National Human Rights Education Initiative Forthcoming

By Tin Htet Paing 8 July 2016

RANGOON — Burma’s national human rights commission will join the Ministry of Education in integrating human rights education into the national curriculum, a move likely to be implemented in the following academic year, the commission has announced.

The Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC) and the education ministry agreed in June to work cooperatively to include Human Rights Education (HRE) lessons within the provisions of basic education, starting from second grade and finishing in twelfth. The two institutions will begin drafting the curriculum during the third week of July, Dr. Khine Khine Win, the director of MNHRC’s human rights education and promotion division, told The Irrawaddy on Friday.

“We will develop the curriculum with illustrations and pictures based on what children should know about basic human rights in their respective grades and what is appropriate for their level,” she said.

Dr. Khine Khine Win explained that the lesson content will draw upon the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child. HRE will not be taught as a separate course, however—lessons are expected to be integrated within one of the main subjects already being taught.

The director-general of the Ministry of Education’s Department of Myanmar Education Research Bureau Dr. Khaing Mye said that basic concepts and knowledge related to human rights had already been touched upon in social skills and life skills lessons within the existing curriculum, but the MNHRC aims to update these lessons to increase their relevance to the present day.

“Teaching human rights education in classrooms will assist children and our society in developing mutual respect, promoting equality, [and] understanding and respecting diversity in religions, cultures and customs,” he told The Irrawaddy on Friday.

The ministry’s curriculum development team includes international and local education experts and is supported by the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Dr. Khaing Mye said.

Dr. Khine Khine Win said that people in Burma have never had the opportunity to learn about human rights in state schools; if these ideas are learned from an early age, she hopes that the next generation will understand and respect human dignity and know how to effectively apply these principles in all aspects of their lives.

“When these children become adults, they won’t be like us—learning what human rights are and what violations of human rights are, at an old age,” she said.

In June, Burma’s education minister, Myo Thein Gyi, took to the floor of Parliament and explained to lawmakers that his ministry would take steps to include human rights as a subject for university students pursuing law degrees. The addition will take place beginning in the 2016-2017 academic year, which starts in December.