Interview: U Myo Thein Gyi

What approach is the government taking to ensure that less-privileged and marginalised children in rural areas receive primary education?

U MYO THEIN GYI: The National Education Law reinforces inclusive education, which ensures that all school-aged children have a chance to learn, including those that are less privileged and marginalised, and those that cannot access education for various reasons, such as disability. To improve access, more schools are being opened, new school buildings are being built and existing buildings are being upgraded every year. Less-developed areas have been given priority with regard to awarding approval for projects. To boost education in more remote areas and border regions, some of the criteria and rules for the approval of new schools and school upgrades have been relaxed for those regions. In addition, local graduates are given priority when it comes to recruiting new teachers for these areas.

In accordance with the National Education Law, free and compulsory primary and secondary education is being implemented with the aim of enabling all citizens to complete at least primary-level education and to improve access to basic education for every citizen. All fees are exempted. To increase the net intake rates, kindergarten students are provided with school uniforms free of charge. In order to increase net enrolment and retention rates, as well as to reduce dropout rates, all students at other levels of the basic education system are provided with textbooks and six exercise books free of charge, while all primary school students are given additional free school uniforms. Furthermore, stipends are provided each year for less-privileged and marginalised children in rural areas. In Myanmar, the non-formal primary education programme has been rolled out in collaboration with UNICEF and other development partners with a focus on remote regions, marginalised border areas and places with migrant workers.

How would you assess the relationship between civil society and the development agencies that are working to improve education in Myanmar?

MYO THEIN GYI: Civil society and development agencies have joined hands to bolster the education sector. UN agencies and many development partners are working directly with the Ministry of Education, but there many areas to be developed to achieve high-quality education. Our development partners mostly focus on ministry projects. With the technical and financial supports of our development partners, the Ministry of Education is working to introduce school grants, stipends, early grade reading assessment and teacher mentoring programmes, as well as to improve basic education and to develop the National Education Strategic Plan 2016-21. All parents in Myanmar are eager to send their children to schools, technical and vocational education and training institutions, and places of higher education. The cooperation and involvement of civil societies and development partners is very important to improving education quality. The Ministry of Education encourages all civil societies and development partners to hold regular consultation meetings among themselves and with the ministry so that our efforts do not overlap and cooperation is maximised.

What measures are being taken to ensure teachers encourage creative thinking among students?

MYO THEIN GYI: The child-centred approach (CCA) was introduced in 2012 to basic education regimes in 258 townships in collaboration with the Japan International Cooperation Agency. The new curricula for Grade 1 are based on the CCA and contain lessons that encourage the development of problem-solving skills and creativity. To ensure teachers encourage creative thoughts in their learners, teacher assessment will be conducted in a collaborative manner between students’ parents and school principals.