Comparing Models of Non-state Ethnic Education in Myanmar: The Mon and Karen National Education Regimes
Journal of Contemporary Asia
This article explores two models of non-state education provision in Myanmar (Burma), in order to draw conclusions regarding templates for ethnic education regimes in this fast-changing country. Ethnic Armed Groups in Myanmar have developed education systems in the context of long-running armed conflicts. This paper examines two such regimes. Karen communities struggle with few resources to educate their children. Despite great difficulties, the Karen National Union has developed a curriculum
... sed upon one Karen dialect, which is employed in about 1,000 schools. Graduates of this education regime are mostly unable to speak fluent Burmese, or to integrate with the Myanmar tertiary education system; they are orientated towards a Karen national identity, rather than Myanmar citizenship. However, with the beginnings of a substantial peace process, Karen educators will need to re-think their implicitly separatist agenda. A comparative case study is offered by the Mon ethnic minority. The New Mon State Party has had a fragile ceasefire since 1995. Some 270 Mon National Schools provide Mon language instruction at elementary levels, shifting to Burmese at middle school. As the Mon Schools follow the government curriculum, with extra classes in Mon language and history-culture, graduates are able to matriculate and enter the nationwide tertiary education system. We argue that the Mon experience can be a useful model for education reform in a transitional Myanmar, as political and civil society leaders negotiate a more decentralised state.