Burma

President Urged to Rid School Curriculum of 'Discriminatory' Language

By San Yamin Aung 27 December 2018

YANGON — More than 100 civil society groups wrote an open letter to President U Win Myint on Wednesday to complain about racism and religious discrimination in the elementary curriculum of both government and private schools.

The letter, signed by 121 groups and 10 individuals, says the civics education taught in elementary schools includes discriminatory phrases such as: “Mixed blood is a hateful wrongdoing, and the race will be extinct.”

The letter was also copied to the State Counselor’s Office, the Ministry of Education and parliamentary speakers.

“Those lessons seem to attempt to indoctrinate the innocent minds of children with discriminatory practices,” it says.

Daw Kathleen Thein, who chairs the Inngyin May Hindu Women’s Network, which signed the letter, said she and her friends were informed of the language by some Buddhist parents who were shocked to overheard their children reciting the lessons.

She said they learned that such phrases have been taught in the schools since the early 2010s.

“Civic education should teach children to respect different races and religions and to help each other. But now they are putting wrong thinking to young children,” Daw Kathleen Thein said. “It is very concerning that the children may mistake other religions for their enemy.”

The groups said in their letter that Myanmar’s past and present communal conflicts were the result of many years of a divide and rule government policy, exacerbated by the discriminatory practices of past regimes. They said they expected a government elected by the people to abolish such divisive policies and practices.

“We would like to request the government and Parliament to review the current school curriculum and practices, and make changes that will teach respect for differences and that will contribute to the promotion of peaceful coexistence,” their letter says.

Contacted on Thursday, Deputy Education Minister U Win Maw Tun told The Irrawaddy that he was not aware of the letter. But if the ministry’s official curriculum did contain such language, he said, the National Curriculum Committee would be asked to review it.

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