|© UNICEF Myanmar 2012|
Today there is much to celebrate around the world: from declining infant mortality, to rising school enrolment. Equitable access to education in Myanmar has been advanced by the Ministry of Education through student stipends, free textbooks, stationery grants and increased supply of teachers. But in spite of these gains, this anniversary also serves as an urgent reminder that much remains to be done. In Myanmar it is estimated that over one million children are still out of school, less than 70% of primary school age children complete a full course of primary education at the correct age, and out of every 100 children entering primary school, only about 20 go on to finish lower secondary school.
Myanmar’s constitution guarantees access to free and compulsory primary education to all children, however, low levels of investment in the education sector have lead to unachievable out-of-pocket expenses for many families who want to send their children to school, often preventing the most marginalised from accessing education.
Valuable efforts are being made to enhance the education sector in Myanmar. Compared to 2012, public spending in education in 2014 has increased by 49%. Investment in the education sector now represents about 6% of public expenditure. However, this is still the lowest level of investment in the ASEAN region - ASEAN and developing Asian countries invest around 12% of public expenditure in education or on average 4% of GDP. UNICEF recommends that Myanmar aim to increase its investment in education to 12% of total public expenditure by 2020.
Putting children at the heart of the national budget: read the UNICEF-Myanmar Development Resource Institute (MDRI) joint report “Making Public Finance Work for Children” and UNICEF advocacy brief.
The Myanmar Quality Basic Education Programme (QBEP) aims to support the Government of Myanmar to improve access to quality basic education for all children in Myanmar by delivering education services to children in core townships and also by ensuring that national education policies and plans are inclusive, informed and actionable, which will potentially benefit all children in Myanmar. QBEP is supported by Australia, Denmark, the European Union, Norway, the United Kingdom, and by UNICEF in partnership with the Government of Myanmar.
Ending the cycle of poverty for children, their families and their communities begins with education. With rapid economic growth and rising revenues it is feasible for Myanmar to increase investment in the sector even further. QBEP encourages the Myanmar Government to actively explore options for investing in education to reduce disparities in access and to increase the quality of teaching and learning. The time for investment is now.