The University Students Union released a statement on Wednesday denouncing the National Education Bill; at the same time it launched an awareness campaign in front of the University for Computer Studies, 25km north of Rangoon.
A spokesperson for the students’ union, commonly known in Burma as the ta-ka-tha, said the event was not a demonstration but rather “a gathering to raise awareness about the weaknesses of the education bill”, and that they had timed it to meet students who were entering the campus to sit for exams on Wednesday morning.
The draft National Education Bill awaits the president’s signature since being approved by both houses of parliament in late July. Controversial from the outset, the bill’s detractors claim that it was drafted unilaterally and without enough transparency.
Last month, a group of almost 100 students gathered at Mandalay’s Yadanabon University to voice opposition to certain aspects of the bill, claiming that it creates excessive restrictions on the formation of student unions and centralises Burma’s education system.
The All Burma Federation of Students Unions, or ba-ka-tha, has also released statements opposing the current draft of the Education Bill, as has the National Network for Education Reform, an independent oversight body.
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.