For several years, Prospect Burma has been working on plans to open up our Learning to Leadership programme to even more people. There are several factors which can prevent a student from Myanmar from being able to attend university abroad. The majority of English language courses which are available are in the cities, which is a major preventative factor for people from rural areas of Yangon. The difficulty of speaking Burmese as a second language already hinders many people from ethnic groups from getting the most from state education. Having access to careers information which can help make informed decisions about what to study and why is also a big issue. To address this and to open up education opportunities for many more people, Prospect Burma developed the Bridging Programme. The programme aims to provide young people with a quality English qualification (IELTS), which will help them build careers or go on to further study abroad. The first group to attend our Bridging Programme is a diverse group of 20 people, from five different states. We met with them in our Myanmar Office to hear about how the programme is going, and what their future plans are once they complete their IELTS qualification. Here are some of their stories.
Saw Eh Gay Dah (also called Saw Joy) is from Hpa-An, in Kayin State. He understands the importance of learning languages, and also experienced difficulties at school. He told us: “At that time, all of the teachers used Burmese language in teaching all of the subjects. Every day, I just sit in the classroom and listened to the teachers without understanding what they taught. And also I was so silent in the class because I was not capable to communicate in Burmese. Every day, I just went back home and studied lesson without knowing the meaning.”
Undertaking the bridging programme Saw Joy is experiencing a different mode of teaching. He is enjoying learning, and when they he has completed his IELTS qualification he would like to study a Master’s in Public Administration. We asked him how he was finding living in Yangon: “Yangon is totally different to my home town…In Yangon it takes a lot of time [to travel] because of traffic jam. Crowded people and traffic jam effect the environment to become noisy and polluted, whereas my town is a pleasure of fresh air and silent environment.”
Aung Naing Tun is from Mrauk-U, in Rakhine State. Aung Naing Tun’s first language is Arakanese, and this caused him some problems when applying to study at West Yangon University which he attended from 2012. Aung Naing Tun has enjoyed the IELTS training course, and has found the reading section the most challenging aspect. He works at the head office of a sub-election committee in Rakhine, and is passionate about the importance of civil services. Once he has completed the course he would like to study a Master’s of Public Administration abroad.
Htu Hkong is from Myitkyina, Kachin State. She has noticed a marked difference being in Yangon, in comparison to her home town. In Myitkyina there is an 8pm curfew, after which no one is allowed out. She has been able to travel around Yangon even at night time. When she completes the IELTS course she would like to apply to study Development Studies. When asked about the difficulty of being from an ethnic minority she told us:
“I have had some challenges because of the language barriers as a lady from a minority group, not just in my school life but in my work life…[English] is my third language”