Education in Burma 'propagandist'

Oct 6, 2009 (DVB), Burma's education system focuses too much on testing and curriculum material is strictly controlled by the military government, according to an exiled Burmese education expert.

Burma yesterday took part in events to mark International Teachers' Day, with an award ceremony held for teachers and education officials in the capital Naypyidaw. Events were also held abroad for exiled Burmese teachers.

"We didn't have a chance to celebrate something like this in Burma because there was no teachers' association," said a teacher attending the event in Thailand's Mae Sot.

According to the National Health and Education Committee (Burma), the Burmese government spends an estimated 1.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) on health and education.

A report released last year by the Australia-based Burma Economic Watch said that illiteracy in rural areas is now twice as common as it was under British rule, which ended in 1948.

Teachers in Burma are forced to follow a strict policy on what they can and cannot teach, according to the director of the Thailand-based Human Rights Education Institute of Burma (HREIB), Aung Myo Min. Furthermore, participatory learning does not exist.

"Students are not encouraged to create dialogue between themselves and teachers," he said. "It's all about exams and being tested."

"A lot of education material focuses on how good the government is. The military claim to teach human rights, but what it ends up being is teaching about the responsibility of citizens to respect the military."

A teacher in Burma's southern Irrawaddy delta, which was hit by cyclone Nargis last year, said that teachers earn only around 40,000 kyat ($US40) a month.

"It is impossible for a family to survive nowadays without having an income of 150,000 to 200,000 kyat [$US150-200] a month," he said.

"Under these circumstances, teachers are being forced to find sources of income from other jobs such as private tutoring."

Reporting by Francis Wade and Htet Aung Kyaw

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