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Tin Ma Ma Htet: Supporting children to learn from home during the COVID-19 pandemic

Posted: 15 January 2021

Alumni, COVID-19, Education,

COVID-19 has impacted school children around the globe, including in Myanmar. School closures in response to COVID-19 have interrupted students’ learning, causing stress to school communities and severely impacting vulnerable families and children. This disruption has created uncertainty about the best ways to support children’s continued access to education.

Australia Awards alumna and primary teaching specialist Tin Ma Ma Htet did not want children to be left behind in their learning because of COVID-19. This led her to launch an innovative education program for primary school children – ‘Learning at Home’ – that is accessible to all Myanmar students and their families.

Tin Ma Ma Htet is the founder of Saya Foundation, an organisation that provides technical support and mentoring to educators and schools at individual and whole-school levels. Through Saya Foundation, Tin Ma Ma Htet launched the first Learning at Home program in April 2020. Her team posted daily Learning at Home video lessons for a one-month period, providing opportunities for children to continue their education online.

The first online program was received with enthusiasm and appreciation by parents of primary school-age children. This led Tin Ma Ma Htet to develop three additional programs, with the latest being launched in October 2020.

To produce Learning at Home, Saya Foundation’s team members and external volunteer teachers prepare short video lessons for primary school students. The lessons are accompanied by guidelines for parents and guardians on making adjustments to suit their child’s age and stage of learning. The team publishes two to three videos every weekday on the Sayarma Facebook page.

A unique feature of the program is that parents can use the videos to teach their children at home with minimum support required. Each video lesson requires the child and their parent to submit an activity to review the child’s knowledge.

“The Learning at Home program reaches children and parents across the country,” explains Tin Ma Ma Htet with pride.

“Our lesson videos have received more than 16 million views, and around 100 students have received certificates for completing 75 percent of lessons.”

In addition, so far 699 children, including Myanmar children from Malaysia and Thailand, have participated in the video lessons and 499 have received certificates for completing their lessons.

In support of their mission to make education accessible, Tin Ma Ma Htet and her team have introduced ‘Learning at Home Awards’ to celebrate and encourage devoted supporters of children’s learning. For example, committed parents and teachers are rewarded with ‘Super Phay Phay (dad)’, ‘Super May May (mum)’ and ‘Super Mentor’ awards. People who support children who do not have access to the internet or mobile phones to do the video lessons are eligible to receive an ‘Ambassadors of Learning’ award.

“We now have Ambassadors of Learning in Kayah State, Ayeyarwaddy, Tanintharyi and Sagaing Regions, who we also support with teaching materials and storybooks,” says Tin Ma Ma Htet.

Overall, Tin Ma Ma Htet and her team have prepared close to 200 video lessons for students through the Learning at Home program.

“It demands a lot of work in managing the team, recording the participating students and keeping track of the activities they have submitted,” says Tin Ma Ma Htet.

However, the demanding work not only offers benefits to children and their parents, but also to Myanmar’s teachers.

“This program opens up opportunities for volunteer teachers. Through Learning at Home, passionate teachers have come together as a group, building and expanding their professional network.”

As an Australia Awards scholar, Tin Ma Ma Htet completed a Master of Teaching (Primary) at Australian Catholic University in 2015. Her learning experiences in Australia contributed to her wealth of teaching knowledge in childhood education.

“My scholarship equipped me with relevant knowledge and hands-on experience in teaching primary school children,” she said. “My Master’s degree enhanced my competency of knowledge, skills and self-confidence.”

“My Australia Awards Scholarship has also broadened my professional network,” she continues. “I have connected with scholars and alumni from diverse backgrounds, which can be helpful to implement activities.”

In addition to her work on the Learning at Home online program, Tin Ma Ma Htet provides the Teaching Foundation online course for parents who want to provide homeschooling for their young children during the COVID-19 pandemic, and people who are interested in teaching but have not attended teacher training. The course fees contribute to Saya Foundation’s Whole School Support programs.

She also shares posts about teaching, education or parenting every Saturday and hosts a monthly live discussion with an expert or a group of experts on the Sayarma Facebook page.

Tin Ma Ma Htet’s devotion to creating and sharing accessible education resources is evident throughout her work with school students, their parents and families, and schools and educators.

“My vision for the future is to make quality educational resources accessible to children in Myanmar,” she says. “This includes ensuring that resources are inclusive to all children, such as those from different ethnic backgrounds, religions, and children with disability.”