Attempts to introduce child-centred education to Myanmar’s schools have ended in tears, educators have been told.

A workshop heard on January 25 that the scheme, introduced in basic primary education schools more than 10 years ago with the help of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), has not been a success.

The Project for Strengthening CCA Education in the Union of Myanmar started in 2004, initially for three years, in 27 major townships.

But teacher shortages, overcrowding and a reluctance to abandon the traditional rote-learning approach to education have caused it to fail, education expert U Hla Moe told the workshop.

He said Myanmar’s exam-based approach discourages teachers from child-centred learning techniques.

“CCA does not depend on exam results alone. But in our system, exams account for 100 percent of the final grade, compared to about 30pc in other countries, where more stress is placed on course-work evaluation,” he said. “[CCA] requires children to think in class and to express themselves.”

Daw Kyi Kyi Myint, a former teacher trainer and founder of Tha-mar-di private school in Meiktila, said that when CCA was launched in Mandalay it was supposed to be integrated into the geography, history and general knowledge areas of the curriculum. However, primary teachers had continued to stick to the old exam-based system.

“JICA provided the educational infrastructure for CCA. But while primary school teachers told us it was good, but in actual fact the children were being overloaded because they were trying to do both CCA and their usual work,” she said.

She said resistance to new methods among teachers had always been a problem in Myanmar, with teachers quickly returning to their traditional methods after attending training programs designed to impart new techniques.

“Children study hard, but since they are judged on exam results, they learn parrot-fashion. They gear up for the month-long exam season rather than the continuous assessment. At the fourth- and eighth-standard exams, the children failed the test and cried a lot. This showed the approach was not appropriate,” she added.

Phaung Daw Oo monastic school headmaster U Naryama said CCA was one of several attempts to reform the education system he had seen fail.

“The government keeps saying they will reform education, but children are still taught parrot-fashion,” he said.