For the first time, students at government schools in Mon State will be allowed to take some classes in the Mon language during regular school hours, according to local sources.
The new classes have yet to begin but will be added during the current school term, which began Monday, starting with first-graders.
The move has been welcomed by many ethnic Mon.
According to a class timetable published by the state government, Mon-language classes will be taught from 1.40 p.m. to 2.20 p.m., five days a week. Ethnic Karen and Pa-O attending government schools in Mon State will also allow be able to attend some classes taught in their own languages.
Three days a week, the lessons will be devoted to studying the Mon language; for the other two days students will learn Mon culture and history.
This year, the classes will be for Grade 1 only, according to the state government committee tasked with writing the Mon-language curricula. Committee members said the panel has completed draft versions of the curricula for grades 2 and 3, but they are not fully ready to be implemented yet.
“We have completely finished the Grade 1 curriculum, and finished drafts for grades 2 and 3,” said Nai Rot Gakao, a member of the committee. Work on the curricula for more advanced grades is ongoing, he said.
Previously, Mon-language instruction was only provided outside of regular school hours, starting at 3.40 p.m. Mon community leaders have long asked the government to offer the classes during school hours, as students’ interest tends to wane later in the afternoon.
Mon leaders welcomed the action from the government, though they had reservations about the conditions under which Mon teachers will be employed.
“We are happy that our language can now be taught at government schools. But we are not completely satisfied,” Nai Rot Gakao said.
The government will not pay Mon-language teachers a salary; they will be hired on a daily basis, according to Nai Rot Gakao, who said he wasn’t happy about this situation.
“Our Mon teachers should get equal pay with Burmese teachers,” he said, adding that the instructors were university graduates with good teaching skills.
Teachers at government schools hired on a daily basis are paid 4,500 kyats a day; they are paid only for the days they work, with nothing extra for weekends. Like other teachers, they are paid at the end of the month, but their pay is lower.
Most school administrators cannot read the Mon language; this poses a problem when it comes to managing Mon-language teaching at government schools. According to Nai Rot Gakao, the government needs to appoint ethnic education officers to manage and monitor ethnic education programs.
Teachers need training in how to teach this curriculum, as well as in-classroom monitoring, he said.
“The students will pay less attention if they are not interested in the program,” he said.
He urged the state government to appoint ethnic language education managers for each of Mon State’s two districts: Moulmein and Thaton.
“The ethnic language teaching system needs to be properly managed if it is to work well,” Nai Rot Gakao said.
Outside of the state-run education system, the Mon National Education Committee (MNEC) operates more than 100 schools that provide instruction in the Mon language.
Until now, MNEC, a nonprofit organization, has been the main provider of Mon-language education.
MNEC has asked the government to recognize it as an official organization, and to allow it to teach a full curriculum entirely in the mother tongue in Mon State. The organization currently only teaches Mon language as a subject. MNEC has also asked the government to fund its ethnic education activities.
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