Mon State Faces Shortage of Teachers for Mother-Tongue Education

By Lawi Weng 11 June 2014

RANGOON — After passing a bill to allow the Mon language to be taught in government schools, the Mon State government is facing a shortage of teachers capable of doing the job, regional lawmakers said.

The state legislature agreed a plan in April for the state to be the first of Burma’s ethnic regions to formalize the teaching of a mother-tongue other than Burmese, which was the only language allowed in state schools for more than 50 years.

The government in the state in southern Burma invited ethnic Mon university graduates to apply for teaching jobs and the language is meant to be being taught in addition to Burmese during the current school year, which began early this month.

However, according to Nai San Tin, a member of the state’s Parliament, not enough applicants came forward, leading to a shortage of Mon-language teachers.

“Our government is discussing with the state education department about what to do about this,” he told The Irrawaddy, adding that a central working committee was formed last week in the state capital, Moulmein, in an attempt to hire more Mon-speaking educators across the state.

“Our committee will land on the ground and help the people. We don’t know how many school teachers are needed so that we have enough.”

The state government will provide salaries of just 30,000 kyat per month (just over US$30) for teachers, who must be able to read and write the Mon language.

Community leaders have said the salary is too low to attract teachers. It compares to the monthly wage of 100,000 kyat for regular teachers at government schools.

Nai San Tin said the central committee may seek donations from local communities to bolster the salaries of Mon teachers.

He emphasized that the school year just getting under way was the first in generations when Mon teaching was part of regular schooling in the state, and therefore some difficulties were to be expected.

“If the central government provides for an education project, those school teachers may get a higher salary. Our state government can only provide this amount at the moment,” he added.

Aung Naing Oo, another Mon State lawmaker, said that in his constituency of Chaungzon Township sufficient teachers had been found, since ethnic Mon Buddhist monks had volunteered to help teach the language.

Some teachers were already teaching the Mon language during school holidays and they were also recruited for Mon teaching in government schools, he said.

“We have 36 schools in our township. We appointed 78 school teachers. We give priority first those who already worked in the community, and the second priority is for those who have graduated from university,” said Aung Naing Oo.