure and not only in the individual greed. Teachers are compelled to give private tuition as their salaries are too low to support their families. For maintaining just a basic minimum standard of life they have no other option but to engage in the practice. The fall outs, unfortunately, are severe for the poor students who cannot afford it. The kids who attend the classes and bribe the teachers have far many more privileges than those who do not or cannot. For example, irrespective of their merit they score better in exams almost always. It goes without saying that it is only the rich kids who can pay bribes and these are the children related to the government officials.

Discrimination is widespread even in the classroom. The children belonging to rich and influential get preferential treatment as a result of all the presents they bring to the teachers coupled with the potential favors they can get from their parents for the teachers. As a result the poor students are left to fend for themselves.

As a another example of corruption, in Yangon, the capital of Myanmar, just before the 10th standard examination night which can decide which university the student have to enter, rich students and governments officials related students gets exam questions by paying about 500,0000 kyats (US$ 5000) to the teachers. Often they share these questions with their friends so that they can have high scores in the exam. So the exam scores depend only on money and not on the intelligence of the child.

In addition, they also bribe the exam’s correction teachers with about 100, 0000 kyats ($ 1000) to get higher marks in examinations and entry to popular courses at the university. It is unfair for the ordinary students who cannot afford this from all parts of country.

Also, students can pay the teachers to get exam questions, especially in distant universities. For medical and other professional colleges, in terms of quality, the universities lack research, laboratory and the practice necessary for imparting quality education. So according to the education system, even though students have graduated, it is still difficult to find a job because of the low quality of education.

However, in private schools owned by Burmese civilians such as the International Language and Business Center (ILBC) and Yangon International Educare Center (YIEC), children can get good education from native English speaking teachers or other well-trained teachers. But these schools are the ones where only diplomats, businessman and high ranking official’s children can go as they are both unaffordable and inaccessible for the poor.

But the wealthy people who completed private school class and the people who are related to government employee can easily get jobs or go abroad for higher studies. They return to Burma only after completing their studies as officers or businessman thus contributing in making their families richer.

But then, it’s not their merit which makes them achieve success and richness but the eschewed and biased education system which favors the rich making them richer and as a consequence making the poor, poorer.

Document Type : Article
Document ID : AHRC-ART-063-2010
Countries : Burma (Myanmar),
Issues : Child rights,