Resilience in Crisis: Transformation of Higher Education in Post-Coup Myanmar


Education in Myanmar has suffered from decades of neglect from its military-backed government, resulting in an outdated, highly centralized system that relies on rote-learning to teach a nationalistic curriculum, which does not include the rich ethnic, linguistic, and cultural diversity of its people (Metro 2021; Wong 2022). From 2011-2021 it appeared that the grip of the military was easing with new political leadership and proposed education reforms. However, educational reforms came to halt on February 1, 2021 when the military junta overthrew the lawfully elected National League of Democracy (NLD) government. Within one year, the military killed over 1,500 civilians and imprisoned over 12,000 (AAPP, 2022). By June of 2021, it was estimated that 90% of college instructors had left their positions to join the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM), many going into hiding or exile. A shadow government, the National Unity Government (NUG) formed, and a parallel education system emerged, which set out to develop a new curriculum which was critical, inclusive, and free of military control. In the spring of 2022, we interviewed 14 activists, NUG members, CDM teachers, and educators in exile or in liberated areas who were engaging in this unprecedented educational re-imagining. Findings include: 1.) New inter-ethnic and inter-generational alliances to remake education; 2.) Innovative curriculum that includes the languages, cultures, and histories of the people of Myanmar; 3.) Alternative means of delivering and expanding education, such as community-based schooling, virtual free higher education, and ethnic-based education, in spite of extreme challenges and opposition.

Author Information
Mary Wong, Azusa Pacific University, United States
David Kareng, Azusa Pacific University, Myanmar

Paper Information
Conference: SEACE2023
Stream: Education

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Posted by James Alexander Gordon