National Education Bill Rejected by NLD-Backed Group

By Yen Saning 28 March 2014

RANGOON — The National Network for Education Reform (NNER) has rejected a government-drafted national education bill submitted to Parliament earlier this month.

The NNER, a civil society group which includes the education bloc of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party, says the proposed legislation gives the government too much control over the school system.

“The NNER has suggested academic freedom that reduces central control,” Thu Thu Mar, the education policy coordinator of the NNER’s working committee, told The Irrawaddy on Friday.

The National Education Bill was drafted by the government’s Education Promotion Implementation Committee (EPIC) and announced in state newspapers last week.

Another education bill has been drafted by the Lower House of Parliament but has not yet been shared with the public. The two bills were both submitted to Union Parliament on March 13 and are expected to be discussed at the same time.

In a statement released on Wednesday, the NNER criticized a provision in the government’s bill that would see the creation of a National Education Council comprising the vice president, ministers and other government officials.

“This is similar to the national education committee formed during the military regime. The National Education Council is another form of central control,” the network said in the statement.

“Though the law includes some suggestions from the NNER’s education policy, the government’s central control in the education sector is still obvious. The academic freedom of students and teachers is still under their control, and there are remaining concerns over freedom for ethnic languages and curriculum.”

Thu Thu Mar said the government rushed through drafting the bill and failed to consult with members of the public before submitting it to Parliament.

“Educational policy should be discussed, with academic and public debate,” she said. “Based on these results, Parliament can pass a national education law and then the education department can implement it.

The NNER is a diverse network that also includes the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society, members of teachers’ unions, Buddhists monks and ethnic education groups.

The network formed in 2012 and has held seminars across the country to discuss education reform. In June last year it organized a national conference attended by 1,200 participants. After that, it sent a report with recommendations to lawmakers and the government.

These recommendations have not been formally discussed in Parliament. NLD lawmakers say they support the recommendations but are waiting for MPs from another party to call for formal discussion, fearing the proposals will be rejected if the opposition party brings them forward.