Education is a priority for Myanmar, and higher education is the main issue of the debate on the future. The British Council Myanmar, in collaboration with AusAID (Australian Government Overseas Aid Program), ADB (Asian Development Bank) and UNESCO (the Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization of the United Nations), organized the event Empowering Higher Education in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar, 29th -30th June 2013.The aim of the High-Level Policy Dialogue was developing a shared vision on higher education in Myanmar and fostering international coordination among the actors involved. The Deputy Union Minister of Education, Myo Myint, the Parliament Higher Education Law Committee headed by Aung San Suu Kyi, representatives from 13 Departments, academic staff, representatives from various Civil Society Organizations, ambassadors and partners had the opportunity to discuss on means and possibilities to enhance a better quality of higher education in the country.
Myo Myint highlighted that the government is committed to the development of higher education and, compared to 2012, the budget for education has increased by 107%. The government considers the investment made for education as the most profitable for society, giving priority to higher education and promoting an inclusive and fair approach.
Aung San Suu Kyi stressed the need for full autonomy and inclusion of the education sector in order to contribute to the new future that Myanmar is building, In particular, she highlighted the following issues:
- Empowering – Strengthening students’ knowledge and skills.
- Inclusiveness –Inclusive participation of all ethnic groups, with particular attention to minorities, to give them the opportunity of learning the Burmese culture and history and preserving their cultural identity.
- Equality – Ensuring education for all students without any cultural, religious, ethnic (sometimes geographical) discrimination by facilitating access to universities through the introduction of new criteria for admission.
- Team work- Highlighting the importance of study groups to encourage cooperation among students.
- Communication – Fostering communication among the actors engaged in the education sector in order to meet students’ needs.
- Campus life – Importance of living on campus, which would be not only a good place to study but also a social environment for the exchange of ideas through the creation of a solid network.
- Freedom – Ensuring that students can have the possibility of choosing their faculty, creating groups and movements in order to participate actively in political life.
- Autonomy - Each university should be independent and decentralized in order to have its own internal governance.
The meeting was attended by distinguished experts at national and international levels. AVSI staff in Myanmar participated in the event and had the possibility to discuss with Aung San Suu Kyi about AVSI’s activities in the country focused on the education sector such as support to children’s education until the completion of upper secondary school, improvement of the quality of educational services, support to pupils’ families and training for teachers and social workers.
AVSI started its activities in Myanmar (Burma) in 2006, following the massive tsunami that hit the country.Since 2007, AVSI, through the Distance Support Program and in collaboration with local partners, has been implementing educational activities for 500 children and adolescents, and supporting the Pediatric Heath Center in the Diocese of Pekhon.
Since the beginning of 2008, AVSI has been implementing agricultural and food security projects in collaboration with the Food Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Food Programme (WFP), the Myanmar Agricultural Services (MAS) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation, in 85 villages of the so called “Dry zone”, one of the most critical areas of the country, and in the municipality of Pekhon.