“When I arrived at Manchester University as an international student in 2002, the school arranged a guided tour to the central library. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the sheer amount of books and journals. As I explored floor after floor, I felt my heart race and tears rising in my eyes – tears of joy and tears of sadness at the same time. I couldn’t help but imagine how beneficial it would be if we had the same access to library books and resources in Myanmar.” Yin Min Tun told me. Over 15 years ago, she set out to Manchester to begin a course that would change her life, and ultimately impact on many other students just like her.
As Yin Min Tun wandered the library stacks an idea began to form in her head.
“I hoped that in future I would have the chance to provide up-to-date teaching and learning resources, in a digital format, to my fellow students and academics in Myanmar.”
Yin Min Tun had undertaken the journey from Myanmar to Manchester to study Climate Change and Hydrology with a Prospect Burma scholarship. The access she suddenly had to world class and cutting edge research and resources was eye opening.
“Over 15 years ago when I was doing my Master and Master of Research at Yangon University, I could not access up-to-date books and articles to conduct research properly.
There is still a shortage of physical textbooks, research papers, teaching and learning materials at the libraries in Myanmar.
“After I graduated, I began working for MIMAS (Manchester Information & Associated Services) (now Joint Information Systems Committee Jisc). This gave me the opportunity to discuss ideas and do some brainstorming with colleagues, which was the beginning of the eTekkatho journey.”
eTekkatho, which means “University” in Pali, the literary language of Myanmar, was born out of Yin Min Tun’s conversations with her colleagues. They realised that in order to facilitate change in Myanmar, access to up to date educational resources is vital.
Yin Min Tun continues: “The analogy I use to describe the situation in Myanmar is a spider’s web. There are so many interconnected issues and limitations that need to be sorted out, before all the issues can be resolved. Learning in Myanmar is traditionally taught by rote, and whilst this enables students to pass their exams, it can lead to a lack of self-confidence, creative thinking and innovation.
I would like to see academics spend some time looking at the resources available on the eTekkatho library and then try to incorporate or imbed them into the course modules. As Myanmar is now entering a new era, I think it’s really exciting that the project is able to be part of the transition. eTekkatho is easy to scale up, so if further funding was in place, we would have the opportunity to help academics in areas ranging from pedagogic development to classroom teaching methods; and also to help students from research and study skills to lifelong learning skills.”
The library is designed to work offline, so that if there is limited or no internet access the material can still be accessed and will allow the project to reach remote areas. There is a lot still to do and a lot of potential for the project to achieve.
Yin Min Tun told us: “We would like to develop an offline library specifically for Medicine and Healthcare institutions. Having worked so hard to establish eTekkatho and help make it the success it is today, I would love to be able to take the project to the next level (depending on the interest from the government officials in Myanmar) which would be for eTekkatho to become a service provider and essentially provide a National Learning Centre or Digital Centre for public and academic communities in Myanmar.
It’s a really ambitious idea and the challenge should not be underestimated, however I believe if we can get the funding and support we would need, this is something we can achieve and that the benefits would be enormous.
Without Prospect Burma’s scholarship there is no chance I would be working for the eTekkatho project today. At the same time, The University of Manchester has opened my eyes and ears to a world of possibilities.”
Yin Min Tun
Introducing the digital library to a university group
A mapping session to plan the network