The Irrawaddy

Mon State Govt Funds Mon Literature Exam for First Time

Mon students sit for the Mon Literature and Buddhist Culture exam in Moulmein. Hintharnee / The Irrawaddy)

MOULMEIN, Mon State — The Mon State government has donated 40 million kyats (US$30,000) for examinations and a closing ceremony for summer classes taught on Mon literature and Buddhist culture, said Mi Sandar Nan, a member of the Mon Literature and Buddhist Culture Association.

This is the first time the state government has made cash contributions for Mon literature and Buddhist culture classes, which are organized annually during the summer months for young students, Mi Sandar Nan told The Irrawaddy.

The classes are conducted by Mon Buddhist monks in Mon and Karen states and Tenasserim and Bago divisions. The most outstanding students in each respective level are eligible to sit for the All Mon Region Mon Literature and Buddhist Culture exam.

On May 21, some 1,100 students from 15 townships sat for the examination in Moulmein. There were six levels of exams focusing on Mon dynasties, culture and literature, and Buddhist teachings.

The state government has also promised to incur costs for publishing Mon language textbooks at government schools, said Mi Sandar Nan.

“We estimate that it might cost around 20 million kyats,” said Mi Sandar Nan.

The donation followed the committee’s request to the state chief minister to provide 70 million kyats for the examination and closing ceremony, she added.

“Article 354 of the 2008 Constitution states that ethnic groups are allowed to promote their language, literature and culture. Article 22 states that the Union government shall assist to develop language, literature, fine arts and culture of national races. The government provided assistance in line with these provisions,” said the chairman of Mon State parliament’s ethnic affairs committee U Tun Min Aung.

Since 2013, ethnic languages such as Mon, Karen and Pa-O have been taught outside of school hours in primary schools. According to the Mon State Education Office, there were 1,041 teachers who taught ethnic languages during the 2016-17 academic year.

In June 2016, the Mon State parliament approved an 11-point proposal to facilitate ethnic language teaching that included teaching ethnic languages during school hours, increasing the monthly wage from 30,000 kyats for ethnic language teachers, allowing teachers to wear traditional attire in class, and ensuring an appropriate teacher-student ratio.

Despite parliamentary approval, it is still difficult to put those proposals into action, said U Tun Min Aung, who noted that ethnic language classes currently still start after school at 4 p.m. and only last one hour.