Students at Rangoon School for Blind Double National Matriculation Average

By Tin Htet Paing 10 June 2015

RANGOON — Nine out of 13 students from the Kawechan School for the Blind in Rangoon who sat this year’s matriculation examination have passed, a rate nearly double the national average.

They surpassed their peers in Burma’s standard education system—who last week posted a 37.6 percent matriculation rate—despite the unique challenges of learning with a visual impairment.

Blind students have to learn many of their lessons by listening to audio files that their instructors have recorded for them.

“Subjects that can be learned by heart are not a problem for them. Lessons are given to them in Braille and they can learn anytime. Teachers record the lessons [and save the audio files and] give them on memory sticks, and they can learn by themselves,” said Zeena Don, headmistress of the Kawechan School for the Blind.

Blind students take the exam with the assistance of 10th grade pupils, who are one academic year their junior. The 10th grade students read out the questions and also write down the answers provided by the test takers on their behalf. Although the blind students are given an extra 30 minutes, there are still sometimes problems because juniors can find it difficult to clearly understand their answers in some cases, the headmistress told The Irrawaddy.

“We call it writing on behalf. … The children [assisting students] can read and write English words, but when it comes to math, signs become a problem,” the headmistress told The Irrawaddy.

Maw Shae, who passed the exam with distinction in English, said he would like to apply for entrance to the University of Computer Studies in Rangoon and eventually work as a Foley artist upon graduation.

“I’d like to continue pursuing my interest in audio while attending the University of Computer Studies. I am interested in sound design and love crafting background sounds,” Maw Shae told The Irrawaddy.

Na Kha Ti, a fellow blind student who has also matriculated, told The Irrawaddy that she would like to specialize in history and dreams of one day becoming a radio presenter.

The graduates have proven their academic bona fides, but they are also fortunate: A government survey found that 50 percent of all people with disabilities in Burma had never attended school, largely because they were denied entrance at mainstream public schools. The high school graduation rate for people with disabilities was just 2 percent, according to the government findings.

Students from the Kawechan School for the Blind are provided with schooling from 1st grade to 9th grade at a standard Basic Education Middle School under an inclusive education program. After that, they are taught by instructors at the Kawechan School for the Blind and volunteer teachers. Students sit the matriculation exam at Basic Education High School No. 2 Insein.

This year’s impressive exam showing comes in spite of the school being under resourced, according to Zeena Don, who said the classroom is short of teachers, teaching aids and copies of textbooks in Braille.