The Day a Pioneering Myanmar Education Reformer Was Killed
By Wei Yan Aung 19 February 2020
YANGON—On this day 63 years ago, Director of Education U Kaung, who led an educational reform drive that led to the initiation of free education, overseas study for Myanmar students and educational stipends, died in a road accident in India. On Feb. 19, 1957, U Kaung, who was in the neighboring country to oversee the printing of exam papers for the seventh-standard examination, was killed when his vehicle crashed due to heavy snow.
A year before, Harry Tan, a seventh-standard student, was shot dead by police as they forcibly dispersed a group of students staging a protest against the government’s cancellation of the seventh-standard state examinations. Authorities had canceled the exams citing a leak of questions.
U Kaung therefore went to India to ensure the security of the exam printing process, but unexpectedly lost his life.
Schooled in the UK, U Kaung served as an education officer during British and Japanese rule. In the period shortly before Myanmar gained independence, he was based in London, where he served as an educational adviser to Myanmar scholars. He played a role in establishing the Myanmar Embassy in London, and as a member of the Myanmar Monetary Board signed “Maung Kaung” on Myanmar currency banknotes printed in England.
After Myanmar gained independence, he traveled to Europe, Asia and South America on study visits. He was a leading figure in Myanmar’s educational reform, introducing free education and distributing free notebooks, introducing art into the curriculum of basic education schools, sending Myanmar scholars to foreign countries for study, creating various types of scholarships and stipends, and increasing education funding.
He also served as the chairman of the first Myanmar History Commission after independence.
He died at the age of 52 while serving as the education director and chairman of the Myanmar History Commission. His body was brought back to Myanmar the day after the accident. His son U Thaw Kaung, who held a position at the Yangon University Library arranged by U Kaung, followed in his father’s footsteps and is today known as the father of Myanmar’s library system.
Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko
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