NAYPYITAW—State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has urged teachers to take up teaching posts in remote, inaccessible areas of the country.
Speaking at a seminar on the development of the basic education sector in Myanmar’s administrative capital on Tuesday, the State Counselor said teaching in remote areas is an opportunity to effectively perform one’s duty to the state.
“[I want teachers] to equip themselves with a sense of duty to perform the duty of an educator in remote, inaccessible and less-developed places rather than other parts of the country,” said Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
“It is more valuable to teach in such areas,” she added.
However, the majority of teachers are reluctant to go to remote areas, according to the director-general of the department of basic education, U Ko Lay Win.
“Teachers assigned to remote areas are allowed to transfer to other places after serving one year there, so most of the teachers try to get transferred after one year. The positions are left vacant and we have to find new teachers again to replace them,” he said.
The government pays double the standard salary to civil servants who are assigned to remote areas. The offer, however, is not enticing enough for teachers due to a number of reasons—they often face traveling very long distances, a scarcity of food and concerns over their safety among others.
“It is mainly about safety, especially for female teachers. They feel like it is unsafe to live in a particular society,” said U Sai Myo Khaing Tun of Myanmar Teachers’ Federation.
As a short-term solution, the education ministry appoints locals as volunteers to fill vacant positions. After undergoing relevant training and volunteering with daily wages for a couple of years, locals are appointed as permanent teachers.
“It is not easily accessible. There was a danger of snake and torrents. The house I had to live in was not adequately covered. There was also the risk of harassment as I am a woman,” said a teacher named Daw Nandar Lin who worked as a primary teacher in a mountain-side village.
Meanwhile, some in the education community have suggested lowering the matriculation examination marks needed for admission to education colleges that train and turn out teachers.
“I heard that some who got over 400 marks [out of 600 marks in the matriculation exam] were not chosen for the education college. I think around 350 marks should be enough for people in remote areas to be able to join the college,” said Daw Nandar Lin.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi also urged the officials of the education ministry to try to understand the difficulties facing education staff in carrying out their duties in remote regions.
“Only when we know their feelings, we’ll know how to support them. Only when there are social guarantees for teachers will their students be able to learn peacefully,” she said.
According to the education ministry, there are 9.7 million students in the basic education sector nationwide for whom there are less than 400,000 teachers.