Burma’s teachers chime in on education reform

Burma’s teachers chime in on education reform

Opposition to Burma’s National Education Bill continues to grow as the draft moves closer to approval. The Myanmar Teachers Federation (MTF) has joined the long list of students and educators that oppose the legislation.

“We would like to announce to the people that we strongly believe the National Education Law affects not only the education sector but the entire country and the people,” the MTF said in a statement released on Monday.

“Therefore, the Myanmar Teachers Federation will fully cooperate with student unions across the country who are pushing for education reform that will truly benefit the country.”

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The bill, drafted by the government’s Education Promotion Implementation Committee (EPIC) and submitted to parliament in March 2014, was recently passed by both houses of parliament and now awaits the president’s signature.

Controversial from the outset, the bill has sparked heated demonstrations in Mandalay, Sagaing and Rangoon divisions. The bill’s detractors claim that the education reform process lacks transparency and could ultimately serve to centralise education, granting too much power to the government.

History has shown a tendency to marginalise minorities through the education system, which is in poor shape after decades of fiscal and administrative neglect.

MTF pointed out that the national Network for Education Reform (NNER), an independent body of academics and educators that was formed to oversee the school reform process, is also critical of the legislation.

The group also denounced the government’s response to peaceful opposition to the bill, claiming that “authorities have investigated, threatened, arrested, pressured and tried to control students who have protested peacefully against the education bill.”

Burma has a high literacy rate – 93 percent, according to World Bank data released in 2012. However, the country’s education system was stymied under decades of military rule, and remains sorely short of highly-skilled instructors.

The budget allocated for education in Burma is under six percent of national spending.

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