Crossing language barriers

Crossing language barriers

More than 200 ethnic representatives are convening in Rangoon to brainstorm an ethnic language curriculum, based on a modern communicative approach rather than traditional teaching methods.

The move comes after the Thein Sein government gave the green light last year to minority languages being introduced in ethnic state schools, which until now taught exclusively in Burmese. Some 40 percent of the nation’s population are ethnic minorities.

On Monday, representatives from 18 different ethnicities – including Kachin, Karenni, Karen, Chin, Mon, Naga, Pa-O, Palaung, Danu and Ka-Yun educators – came together for a 21- 24 July workshop at Rangoon’s Summit Parkview Hotel, co-hosted by the Ministry of Education’s Basic Education Curriculum, Syllabus and Textbook Committee and UNICEF.

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Sai Naw Hkay, chairman of the Shan Literature and Culture Association, said representatives are discussing the introduction of curricula and syllabi that incorporate interactive lessons, as opposed to the much-maligned traditional system of textbook repetition.

He said the new plan would be aimed at ethnic children aged five to eight, and that such an approach would strengthen pupils’ physical, intellectual and character development.

“The conference aims to discuss the drafting of an ethnic language-based curriculum, beginning next year under a new education policy,” said Sai Naw Hkay.

“Rather than sticking to conventional teaching methods, we are debating the benefits of using pictures, reciting ethnic poetry and songs, and other tasks that will open children’s minds.”

He said it had yet to be decided which ethnic areas will carry the new curriculum.

Naga representative Annu Sai Nyi, from the Naga Self-Administered Zone in Sagaing Division, said local schools in the region have long employed an unofficial Naga language curriculum, but being able to share experiences with other ethnic educators would prepare them better for the future.

Naw Shee La, a Karen representative at the event, said she believed an ethnic curriculum, jointly-drafted by the various nationalities, will help restore pride and identity to their respective cultures and traditions.

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