UNTIL 2012, only about onepercent o the budget was allocatedto education.Last year the government raisedthe allocation or education to4.3 percent, and this gure hasincreased by a urther 1.54pc this year, bringing it to 5.84pc o thenational budget.“The education budget is stilllow compared to the number o students. The government shouldincrease it urther,” said Dr TheinLwin, an education expert rom theNLD Education Network.In cash terms, the percentageincrease means a leap rom aboutK643 billion to K908 billion — anincrease o more than K260 billion,out o a total national budget o about K7721 billion adopted in the2013 union budget law o March29. The government has estimatedthe income or the Ministry o Education at only K14 billion, which includes K2.7 billion rominternational aid. This means thatthe budget decit is K83 billion.“We’re going to increase theeducation budget every year toensure improvements are made ineducation,” said U Thein Nyunt,Pyithu Hluttaw representativeor Thingangyun township, anda member o Pyithu Hluttaw Education Promoting Committee.In March, the education ministeralso pledged to reallocate K31.27billion rom the budget or thebasic education sector to oceexpenditure o the ministry.“Any budget increase oreducation is good but it must bearruit. There are a lot o needs ineducation, such as teacher training,transportation and other supportor teachers in remote areas, as well as or teaching materials in theclassroom,” said Dr Thein Lwin.Despite a history o opacity, theeducation ministry is now sharing more inormation with the publicas well as engaging more with it –although contacting high-ranking ocials remains a drawn outprocess.Starting this inancial year,the ministry introduced reecompulsory primary education, which also includes disbursing ree textbooks. The governmentprovided textbooks and exercisebooks worth K2.87 billion tomore than 5.2 million primary students in the 2011-2012academic year. A total o 5.5million primary studentsreceived ree textbooks andexercise books in 2012-2013 too,according to the ministry.The ministry is also going toappoint at least 10,000 juniorassistant teachers (JAT) orprimary schools around thecountry, and will renovate 1000basic schools and oces at districtlevel. There are already 52 districteducation oces, 18 state andregional education oces and 300township-level oces.“District education ocers’oces are unnecessary. It’s enoughto have school administrationboards involving teachers andcommunity leaders. The money should be spent in other educationsectors,” said Dr Thein Lwin.Education minister Dr Mya Ayetold a seminar in April that theministry would renovate schoolsand build new inrastructure,appoint more teachers, and undteacher training.The ministry has added one year to the duration o highereducation degrees starting romthe 2013-2014 academic year.“We need more inrastructures orthis extension,” said Dr Mya Aye,adding that the ministry will needto spend more on reorm in orderor it to be eective.The government will also useK3 billion to support 6303 teachersacross 1579 monastic schools at theprimary, post-primary, middle andhigh school levels. The allocation was discussed at a meeting in Yangon on April 28 between theministry o religious aairs andsupervising
in monasticschools. Monastic school teachers will receive a government salary orthe rst time this year. Administration, ineriorinrastructure, technology andeducation policy are key issuesthat international engagementcould help resolve. Lack o undsis one o the major hindrancesin accomplishing educationdevelopment goals, and theMinistry o Education is trying to engage with the internationalcommunity more than ever.UNICEF, Japan International Co-operation Agency and AUSAIDare working on educationalprojects in Myanmar.
The government is taking some positive steps in the education sector – notably budget inBut is this enough to lift Myanmar’s education standards out of the doldrums?
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A Myanmar TimesSpecial Report
BACK TO SCHOOL 2013
Children at a school in eastern Shan State.
Pic: Aung Htay Hlaing