Thursday, November 27, 2014

Preparing citizens for tomorrow’s Myanmar

By Anne-Cecile Vialle, Chief of the UNICEF Field Office for the South-East of Myanmar.

After thirty six years of service within the Ministry of Education, begun at the age of 18 in her native region Tanintharyi Division, Ms. Daw Myint Than still diffuses a vital energy and passion to her colleagues and students. For the past three years, working first as a head-teacher and now as the Township Education Officer, she has helped Thayetchaung township achieve the highest results in the Matriculation Exams at the regional level. Daw Myint Than is proud to add that her township scores first place in sport competitions, and that several students have obtained national prizes in academic and artistic competitions.

Daw Myint Than, Township Education Officer

“I wish to improve children’s conditions for studying and living, to give children the best chance of growing and of getting quality teaching to support their country’s development in the future”. 

When we asked Daw Myint Than what her recipe for success is, she very naturally responds that she completes her duties “with heart” and a positive attitude, and that she values communication through consultations over instruction, which is clearly appreciated by her colleagues as well as by her students. She mentions the art of “organizing power” - simple techniques for team management and empowerment of her staff such as capacity building and peer exchange opportunities. She sees teachers’ motivation as a core asset for quality teaching and learning. Daw Myint Than also very quickly steps back to praise others saying she is “so lucky to have such a great team”. 

As modern team management methods are making their way through the Myanmar education system, another impressive pilot has been occurring in townships around the country including Thayetchaung. The establishment of Early Childhood Development (ECD) Centres in primary schools has opened up opportunities for learning and development for children aged 3-5 years, helping them to be ready for school when they enter Grade 1. Since 2007, with the support of partners of the Quality Basic Education Programme (QBEP) and the Ministry of Education, Thayetchaung Township has established 108 ECD centres, which now cover 86% of primary schools in the township.

The most critical period in a child’s life is between the pre-natal period and 8 years; this is when the child’s brain undergoes its most rapid development. Good quality ECD that combines health, nutrition, social protection and cognitive stimulation can make a huge difference to the psychological and social development of young children. Investing in ECD also makes sense - for every $1 spent in early childhood it is estimated $7-12 can be saved in future costs.

Students at the ECD Centre at Einshay Pyin State Primary School in Thayetchaung Township, Taninthari Region, Myanmar.
Ms. Daw Myint Than is one of the strongest and most instrumental supporters of the ECD Centres in Thayetchaung, she is convinced of their direct benefits for children’s development, for increased community interest in school activities, and for making children “more eager to attend school”. In her vision, ECD expanded at scale across Myanmar will have the potential to create a new generation of more responsible citizens. She says “I have a dream of reaching 100% ECD coverage one day”.

Thayetchaung is one of the core townships across the country identified for support by QBEP. QBEP aims to support the Government of Myanmar to improve access to quality basic education for all children in Myanmar by: i) ensuring that national education policies and plans are inclusive, informed and actionable; and ii) delivering quality basic education services to children in 34 core townships. 

QBEP is supported by Australia, Denmark, the European Union, Norway, the United Kingdom, and by UNICEF in partnership with the Government of Myanmar.

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