Burmese University Students Protest Education Bill

Freshmen students attend a chemistry class in Yangon University in Yangon Dec. 5, 2013. (Photo: Reuters)

Freshmen students attend a chemistry class in Yangon University in Yangon Dec. 5, 2013. (Photo: Reuters)

MANDALAY — Students at Yadanabon University in Burma’s second-biggest city staged a protest against the national education bill on Monday, urging the government to amend it after consulting with teachers and students.

About 50 students holding placards lined the front gate of the university compound in Mandalay. They criticized the bill for giving the government too much control over universities.

“We do not agree with the one-sided draft bill because it still has central control, no academic freedom and no rights for students. If the drafted bill is enacted, our country’s education will remain unchanged,” said Nyan Htein Lin, a second-year student.

The protesters said the draft bill neglected the right to learn ethnic languages at universities and at the basic education level, while also prohibiting student involvement in political movements.

“The bill still includes the system whereby we have to choose a university depending on our matriculation marks. With that system, we cannot freely choose a major that interests us or our university,” added Aung Myo, another second-year student.

“We strongly urge the government to rewrite the bill after taking suggestions from teachers and students. Now the bill has been written by one side and clearly shows the government still controls academic freedom.”

The students also called on Parliament to be more transparent in their dealings with the draft bill.

“We do not know what is going on with the drafted bill in Parliament. If the government forced lawmakers to enact the bill, neglecting the teachers’ and students’ desires, there will be no future for better education,” Aung Myo said.

The National Education Bill—drafted by the government’s Education Promotion Implementation Committee (EPIC)—was submitted to Parliament in early March.

The bill has been widely criticized since then, including by the National Network for Education Reform (NNER), a network of civil society groups. Students from Shwe Bo University in Sagaing Division also staged a protest against the bill last month.

2 Responses to Burmese University Students Protest Education Bill

  1. I think the protesters are right. I admire these young people for their intelligence and forthrightness. But sadly enough, as is always, there are a silent majority who also hold the right to live in fear.
    There are three or four problems as they say, and as we elders see: that the universities must have an academic freedom whereby development of personal capacities of youths must be given free rights to choose and pursue; secondly, matriculation must have a level, in English and Myanmar language media, high enough to start a quality education in the universities, without any handicap; thirdly, since the number of years for matriculation (entrance examination) have increased to 12, the undergrad years should be shortened at least by one year, if only to make the cost of education affordable and less burdensome on parents and the universities; fourthly, the teaching methods must, necessarily, involve intensive learning by students by way of studies extending beyond class rooms, meaning self study and library visits; the government may make policies in line with the parliament and contribute the university funds, but not to interfere in the administration of the university system that is mainly self-governed. The President may be the Chancellor of all the universities, but the Vice Chancellor of each university is supreme, with the backing of a university council each way.
    After all, these youngsters must be developed to be fit for governing themselves when their time comes, not disrupted or interfered by the current governments, who have the duty to encourage and enhance the current education systems as adopted mainly independent of the present government.
    The elders today will be governed one day by the youths of today.
    Aren’t the sons and daughters expected to be better and wiser than the oldies of today?
    Isn’t the child father of the man?

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