‘Free Education’ in Name Only, Parents Say of Some Rangoon Schools
By Yen Saning 23 May 2014
RANGOON — As schools prepare to reopen their doors next month for the start of the academic year, some Rangoon parents say they are struggling to enroll their children at some of the city’s most well-known state schools, claiming practices that amount to bribe-taking and other impediments to access that have long-plagued Burma’s public education system remain.
Myat Thet Mon, a resident of Yankin Township, told The Irrawaddy that she faced problems after the principal of the High School of Yankin Teacher Training College asked her to bring a signature of a government minister in order for her daughter to get into the school, which educates children from kindergarten through Grade 11.
The principal, however, has denied accusations that she told registrants a minister’s signature was required on their applications. Last week she told the Burmese-language Myanmar Herald weekly journal that the allegation, which Myat Thet Mon also leveled on social media via Facebook, was a false attack on the school and herself.
Other parents say they were asked, but not required, to include a fixed donation of US$500 to the school with their submission of a registration application. Having declined to do so, they say their kids were not on the list of those eligible to register for the upcoming school year at High School of Yankin TTC. Other children whose parents had paid the “donation” were on the accepted list, they allege.
“We didn’t realize when we were told to donate $500,” Yin Yin Soe, the resident of Yankin Township said.
Public education in Burma is nominally free for primary and middle school students, but fees and other expenses can make enrollment a challenge for financially strapped families. Additionally, the kind of “donation” described by Yin Yin Soe have long been part of how the system operates.
A parent who asked to remain anonymous similarly said that her primary school-aged child could not get in to the B.E.H.S. (2) Mingalardon because a donation that was requested by the school proved too steep for the family to afford.
Thu Ra Zaw, the husband of Yin Yin Soe, said the family had sent a letter to the college overseeing the High School of Yankin TTC, explaining that it was too late to enroll elsewhere in the city, and containing the recommendation of a teacher who works at the school.
“It seems like we will get [to register],” he said.
The High School of Yankin TTC is said to accept the children of alumni, but the parents of many of those left out of the school’s student roster this year have made claims to being alumni. The parents also complain that some kids from other townships were accepted, prompting speculation about what those students—or their parents—had to offer that applicants from within Yankin Township did not.
There are about 20 children who were not able to register at the Yankin school, according to Myat Thet Mon.
Well-known state schools in Rangoon, such as B.E.H.S (1) Dagon, B.E.H.S (2) Mingalardon and Yankin TTC, began selecting new primary students on April 19. Students’ eligibility for enrollment at the schools is announced at the start of May.
Difficulties with school enrollment are frequently reported in Burma’s larger cities, with the country’s less densely populated areas far more likely to freely accept any and all registrants.
Meanwhile, the number of private high schools in Burma has quadrupled since 2012, to more than 200 officially licensed to operate. Tuition costs at private schools stand at about $1,000 for a kindergarten student and $3,000 to $4,000 for Grade 6 to Grade 9 students. Students in grades 10 and 11, known as “matriculation students” in the Burmese education system, must pay from $5,000 to $8,000 per year.
Additional reporting by The Irrawaddy reporters May Sitt Paing and Htet Naing Zaw.