On-the-ground expertise points to solutions for disadvantaged children’s learning challenges

On-the-ground expertise points to solutions for disadvantaged children’s learning challenges

Urgent challenges for learning achievement in Myanmar include child labour, students being too tired or hungry to study, different languages, and parental lack of interest, among many other factors. Addressing those major systemic obstacles, UNESCO lent its support to PTZA, the Myanmar Literacy Resource Center (MLRC) and Department of Alternative Education (DAE) to organize a training workshop on 24-25 November 2018 at Kamayut No 1 high school in Yangon, bringing together about 200 participants, including government officials at the regional and township levels as well as facilitators and teachers of Non-formal Primary Education (NFPE).

UNESCO Bangkok, in line with the SDG4 to ‘ensure inclusive and equitable education and promote lifelong learning opportunities’, has been implementing a project titled ‘Strengthening the education system for Out-of-School Children (OOSC)’ in Myanmar since 2015. The project aims to contribute to the eradication of obstacles to education in Myanmar by scaling up alternative education to reach OOSC.

Based on the recognition that teachers and township officials on the ground often better understand solutions to present-day problems, the main objectives of the workshop were to address urgent challenges on the ground and share immediate solutions and innovative ideas for higher retention and learning achievement. While appreciating long-term strategies such as policy development, capacity development and system strengthening, the participants were encouraged to share are experiences, knowledge and actions that are already working on the ground through mind-mapping methodologies.

Participants recognized various challenges, such as ‘long distances to the learning centre’, ‘mobile/nomadic family’, ‘parents’ lack of interest toward education’, ‘child labour to support family’, ‘different mother languages’, ‘too hungry/tired to study’, and many others.  For all these challenges, the participants shared practical and immediate solutions, presenting practices and cases that they had tried and new ideas produced through brainstorming.  

Walls in the classrooms became covered in notes about case studies and new ideas: ‘To have direct dialogues with parents’, ‘to have regular meetings or collaborate among teachers, parents and the community’, ‘to have mobile facilitators’, ‘to ensure extra hours for ethnic children’, ‘to introduce income-generation programmes’, ‘to publicize NFPE through media’, ‘to get supports from local companies’, and many other ideas.

These ideas and discussions will be documented and disseminated to the other stakeholders including 1,000 NFPE facilitators across Myanmar. At the end of workshop, Mr Tin Nyo, an officer of the MRLC, emphasized strengthening connections and collaboration among NFPE implementers, including by introducing Facebook pages for NFPE Myanmar to promote continuous professional development. 

According to 2014 census data, 2.7 million children from five to 16 years old in Myanmar do not attend school or have dropped out before finishing the primary level. Due to the generous support of UNICEF, UNESCO and other donors, the expansion of the NFPE programme has been remarkable over the past 10 years, currently providing more than 10,000 disadvantaged children with learning opportunities. Yet participants realize that there are enormous numbers of children and youth who still need alternative learning opportunities.