Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Burmese education department lowers the bar in hopes of projecting student success

Mon Son, IMNA

In an effort to improve the public image of the school systems, the Burmese government’s education department issued a mandate that teachers must facilitate the student’s graduation process regardless of their skill level.

In Moulemin Townships the Burmese government is attempting to control enrolment in the school system in order project increases in both student numbers and graduation rates. However most of the high school students can’t read or speak English and students are struggling to write Burmese properly, according to headmasters.

The instructions given to the school system required that students in grades 1 to 7 must pass every year, despite poor grades, and that students in their 8th and 9th year must achieve a certain percentage on their tests, according to a source from the Burmese government education department in Mon State.

“About two months before student test results came out, the education department called the head school in every township, and insisted that in grades 8 and 9, 70 to 80 percent of the student class must graduate,” said a Moulemin high school principle.

Many 10th year students, facing their final year in high school before exams that will place them in university, never complete their studies in their subjects, as they are now able to pass their exams at a reduced skill level. Many students in Burma, from grades 1 to 10, now seek tutoring in the subjects they would otherwise cover in school.

Additionally the Burmese government announced to teachers that all children who are of age must to attend school, in order to increase the student enrolment at each school.

“In my opinion most students have not received enough education since they were in elementary school under the system the government education system.” stated a 58 year old headmaster, “Although they go on to graduate from University, they don’t have the skills that would allow them to work in the government departments or at a private company. So instead, students leave Burma to find jobs in other countries. The government does not have enough jobs to give students who have graduated from university.”

Jobs in the government are gained after students who make the highest rank in their class attend elite government universities, where they receive specific training that will qualify them to enter the government work force. The high school scoring scale works on a 100 point system, where students achieve distinction if they score between 75-80, and receive distinction in ranks of I, II, or III. Students who do not rank at the top of their class do go on to university (also run by the government).

Some parents, are not particularly concerned about their children’s education because the changes make it easier for them to graduate. However the government demands have also undermined the ability of teachers to teach.

The mother of one student from Mudon township said, “ I am very happy because my children pass every year until 7 grade. But I am worried about grades 9 and 10. If their basic knowledge is not up to par, they will not pass their final high school test.” “Because of our students’ poor education, we have to make even more of an effort to ensure they understand all the subjects, especially in match and English classes.” An elementary class teacher in Mudon Township said, “For parents who understand the government changes, they worry for their children.

These parents encourage their child to succeed, and to study hard even if their friends are not. However students are very happy because they know that they will pass every year.” In Burma, students in grades 1 through 7 have monthly tests and at the completion of each exam will not study the subject again. In these grades students can pass their exams with a score of 40 (out of 100), however if students fall below this mark, they will graduate regardless, and move on to the next year. Students in grades 8, 9, and 10 do face the possibility of failing however only in grade 10 would failure result in the student having to repeat the year.

A former teacher working with the Mon National Education Committee (MNEC) speculated that students from MNEC possessed a higher degree of education than that of their Burmese counterparts, as students under the MNEC do not need attend outside tuition and they study with teachers closely in a an MNEC school set up in Nyi Sar camp. MNEC operates under the control of New Mon State Party (NMSP). While the Burmese government may continue work towards the image of a successful school system, the real results will be seen in the future generations who must find work. A computer student from Pa-an, Karen state, who dropped out of university after his first year said, “I attended computer class for one year and I could have just learnt computer science from the book since I never even got access to a computer. Some of my friends are also leaving school. “

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