Crackdown on protests: exclusion of students’ rights in the education law

Noreen, intern, Asian Human Rights Commission; Danilo Reyes, editor, article 2 Before the riot police’s crackdown on the student protesters marching some 500 kilometers from Mandalay to Yangon on 20 January 2015, their demands were very clear: the democratization of Burma’s education system. When the government announced the National Education Draft Law in March 2014, it did not contain the demands of education reform campaigners who had lobbied the government since 2012.Among the campaigners is the National Network for Education Reform (NNER), a coalition of civil society groups, which argues that the draft law lacks sufficient input from ordinary people and civic organizations. Meant to reform the education system, the draft law ignores the views of those who suffer the impact of the system: students and teachers, ethnic minorities, persons with disability.In fact, the draft was rather aimed at centralization of power. The National Education Commission, whom people expect to ensure democratic reforms, ignored the demands of the public, directly opposing democratic reforms in education. The NNER argued that to have a democratic education system, there cannot be tight and centralized control on matters regarding the development of education. This would deny academic freedom. The group’s concern is deeply rooted in its various meetings, consultations and discussions held across Burma to seek public opinion on educational reform. Despite putting forward suggestions and recommendations to government representatives whom they met during the drafting process, all of their recommendations were excluded in the final draft.When the National Education Law was finally enacted on 10 September 2014, it was the government’s outright disregard of public opinion; not only of the education campaigners, but of the people they consulted. This disregard provoked the students’ protest, with students, campaigners and the ordinary public questioning the legitimacy of the law. Launching a four-day protest in Yangon, student representatives called for a quadripartite dialogue between the Action Committee for Democratic Education (ACDE), the National Network for Education Reform (NNER), the Parliament and the Government, to amend the just passed National Education Law.The Action Committee for Democratic Education made 11 demands from the government, which could ensure the realization of a democratic education system:1. Inclusion of representatives of teachers and students in legislation process of education policies and laws, by-laws and other related laws, 2. The right to freely establish and operate student and teacher unions and legal recognition for them, 3. Establishment of National Education Commission and University Coordination Committee mentioned in the approved National Education Law 4. Self-determination and self-management on educational affairs of individual state/regions and schools 5. Modifying current examination and university matriculation system 6. Modifying teaching methods to such that ensure freedom for thinking and self-studying of students 7. Inclusion of a provision in National Education Law that ensure freedom for the practice of ethnic languages and mother tongue based multi-lingual education for ethnic populations and tribes 8. Inclusive education for all children including children with disabilities 9. Resumption of enrollment for students previously expelled from schools due to the student uprisings 10. Allocation of 20 percent of national budget for education 11. Regulating of free compulsory education up to middle school level rather than primary levelOn 20 January 2015, after the Parliament and the Government failed t

Source: Crackdown on protests: exclusion of students’ rights in the education law