While Burmese pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Skyi, has been in London in late June, the British Council organised an event at which she was guest of honour. Its Chief Executive, Martin Davidson, pledged to continue the British Council’s longstanding work within Burma to develop its education system; seen as vital to generate stability and opportunities for the country’s future.
“It’s about institutional strengthening” said Davidson. “I think English teacher training has a huge knock on effect into other forms of teaching. It’ll strengthen teaching in Burmese schools more generally.”
Suu Kyi made an historic speech in Westminster last week (pictured) on her first UK tour in 24 years, in which she described education as the key to Burma’s future security and development.
“It is in education in particular that I hope the British can play a major role,” she said. “We need short-term results, so that our people may see that democratisation has a tangible, positive impact on their lives.”
“We need short-term results, so that our people may see that democratisation has a tangible, positive impact on their lives”
Suu Kyi said vocational training and creation of employment opportunities to help address Burma’s chronic youth unemployment were particularly important and identified a need to reform the education system including curriculum, teacher training and overall attitudes towards education.
The teacher training programme will also establish links between Burmese schools and institutions in the UK for staff exchanges and joint student projects.
“We want to give that sense of wider international opportunity for people in Burma and also give people in the UK a chance to know what’s going on in very different part of the world,” said Davidson.
Higher education in the country poses more of a challenge considering there was no investment for almost two decades, added Davidson. He said the British Council will be working with Universities UK and other institutions to overcome the physical and academic infrastructural weaknesses.
The British Council was established in Burma in 1947. Its major projects have included the Pyoe Pin or “Young Shoots” programme which aims to strengthen civil society by bringing together interest groups and organisation around specific issues like the impact of HIV-AIDS or the rice selling business, operating British Council libraries and training teachers in Buddhist Monastic schools.