Filling education gaps for disadvantaged children across Myanmar
Posted: 2 November 2023
Alumnus Soe Naing Oo is drawing on his Australia Awards learnings to help strengthen education systems and access for marginalised and disadvantaged children across communities in Myanmar.
UNICEF reports that the COVID-19 pandemic and the instability in Myanmar since 2021 have disrupted the learning of almost 12 million children across the nation[i]. In addition, children whose first language is not Burmese face further challenges in accessing education, due to a scarcity of learning materials and centres for learning in their mother tongue. In response, complementary education providers are filling the gap in education access for children across Myanmar.
Soe Naing Oo has a background working in youth education and undertook an Australia Awards Scholarship with the hope that he would “be able to contribute meaningful, directed and original research for language learning and teaching with local organisations in the complementary education sector in Myanmar”. He completed a Master of Modern Languages Education from the University of Melbourne in 2020.
He now works as an Education Technical Lead in the complementary education sector, working with education service providers for marginalised and disadvantaged children across the states and regions of Myanmar. Since mid-2021, Soe Naing Oo has been supporting one of these complementary education providers to strengthen their curriculum and learning assessment system.
“We aim to reflect and learn from current practices implemented across selected complementary education providers, further systematise learning assessment across schools and build the capacity of the teachers,” Soe Naing Oo explains. This work has involved Soe Naing Oo being part of a learning assessment taskforce as a representative of an education technical team, along with teachers, head teachers, education officers and teacher trainers. Taskforce members were trained in formative assessment methods, rubric creation, critical and analytical reading, and paraphrasing and summarising skills.
Soe Naing Oo and his team also implemented pilot testing with lower primary level teachers and conducted introductory training for trainers and trainees (teachers and head teachers). This testing and training helped gather insights about the resources provided for teachers and schools to assess learning creatively and using different methods; the need for clearer guidelines for progress reporting to students, parents and other stakeholders; and the need for improvement in teacher and educator capacity in learning assessment.
Soe Naing Oo reflects that, “Australia Awards has helped me build my skills to be more strategic, proactive, collaborative and professional in my work. It also empowered me to be more responsive to the needs of the community and more effective in engaging with the community.”
In particular, he notes that the diversity, inclusion and transition subject he studied as an Australia Awards scholar helped him to see “which aspects of an education strategy, policy or program would encourage or discourage diversity, promote or undermine inclusion, and support or hinder a positive transition process for the students”.
According to Soe Nain Oo, longer-term investments, continuous systems strengthening, and inclusivity mainstreaming are key to the development and sustainability of complementary education provision in Myanmar.
[i] Source: UNICEF (2022) Statement on access to learning for millions of children in Myanmar, accessed 10 September 2023.