New Mon Language Curriculum Ready for Government Schools

By Yen Saning 25 January 2016

RANGOON — The training of 400 teachers in a new child-centered curriculum for the instruction of the Mon language began this week in Moulmein.

Regional volunteers and civil servants who work as Mon language instructors in government schools will attend the training in the Mon State capital. Participants are from Mon and Karen states, and Tenasserim Division.

Min Aung Zay, a team leader on the Working Committee for Curriculum Drafting, said the training will be delivered as a four-day workshop to two batches of 200 teachers. He explained that these teachers will then try out the new curriculum when schools re-open. Through student-centered methodology, he hopes children will be able to “learn the language easily.”

The Mon Language Curriculum Committee within the Mon State government has finished drafting primary-level textbooks, a basic Mon language book and a teacher’s guide for the upcoming school year. The materials were adapted from Burma’s national curriculum and are based on “mother tongue-based multilingual education,” an approach in which students are instructed in their first language as a way to both preserve non-dominant languages and build confidence in learning.

New Mon-language textbooks for kindergarten up to grade five are currently being printed with Unicef funds, and are expected to be ready at the end of April or early May.

With support from the Mon State government, the Mon language teachers will be provided a salary of 30,000 kyats (US$23) per month. The Irrawaddy reported in May that, due to a lack of funds and national support, teachers had previously only received one-third of this.

There are approximately 50,000 students in Mon State and 100,000 students countrywide currently attending schools where the Mon language is taught.

“Most schools that teach Mon language classes are in Mon villages where there are no Burman students,” Min Aung Zay said. Seven of Mon State’s townships are home to 382 such schools.

“The language is not taught in some cities where Burmese is spoken more. But in cities where there are more Mon, we have to teach it,” he added.

In 2014, the Mon State parliament approved a bill allowing ethnic language instruction during school hours, yet access to Mon language classes still varies by school. Beginning in 2011, ethnic educators and lawmakers proposed the inclusion of local languages in government schools. It was permitted one year later, but only outside of regular school hours, and did not receive state funding.

For 50 years, Burma’s military governments banned ethnic minority language education from public schools, requiring that all instruction take place in Burmese, the language of the country’s ethnic Burman majority. Minority languages were instead taught in non-government schools run by the administrative divisions of non-state ethnic armed groups.