Myanmar Speaker Series: Boosting Investment in Social Science Research in Myanmar

Over the last decade, Myanmar’s transition to democracy has faced multiple milestones and challenges. The country observed its first free elections in 2015. As Myanmar just comes out of its second democratic election this fall, the turbulence unleashed by COVID-19 will undoubtedly introduce new risks in the transition. It will also provide an opportunity for the small—but active—community of scholars from universities, think tanks, and other institutions, inside and outside Myanmar, to provide evidence and advice on how to face these risks. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi back on December 2nd, 2019, stated at the opening ceremony of the “Medical Skill, Simulation and Research Center” that “Research plays a vital role in the existence and development or progress of universities. Progress and development in research greatly support a country’s development. Among world universities, the level of our universities rises. However, compared to other universities in ASEAN countries, it had dropped. I asked why? The answer was the rapid development and progress of ASEAN universities. These universities were progressing mainly due to research. This was where we’ll have to reinforce.”

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Myanmar Speaker Series: The road ahead on education reform: What comes next for Myanmar?

After gaining independence from British rule, the education system in Myanmar was a model of excellence in the Asia-Pacific. Many believed the country was heading the way of other Asian Tigers at the time. It did not. The protracted armed conflicts in the ethnic states of Myanmar since the 1950s have resulted in displacement and huge disruptions in education service delivery in these regions. During the 1960s, the education sector was turned upside-down. Not only was education severely underfunded, but also teaching became a job that lacked the satisfaction and prestige previously enjoyed, leading to the decline of the system as a whole. Given the years of isolation and academic suppression, the pedagogy of the public education system, including higher institutions at all levels, still relies heavily on rote memorization, and neglects proof of understanding or critical thinking, both of which are central to research training.

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Myanmar Speaker Series: What is the road to improving health services in ethnic states?

October 21, 2020.

Myanmar is undergoing a transition from military to civilian rule since 2011 and government expenditure on health has increased from 1% in 2010 to 3.4% in 2015, still one of the lowest in the Asia-Pacific region. Though health sector decentralization is said to be put in place, the progress so far has not been assessed. There is limited information on how resources are managed and how well is decentralization progressing. The current system favors top-down decision-making, creating vast gaps of expectations between decision-makers and communities in states/regions, townships and villages/wards. In ethnic states, the delivery of health service remains unequal and insufficient due to poor governance, limited budgets, outdated facilities, and lack of supplies and health staff. Moreover, in such resource-poor setting, the gap between community expectations and what service providers can actually offer remains enormous, and needs to be closed.

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Myanmar Speaker Series: Can Decentralization Improve Education in Myanmar ?

October 1, 2020

Following the start of the country’s various reforms in 2011, public funding for education has significantly increased, leading to an important rise in access. The primary net enrollment rate increased from 88% in 2009-10 to 93 percent in 2014-15. Net enrollment in pre-primary education saw an impressive growth between 2008 – when roughly 1 in 20 children were enrolled – and 2014 when nearly 1 in 4 children were enrolled. The National Education Strategic Plan (NESP) 2016-21 represents an important milestone for education in Myanmar, as the country’s very first education sector plan in the context of a major transition towards democracy.

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