Chapter 3: Education


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Chapter 3: Education

Published date:
Wednesday, May 9, 2018
  1. Over 25 years, human rights abuses and the consequences of the conflict, including displacement and restrictions on freedom of movement, severely hindered villagers’ access to and quality of education in southeast Myanmar. Despite the recent ceasefire agreements and increased expenditures by the Myanmar government to increase access to education among all of its citizens, children in southeast Myanmar still lack access to affordable, high quality schools within a safe physical distance from where they live.
  2. Financial barriers and livelihood struggles have acted as impediments to villagers accessing education over 25 years. Free and compulsory primary education is not accessible to all children in southeast Myanmar due to both upfront and hidden costs in the education sector. During conflict, financial demands were often made on villagers separate to education, which affected the extent to which they could pay for schooling. Middle and high school education is particularly hard to access as there are less schools and the fees are higher. These costs create a heavy financial burden for villagers, many of whom continue to face livelihood and food security issues.
  3. The teaching of minority ethnic languages remains a priority for villagers. Since 2014, Karen language and culture have been allowed to be taught in the Myanmar government schools, but reports from villagers show disparities in access to culturally appropriate education among children in southeast Myanmar. Villagers’ testimony highlights the importance of teaching Karen history, literature, and language within schools for their cultural identity. During conflict, Tatmadaw explicitly targeted Karen education schools; schools were forcibly closed or converted to a state-sanctioned curriculum.
  4. Due to the unresolved legacy of the conflict and their poor experience with Myanmar government schools, many villagers in southeast Myanmar mistrust the Myanmar government, and by association Myanmar government teachers. In addition to  not trusting their staff, villagers also question the commitment and quality of education being provided by these teachers.



[3] According to Myanmar’s Ministry of Education (MoE), expenditure on education has been increased from 0.7% of GDP in Financial Year (FY) 2010-2011 to 2.1% of GDP in FY 2013-2014. For more information see: “National EFA Review Report,” MoE, March 2014.

[4] According to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), there were 284,278 young children not enrolled in school across Myanmar in 2014, compared with 649,341 in 2010. For more information, see: Myanmar profile, UNESCO.

[6]Constitution of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar,” Myanmar Ministry of Information, 2008.

[7]National Education Law,” Union Parliament of Myanmar, Parliamentary Law No. 41, September 2014.

[8]  “National Education Amendment Law,” Union Parliament of Myanmar, Parliamentary Law No. 38, September 2015, (Burmese language only).

[9]National Education Strategic Plan 2016-21,” The Government of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, Ministry of Education, February 2017.

[11]  Tatmadaw refers to the Myanmar military throughout KHRG’s 25 years reporting period. The Myanmar military were commonly referred to by villagers in KHRG research areas as SLORC (State Law and Order Restoration Council) between 1988 to 1997 and SPDC (State Peace and Development Council) from 1998 to 2011, which were the Tatmadaw-proclaimed names of the military government of Myanmar. Villagers also refer to Tatmadaw in some cases as simply “Burmese” or “Burmese soldiers”.


[15] “[T]hey [SLORC/Tatmadaw] come to the village and give the villagers big problems. So the villagers have to teach their children secretly. The SLORC has a school close to the town, and they say that any villager who wants their children to go to school must send them to this school and no other. But the villagers can’t, because it’s too far. To get there takes a 7 hours walk, from early morning till noon.” SLORC ABUSES IN HLAING BWE AREA,” KHRG, March 1994.

[19]  “Forced Labour, Extortion and Abuses in Papun District,” KHRG, June 2006; for more information see Chapter 5: Looting, Extortion and Arbitrary Taxation.


[21]CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE,” KHRG, September 1999.

[25] Source #30.

[30] Source #78.

[36] A Standard refers to a grade in the Burmese education system. Primary school runs from Standard 1 to Standard 4, middle school is Standards 5-8 and high school is Standards 9-10.

[38] Source #10.

[50] “[T]he villagers submitted their case [information about over crowding] to the Burma / Myanmar government inorder toget support, butthe Burma/Myanmar government didnot give them any support. The villagers proposed to the Burma / Myanmar government[that they need to]rebuild the school more than three times. Yet, there wasno reply from the Burma/Myanmar government.”Toungoo Situation Update: Thandaunggyi Township, November 2015 to February 2016,” KHRG, November 2016.

[51] Although the interviewee calls this fee “tuition,” he is referring to a fee for private, after-school lessons, taught by the school teachers of their own volition. Since the quality of education in the day schools is very poor, it is common for parents who are able to afford after-school lessons to send their children to these properly-taught classes.

[52]Toungoo Interview: Maung A---, April 2015,” KHRG, January 2016.

[55] “On October 22nd  2015, Hpapun High School Education Administrator U Pa Thaw Khel’s son Saw Tha Hay Bluh, who is teaching in Baw Hta Primary School, beat the students who did not pass their monthly exams. He beat them on their heads, thighs and calves. We saw that the calves and thighs of the students were bruised and some students were not able to go to school [after having been beaten by the teacher].” Hpapun Situation Update: Bu Tho Township, June to October 2015,” KHRG, February 2016.

[56] Source #62.

[57] “Insomevillages, somepeoplesaidthatBurmesefemale teachersbrutallybeat thechildren[students]if theycouldnotfollow thelessons.” Dooplaya Situation Update: Win Yay Township, June to July 2015,” KHRG, March 2017.

[58] Source #62.

[59] A term used by ethnic minority groups to describe the assimilation policy implemented by the Burmese government to assimilate non-Burman/Bamar ethnic groups into Burman/Bamar.

[62] Source #28.

[67] Source #98.

[68] Source #85.

[69] This is consistent with KHRG’s findings with regard to Myanmar government investments in services and sectors other than education, for more information see Chapter 6: Development.

[71] Source #107.

[72]  “Using any opportunity that they get, the teachers try to teach the students the Karen subject and Karen children can write a bit in their language. Because of the [efforts of the] Karen teachers, students get the opportunity to study Karen language in the township office. The education is getting better and the situation has improved compared to before.” Mergui-Tavoy Situation Update: K’Ser Doh Township, August to October 2015,” KHRG, May 2016.

[73] “In the KNU-controlled area,[the villagers] build self-reliant schools so the children can go to school and they [also] hire teachers to teach.” Source #94.

[74] “[T]hey know that the Burma government doesnot like it, but they [Karen villagers] know the Karen people are asking for equality from the Burma government so they are raising the Karen flag.”Hpa-an Situation Update: Paingkyon Township, June to October 2014,” KHRG August 2015. 

[75] Source #165.

[76] Source #174.

[77] Source #170.