Teachers’ Federation Decries Lack of Consultation on Burma’s Education Bill

By Yen Saning 26 August 2014

RANGOON — Burma’s main group representing teachers has said it cannot endorse the National Education Bill because the government failed to conduct proper consultation and heed advice on the law.

The piece of legislation—intended to revive Burma’s education system after years of underfunding and overbearing government control—was approved by Parliament on July 30, but has not yet been signed into law by President Thein Sein.

The Myanmar Teachers’ Federation—which comprises associations representing teachers in all levels of the education system—said in a statement Saturday that the current draft of the bill did not reflect the opinions of students, teachers and parents.

“The bill just includes the opinions from some teachers and students who share the views of education authorities,” the statement said.

Public consultation meetings were held during the bill’s drafting, but teachers’ groups and civil society organizations—who have argued that the bill fails to remove central control from schools and universities—say their views were not properly listened to or taken into account.

“To develop university academia, students, teachers, and businessman—those who invest in education, should be included,” said Arkar Moe Thu, secretary of the Myanmar Teachers’ Federation.

“Yet, the law was drafted by those in education who are corrupt.”

The federation also highlighted the bill’s lack of a guarantee of academic independence. The National Network for Education Reform, a collection of civil society and political groups, last week also criticized the bill for not releasing schools and university’s from central control, and for preserving the risk of political influence in education.

Arkar Moe Thu said that rather than entrusting educators with more power, some parts of the bill were “insulting” to teachers.

“There is a clause about using a decentralized system, but only based on the educational staff’s taking responsibility and making decision with ‘good morals,’ he said.

“This means the democratic education system will be used only when teachers have good morality.”

He said the use of “morality” in the bill showed that the drafters “do not understand teachers’ integrity.”

The Myanmar Teachers’ Federation also said in its statement that the bill cannot be said to be ushering in a democratic education system in Burma since it does not guarantee students’ and teachers’ rights to form associations.