‘Before, I thought I could never study’: Myanmar learners on flexible learning’s benefits

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Flexible learning programmes provide opportunities to those who face often overwhelming hardships that result in many of them having to drop out of school or never being able to attend in the first place.

Up until recently when the country began the process to formalize a Department of Alternative Education, there was no central non-formal education (NFE) department in the country. The Myanmar Literacy Resource Centre has aimed to address the issue of insufficient institutional support and assist in the implementation of NFE activities by acting as the technical centre for NFE activities, including the Non-Formal Primary Education (NFPE) programme, with the support of the Myanmar Education Research Bureau. Students who complete two years of the NFPE programme receive a primary school certificate which then enables them to study in middle school.

UNESCO Bangkok recently visited a NFPE centre in South Dagon township, located in the southeastern part of Yangon, and spoke to three inspiring students who shared their experiences in non-formal learning.

‘My siblings dropped out, so I knew I had to’

“It was not easy for me to go to school regularly until I came to this centre,” says 14-year-old Maung Kyaw Kyaw.

As the youngest of five siblings, he watched his sisters and brother leave school early and knew he would have to do the same. “I could not ask my parents to send me to school when I knew that they could not and my sisters and brother dropped out to support the family.”

His family’s challenges did not diminish his desire to learn, however, and he decided to join a religious boarding school away from South Dagon when the opportunity arose. “I did not like it because it was extremely difficult to stay away from my family,” he says. “Shortly after, I decided to quit and came back home to stay with my family.”

The opportunity to study at the center about one year ago meant that he could pursue his love of learning, while remaining close to his family.

At the NFPE centre, Maung Kyaw Kyaw is improving his literacy and numeracy as well as learning vocational skills through academic and income-generation activities. He successfully completed his first year at the centre and is now at the second level. Maung Kyaw Kyaw has a coy smile but speaks confidently about his prospects: “I am really looking forward to completing the second level so that I can enroll in grade 6 at the middle school right next to the centre.”

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