Education Law Hearings Conclude in Naypyidaw

By Nobel Zaw 18 March 2015

RANGOON — After wrapping up its inquiry into the National Education Law in Naypyidaw, the Upper House Draft Law Committee will publish its findings on Friday, members of the National Network for Education Reform (NNER) have told The Irrawaddy.

On Tuesday, representatives of the student-led Action Committee for Democratic Education (ACDE) and NNER attended the committee’s final hearing session, putting the case for reforming the bill in line with the Feb. 14 settlement reached between government representatives, students and education reformers.

Some reform proponents told The Irrawaddy they were unhappy with the time allotted for those speaking in favor of amending the law. Dr Nyo Nyo Thin, a lawmaker in the Rangoon Division parliament who attended the committee hearing as an NNER member, said that the final session was cut short at 3:40pm while she was waiting to explain key reform proposals.

“Some of the people in previous hearing sessions had two hours to speak in defense of the bill,” she said. “We only got 15 minutes. I wanted to explain the rest of our proposals.”

The two reform groups had earlier refused an invitation to attend hearing sessions on Mar. 5-6 as a result of the police blockade against student demonstrators in Letpadan, Bago Division.

After police launched a crackdown on the Letpadan protesters in Letpadan, the groups joined the committee hearings in order to petition for the release of students detained after the incident, in addition to arguing for reform to the education law. Representatives of the Confederation of University Student Unions (CUSU) and the All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABSFU) were also invited to participate, but declined due to fear of arrest.

From Mar. 5, the committee has discussed the 11 proposals put forward by students and education reformers, including decentralizing the curriculum and changes to the university entrance system. Concerns have been raised about how any reforms would affect schools run by religious groups.

“There are many schools teaching the government curriculum operated by Christian organizations in remote areas, and children of different faiths attend those schools,” said Thu Thu Mar of the National Network for Education Reform. “We want to expand the scope of the bill to include some schools opened by religious organizations.”

Thu Thu Mar said that NNER representatives used the committee hearings to rebut suggestions by the Education Ministry that the creation of independent student unions would lead to a resurgence in communist activity.

Committee president Khin Maung Yi told Tuesday’s session that the lawmakers present would be mindful of criticisms leveled against the education law by students, as the reintroduction of the education law into parliament was a result of student protests. He added that the committee would try to produce a bill proposal in line with student expectations.