Mon 25 Jan 2010
Filed under: Opinion,Other
Sanskrit says that: ‘Education leads to liberation’ – Liberation from ignorance which shrouds the mind, Liberation from superstitions, which paralyze efforts, liberation from prejudice, which blind the vision of truth”.However successive military regime believes that universities are the birth place of dissent against autocratic rule. And so since the military coup in 1962, rather than developing a quality education system as a means of building Burma’s human resource base, the Burmese generals have sought to subvert education in Burma for their own purpose – to remain in power at any cost.
It is not a surprising to witness that people in Burma are being blinded by the various military administrations, even though the ‘thirst for vision of truth’ is very much apparent. The current regime has bonded the rights to education as a hostage to be always held in captivity and so the international community became a mere spectator pining in sorrow for the Burmese people’s hope.
Since the 7th July incident in 1962, where for the first time the Tatmadaw (Burmese Army) shoot into the crowds of demonstrating students killing 137 students instantly and since then the Universities in Burma has been closed off and on until 1988 revolution when all the university education was closed down for nearly a decade.
After reopening, the regime pursued a policy of separating and isolating students so that they could to contact each other. Iron fences have been built around universities in and around Burma and campuses were close again and again at the slightest sign of any trouble.
The prolonged closure of schools has affected the future of almost all the young people of Burma and only those with political influence, such as the children of the generals, and those rich enough enjoy uninterrupted and quality education. The regime, in addition, has lowered the academic standards by reducing school terms; four year degree courses have been lessened to a year or a year and a half hence the students are unable to study out of the formal education system. The closing down of universities for seven years in the past decade resulted in most students not able to complete their undergraduate courses. Many secondary schools also suffer from poor funding and shortages of materials.
The woes of teachers are no less. They can earn on an average less than US$ 30 a month. Many earn ten times their salary through private tutoring which again lead to the infiltration of mass unfair means during examinations and in academic terms or partiality.
The teachers who cannot bear such conditions leave the country; those teachers who do not get much privilege or are patriotic try their best against the military regime and serve the country within the constraints. Ethnic nationalities teachers are the ones to suffer gross human rights violation. The teaching or research of any ethnic language is not permitted in any secondary school or tertiary institutes. Critics of the system allege that the policy of teaching only Burmese and no other languages in government schools is simply a means of imposing discipline, control and Burmanization.
The Tatmadaw during its attempts to unify the country by force enforce a law that schools near areas of conflict that teach in ethnic languages are the first to be “dismantled” and many children are thus denied education in their own language and culture. Two other groups in Burma that have historically been denied educational opportunities have been children of Chinese and Indian ancestry. Under a strict 1982 Citizenship Law, people of Chinese and Indian ancestry must prove that their ancestors have resided in Burma since 1824 during the first British annexation, a requirement which is almost impossible to fulfill. As university entrance is only open to Burmese nationals, this bars many from studying for a university degree despite having lived all their lives in Burma.
Another factor that shows there is no freedom of choice in education is that those who finished high school cannot choose any subject of their interest. The condition is the students have to take the subjects according to their matriculation marks whether they like it or not.
Students have no rights to speak, or discuss matters that will affect their educational life. The example is the repeated changes of curriculum and the phase of trial education. The students have no right to criticize, to complain, to question. Sometimes they don’t even have the right to know that such things are taking place.
In most of the affiliated schools, villagers themselves have to build the schools and hire teachers at their own expense. In some places there is only one primary school for five villages. There are no schools in the border areas and the only choice of the poor is the Monastic schools which only give primary education. In these schools not to mention teaching, even stationery is not enough and so the students have to use slate and slate pencils.
If so one can ask of where have the educational aids given by the international organizations gone? This aid goes to Military Medical University, and the Military Engineering University. These military universities are not closed as ordinary universities.
The aid is abundant in military universities. Modern technology is provided in these universities. When internationally well-known scholars come to visit Burma, they are allowed to give lectures only at these universities. This is but one way of controlling the country in the coming future. While in Burma the educational aid’s given by international organizations goes to military schools and universities. The annual budget allocated by the government was low; only about 2 % is spent per year on education.
A closer look at different aspects of the current state of Burma’s military governance and civil military relations indicates that the generals do not underestimate the potential for political processes to develop by their recent actions.
The Tatmadaw has established its identity as über-nationalist, superior institution solely capable to safeguard, build and form state and nation. The National Defence College publication from 2005 reveals that the officers are expected to become knowledgeable in economic and other matters to be able to fulfill their extended political and military tasks in building a strong military force and a wealthy and technologically developed nation.
It is evident that Burma’s military defines its professionalism within the notion of “new professionalism” and thus as a military with extended competencies and skills that go far beyond the management of violence. As self-assigned state and nation-builder who has to run state and economy, the military developed an expanded concept of its professional role and accordingly tried to equip its officers with a variety of expertise in political, economic, and social matters.
The educational institutions of the military have enormously expanded thus indicating an attempt to extend further the skills and expertise of the officer corps in order to be able t rule the country in perpetuity. While the national education system suffers chronically from lack of funds, the military has established well-funded and exclusive higher education institutions. In Maymyo, the regime has built several schools of higher education to cultivate its academic offspring.
Cadets enter with full pay into the Defence Services Medical Academy, Defence Services Technological Academy, Technological College, and Defence Services Institute of Nursing and Paramedical Sciences to become engineers, technicians, economic experts, medical doctors, male nurses, pharmacologists, and the like. The graduates of these institutions join the ranks as something we could call “hybrid professionals.” It is remarkable that these officers are not only military professionals but also highly specialized in civilian professions, thus taking “new professionalism” to another level. It seems like another distinct step of the military class to become independent from civilians and civilian experts and foster its power position in a future “military control Burma.”
In 2000, the Junta laid down a 30-year education plan focusing on improvements in the basic education sector but the failure to reopen the universities continues as does the increasing number of jobless graduates and mass migration to foreign countries for job opportunities. The misplacement of job seekers, show that the education system cannot guarantee job opportunities. The military Junta highlights the number of universities and schools rather than the quality of education given. In fact, most universities in Burma lack teaching aids, laboratory materials and human resources. These days there is still no significant development in education and the dropout rate is still high. The elimination of an education system that supports political monism is still very much there.
Democracy and freedom is a universal human aspiration. Democracy evolves according to the needs and traditions of diverse political cultures and education is the basic of democracy for democracy survived best in the educated people. Democracy & Education is a partnership that can be traced to the heart of education. Education provides especially students with experiences through which they can develop democratic attitudes and values.
Only by living them can students develop the democratic ideals of equality, liberty and community. The concept of Democracy, which we value in our classrooms and later in our lives is encouraged by providing information, sharing experiences and reviewing resources is absent in Burma. In fact all educators share a larger purpose – to foster democracy.
The regime-controlled education system has resulted in sub-standard education, critical lack of teaching facilities, unskilled teachers, and lack of job opportunities after graduation, corruption and bribery. The vastly deteriorating economic situation also forces students to leave schools even when they are functioning. Given the high drop-out rate of children in primary school, fewer students continue their education at middle and high school levels. Till now the military junta has not been able to solve the basic problems of students. They are constantly using closure of universities as a weapon to stop students’ demonstrations for their rights. To immediately reopen all the schools and universities in the country unconditionally and at the same time maintain a free and unbiased educational program all over Burma still remains a dream for the people of the ‘Lost Hostage’.