NAYPYITAW—The Ministry of Education says it will continue with its plan to extend the school year by one month at basic education schools despite strong opposition from teachers and teachers-in-training.
The Department of Myanmar Examinations announced on Dec. 20 that the school year will be extended through March 31 beginning with the current 2019-20 school year. Prior to the announcement, all basic education schools across Myanmar had started their academic terms in June and ended in February.
The announcement drew criticism not only from teachers, but also from parents. The Myanmar Teachers Federation issued a statement on Jan. 5 expressing its disapproval of the plan.
Trainees at education universities and colleges in Yangon and elsewhere in the country have been more outspoken still and launched an advocacy campaign early this month, calling for a review of the ministry’s plan and using green ribbons as a symbol.
“We are proceeding as planned. The new system will only come into force in March. There is still time,” Deputy Education Minister U Win Maw Tun told The Irrawaddy.
U Win Maw Tun said the curricula for basic education schools were originally designed for a 10-month school year and that the academic year should end in March, as it starts in June. However, he said that under successive governments, the academic year was not implemented as originally designed.
“We are just trying to correct it,” said the deputy minister.
An additional month of school means students will have only two months of summer holidays.
Daw Thet Ngon Pu, a teacher at a post-primary education school in Naypyitaw’s Pyinmana Township, said she would use the extra month to test her pupils’ knowledge and do some administrative work.
Protesters against the plan have voiced concerns about the extra workload that teachers will have during March, when they are already burdened with preparing and supervising examinations of 5th- and 9th-grade students and matriculation students, as well as grading papers and reviewing exams.
“I doubt if [higher-level Education Ministry officials] have asked any teacher, face-to-face, if they agree [with the plan],” said Ko Naung Htet Aung, a member of the student union of Yangon University of Education and a leader of the committee behind the green-ribbon campaign. “We are speaking out against it only after consulting with teachers, the public, parents and students,” he added.
Many teachers have reacted angrily to the Education Ministry’s claim that the one-month extension is intended to give parents more time to focus on their work, calling it a flimsy excuse.
The green-ribbon campaign was launched by education students and trainee teachers at 26 universities and colleges, including members of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions, and the Yangon University of Education.
The Teachers Federation also said in its statement on Jan. 5 that if the government neglects their wishes, teachers will not help with any non-teaching activities during this year’s election. Since Myanmar reintroduced elections in 2010, teachers, mostly from basic education schools, have been assigned to help at polling stations during elections.
The statement also said that teachers would step up their opposition, as permitted by the law, unless officials with the Education Ministry meet and talk with teacher organizations from the basic education sector before proceeding with the plan.
Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko