After the pandemic hindered learning for over a year, Myanmar’s schools reopened on June 1 for the first time since the military seized power in February. Still, most classrooms remain empty, as some teachers and students (with support from their parents) defy the regime and refuse to attend school. Meanwhile, an array of online learning initiatives aim to fill the gap.
Only a quarter of Myanmar’s 12 million students signed up for the new school year, while over 125,000 of the country’s 430,000 school teachers have been suspended by the junta for participating in the civil disobedience movement, per a Reuters report earlier this month.
The National Unity Government, a parallel government set up by lawmakers elected in November’s general election, said a Facebook post on Thursday that it will initiate a mobile learning project, with plans to use Moodle and Zoom as the main communication channels for primary, secondary, and vocational schools, as part of a hybrid learning scheme. It plans to distribute recorded lectures through CDs, USB drives, or file transfers for students in areas with no internet access. The announcement, however, didn’t specify a starting date or details of the registration process.
The sorry state of the education system has forced students to seek alternative learning services, and a number of online teaching initiatives are filling the gap. Spring University Myanmar is one of them.
Win, one of the five co-founders, told KrASIA that the group hopes to support teachers and university-level students who participated in the nationwide strikes to sustain the momentum of the civil disobedience movement. Within a month of its inception, the school had signed up over 300 students and raised about USD 20,000. Currently, it only offers IELTS language courses to university students, but the founders plan to roll out certificate courses within six months. It aims to reach 1,500 students by the end of July, Win said.
However, challenges remain for aspiring edtech businesses. Win cites limited internet access, a lack of teaching personnel, and incoherent education policies outlined by both the military regime and shadow government. In all, 46% of university students oppose online classes due to unreliable access to the internet or a lack of computers, according to a survey conducted by the All Burma Federation of Student Unions last May.
“The junta has whitelisted certain websites, but a few online learning platforms are accessible,” said Win. “Meanwhile, teachers from elementary and higher education schools are being threatened by the military, and some are even on the run.”
Correction: This story has been updated to reflect the correct amount of funding raised by Spring University Myanmar.