September 17, 2018

Research in Action article from IDRC

UBC School of Public Policy and Global Affairs
Khin Yu Yu Win (YUE); Kerry Ross (MPPGA); Aung Ko Ko (YUE); Shashi Enarth (MPPGA); Kai Ostwald (MPPGA).

Two young professionals from Myanmar had the opportunity to pursue their passion for research in Canada thanks to a collaboration between the University of British Columbia (UBC) and Myanmar’s primary business and economics school, the Yangon University of Economics (YUE). The collaboration between the universities is part of a broader effort supported by Knowledge for Democracy Myanmar, an IDRC and Global Affairs Canada initiative to nurture a new generation of young actors and increase the use of research to develop evidence-based policy.

In December 2017, Khin Yu Yu Win and Aung Ko Ko, both public administration students at YUE, arrived in Vancouver in the dead of winter to start their semester in UBC’s Master of Public Policy and Global Affairs program. The four-month term in Canada developed the students’ capacity for high-quality research that could ultimately help to guide policy development in Myanmar.

Diversity and dialogue

Both students overcame the challenges of language, weather, and teaching styles at UBC, where classes focused on interaction, dialogue, discussions, and debates. By contrast, students in Myanmar are taught in a linear style, with teachers delivering lectures to classes of up to 70 students.

“One of the things that I learned was diversity”, said Ko Ko when she was in Vancouver. “A lot of people from around the world come here to study. They have different beliefs, cultures, and backgrounds. Though we come from different cultures and backgrounds, we live here peacefully, helping and understanding each other. As Myanmar is a country with more than 100 ethnic groups, we are now trying to engage each other to build a well-developed democratic nation. We need this kind of value and understanding of each other.”

Both students became actively involved in formal and extracurricular talks and events while at UBC, and by the end of their semester they said they had gained not only additional research skills but greater confidence too.

Research for greater gender equity

While at UBC, Yu Yu, who is a co-founder of the Gender Academy (a consultancy firm offering gender analysis, research, and training in Myanmar), analyzed men’s and women’s livelihoods. Her focus was on the division of labour and gender roles among displaced people who have resettled in Thilawa, a special economic zone south of Yangon that was created by the government to promote direct foreign investment.

Ko Ko, a medical doctor who has worked in the public health sector since 2009, analyzed health disparities based on gender among internal migrants in a Yangon township. He also explored the level of sensitivity to gender inequality in the healthcare system.

Before leaving UBC, both students presented their research projects to the university’s faculty and students.

Future university collaboration

Now that Yu Yu and Ko Ko have returned to Myanmar, they are committed to sharing what they learned at UBC. Both have held training sessions with colleagues and YUE students to impart their newly acquired knowledge and skills. Ko Ko also volunteered as a facilitator in UBC’s 2018 summer program to build capacity in policy research at YUE.

The three-week UBC-YUE summer program attracted 59 participants, 42 of them women. Many were YUE executive students — mostly mid-career professionals from government and non-governmental organizations, in addition to YUE faculty and teaching staff. Course material included data visualization to support policy research, economic approaches to policy evaluation, and how to communicate research findings and conclusions clearly.

Support for the student terms at UBC, the summer program, and other targeted training and exchanges with key leaders at YUE are laying the foundation for further collaboration between the two universities.

Learn more about Knowledge for Democracy Myanmar.