Thursday, May 19, 2016

They Really Did it!

By Thet Naing, UNICEF Southeast Education Field Officer

During my meeting trip with Karen Education Department (KED) in Myawaddy, I observed Myawaddy and Kawkareik Township Kindergarten (KG) trainings led by the Ministry of Education (MoE). Preparatory work on the materials for this training was funded by the Quality Basic Education Programme (QBEP) which aims to support the Government of Myanmar to improve access to quality school readiness and primary level education for all children.  This preparatory work was then taken a step further by the MoE.

Kawkareik KG training had started with 540 MoE teachers and seven monastic teachers. However, ethnic school teachers from Kawkareik were notably absent, although the MoE had reserved seats for them. Fostering cooperation and knowledge sharing between state and non-sate actors in the Myanmar education sector is a vitally necessary step so, on the second day, after I had discussed with the TEO team of Kawkareik and made contact with the Karen National Union Peace Council (KNU PC) Education Focal Point Officer, seven KNU/PC teachers joined the training.  At first, the KNU PC teachers looked somewhat isolated in the new surroundings, but by the end of the two days they had become a part of the team with MoE teachers. The earlier advocacy move had worked well and ensured it was a very inclusive training session. 

A further encouraging sight was observed when I moved on to Myawaddy where the Deputy Township Education Officer (DyTEO), was leading the KG training.  Saw Min Khin is a local ethnic education officer, who always maintains regular contact with non-state education actors and migrant schools along the Myanmar-Thai border.  His proactive efforts brought 93 teachers from nearly 30 migrant schools to this KG training together with 167 MoE teachers.

The KG training in Myawaddy was both well-organized and dynamic.  Trainers were actively sharing participatory teaching methodologies and all participants were enthusiastically taking part in the classroom activities. Migrant teachers looked very interested in learning and their eyes were bright and full of hope to learn new knowledge in the new environment.

“This training gives me clearer insight on how to effectively teach children as I learn new knowledge of child development and child psychology,” said Naw Mi from Divine Migrant Schools. 

Kaythi Khaing from Dawn Migrant School said, "We have been using the same curriculum and MoE practice for many years. This KG training highlights a new approach that focusses more on activities and active participation of children than typical teaching of the academic.”

Language is not a problem for most migrant schools, where Myanmar language is a medium of instruction for mixed ethnics. But what about ethnic areas inside Myanmar in Kayin State?

When I asked MoE trainees in Myawaddy which language they will use when they return to their schools, all replied that ‘Myanmar’ language will be their primary medium of instruction and local language used as a bi-lingua for difficult words. The trainers remarked: “We told them to use the language which is easiest for children to understand. Most have tendency to use Myanmar rather than local language.”

“I am Sakaw and the children I teach are all Sakaw”, explained Naw Mi San from Post Primary School Kawt Kaw.

She explained that the children in her care understand Sakaw best, but also expressed her concern about future language challenges they may face. “I think I will use Myanmar as I am worried they will experience learning difficulties beyond KG. In addition, the text that I use every day as my teaching guide is written in Myanmar.”

After discussions with the Deputy Township Education Officer (DTEO) of Myawaddy and trainees, it was decided that a next useful step would be to complete an assessment which will not only classify two types of schools- ethnic majority KG classes taught in local ethnic language and ethnic majority KG classes taught in Myanmar- but also to compare the differences in learning progress. This study will be conducted and supported by DTEO with the support of UNICEF. 

Given the limited resources for this initiative, trainees got together to source supplementary funds from local donors, in a creative approach to fundraising. Indeed, for these reasons, Myawaddy KG training is a successful example which can be copied.  The only apparent challenge to the success of the training was the lack of a direct communication link between MoE and KED it is hoped that this gap can be bridged soon through the facilitation work of Education Sector Working Group in Kayin.

The words of heartfelt gratitude to MoE by Sai Htun Hla, a teacher from Maha Chai near Bangkok, for inviting KG training and for recognition of their work, still echoed in my mind on my way back, “I cannot live without giving credit to MoE. They really did it.”

**** Myanmar Quality Basic Education Programme (QBEP) aims to support the Government of Myanmar to improve access to quality school readiness and primary level education for all children. QBEP is supported by the Multi Donor Education Fund (MDEF), comprising Australia, Denmark, the European Union, Norway and the United Kingdom, and by UNICEF in partnership with the Government of Myanmar.

1 comment:

  1. Very good and strong support to the teaching approach that really appropriate for KG children.