Myanmar: Former Speaker, ethnic MPs push solidarity through literacy

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It’s time to stamp out illiteracy and strengthen people’s knowledge of the Myanmar’s languages and literatures, MPs have been urged. Former Amyotha Hluttaw Speaker U Khin Aung Myint, proposing a measure to reduce illiteracy, said access to higher education should be broadened throughout the country, and ethnic-minority literature and language-learning tools should be developed.

Particular attention should be paid to the country’s more remote regions, using internet to overcome transportation difficulties, he said.

U Khin Aung Myint (USDP; Mandalay 8) told the Amyotha Hluttaw on August 5 that the government should “consider a special project to reduce illiteracy, [so that students can] access higher education, and to develop ethnic literature for all ethnic races.”

The former Speaker stressed the need to improve opportunities for hill communities, long considered to face restricted opportunities because of their remoteness. Information and communications are now advanced to the point where these problems can be overcome, he said.

Though it was difficult to assign teachers to remote regions, it would be possible for radio stations to broadcast educational programs supervised by the Ministry of Education to ensure effective distance learning.

“National solidarity is the key to Myanmar politics. Each successive government has had to struggle for it, as armed groups were staging rebellions. Though there were negotiations and ceasefire agreements, there is no guarantee that the fighting will not go on,” he said, adding, “Only if all national races are united will the risk of further armed conflict vanish.”

The Speaker proposed that translation services be expanded and dictionaries and encyclopaedias compiled in minority languages, Myanmar and English. Libraries should be established to encourage literature’s spread.

In response, U Jay Yaw Wu (NUP; Kachin 1) told The Myanmar Times after the hluttaw session that the National Unity Party had submitted to the hluttaw a proposal to improve ethnic literature in the former government’s term. “In Kachin State, we printed books in six languages, including Jingh­paw, Lawon and Lisu. They were also taught in school in 2013-14.”

U Kyaw Ni Naing (USDP; Kokang) said Myanmar literature and language schools should receive priority over the study of ethnic languages in their regions.

“On February 9 last year, civil war broke out in Kokang. It emerged that our people can’t speak Myanmar. That is a great pity. It’s not just that they are not familiar with the literature, they cannot even speak our language. How can they talk to the Tatmadaw? No wonder there is conflict,” he said.

Though many Kokang students matriculated with distinction, they had to leave Kokang to study. Myanmar-language schools should be established in the Kokang region, he said.

U Zone Hle Htan (NLD; Chin 3) said, “We are still waiting for by-laws for the implementation of the National Education Law. When will this law be put into effect?”

According to the 2014 census, the rate of literacy among the over-15 population is 89.5 percent. Of the over-five population of 45,807,770, 6,468,807 were unable to access education, while 20,692,609 had received primary, 9,916,261 middle-school, and 4,699,781 high-school education.

Those awarded diplomas stood at 115,002, 3,226,966 had college or university degrees, and there were 134,585 postgraduates, representing 0.3pc of the population. Vocational training was received by 60,270, and 493,489 had received other forms of education.

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