Myanmar’s education system has been in disarray since the February military coup, with many students boycotting the school. More than 90 percent have not registered for the new school year which began on June 1, and teacher attendance is below 50 percent. Efforts are underway to find a new leadership that challenges military governance.
The national unity government, formed by ousted lawmakers supporting Aung San Suu Kyi, has defined a parallel basic education system for parents who do not want to enroll their children in junta-controlled schools. The home learning program will be offered both online and offline to allow wider access for students.
The NUG Department of Education is planning a new curriculum that supports federal democracy and already offers some short courses for higher education students. Teachers are called upon to contribute more to the learning content.
In Yangon, a high school chemistry teacher known as Min Aye is on board. He was suspended from his school after refusing to report for work and hopes the new system will become a long-term success. He plans to build on his experience in offering online courses.
“Many teachers have had to endure military oppression. At least I won’t stop [backing the Civil Disobedience Movement] until the power of the country is transferred to our elected government, ”he said. “I hope this new education system can replace the old one.
One of Min Aye’s students, Thein Tun, 16, dreams of studying political science at university. But since the coup, his parents have been reluctant to let him go to school in such an unstable environment.
He says the new education option brightens his future. “I will definitely register. It would help me make my dream come true, ”says Thein Tun.
Teachers under pressure
Teachers who refuse to return to junta-controlled schools are suspended or fired.
Htet Oo, a high school teacher in Ayeyarwady, says he has stayed with his job because he can’t afford to lose it. In his area, most of the teachers stayed behind after receiving a letter threatening them with losing two months’ wages.
“Honestly, I don’t like the military, I would like it to be overthrown,” he said. “But my family is worried because they see the value of being a teacher. They are afraid that I will become unemployed.
With Myanmar at a crossroads, teachers like Htet Oo face tough choices about how best to educate the younger generation.