Ac­tivists de­mand re­form of Na­tional Ed­u­ca­tion Law be­fore by-laws sink in

The Myanmar Times - - News - EI SHWE PHYU eish­we­phyu@mm­times.com

AD­DRESS­ING leg­is­la­tion that sparked na­tion­wide stu­dent protests last year and saw dozens of ac­tivists im­pris­oned, the Na­tional Net­work for Ed­u­ca­tion Re­form yes­ter­day de­manded an over­haul of the Na­tional Ed­u­ca­tion Law.

The leg­is­la­tion is ex­pected to get new teeth with three draft by-laws slated to be sub­mit­ted to par­lia­ment soon, ac­cord­ing to U Khaing Myal, a spokesper­son for the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion.

The Na­tional Ed­u­ca­tion Law, a piece of leg­is­la­tion seek­ing to reg­u­late the school sys­tem, has been plagued by con­tro­versy since it was adopted in Septem­ber 2014. A re­vised ver­sion was re-adopted with no less of a back­lash on June 25, 2015.

But be­fore the by-laws can be en­acted and the law sinks in for good, the Na­tional League for Democ­racy-led par­lia­ment needs to re­con­sider, said U Thein Lwin, a mem­ber of the NNER.

“The Na­tional Ed­u­ca­tion Law should be amended. This mother law per­mits too much cen­tral­i­sa­tion [of the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem] and goes against the fed­er­al­ism es­poused by the Pyi­daungsu Hlut­taw. So I say, amend it,” he said at a sem­i­nar yes­ter­day.

At the end of last month, the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion posted three draft by-laws to its Face­book page: the Ba­sic Ed­u­ca­tion Law, the Pri­vate Ed­u­ca­tion Law, and the Tech­ni­cal and Vo­ca­tional Ed­u­ca­tion and Train­ing Law.

The by-laws were drafted un­der then-pres­i­dent U Thein Sein’s ad­min­is­tra­tion, but ac­cord­ing to spokesper­son U Khaing Myal, they have since been up­dated fol­low­ing sug­ges­tions from the pub­lic re­ceived via email and its Face­book page.

Crit­ics of the law say these by-laws con­tinue to as­cribe too much de­ci­sion-mak­ing power to the gov­ern­ment, and sug­gest this is es­pe­cially prob­lem­atic in the eth­nic mi­nor­ity ar­eas where schools may wish to de­vi­ate from the cur­ricu­lum taught to the Ba­mar ma­jor­ity.

Daw Nyo Nyo Thin, a for­mer Yangon Re­gion MP and one of the law’s most vo­cal crit­ics, said that out of 10 lines dis­cussing re­spon­si­bil­i­ties in chap­ter 5 of the Pri­vate Ed­u­ca­tion Law, nine fo­cus on as­crib­ing gov­ern­ment control.

“These laws do not re­flect the NLD gov­ern­ment’s pledge to make the peace process a first pri­or­ity,” she said dur­ing a Septem­ber 24 con­fer­ence call on “the Dan­gers Cen­tral­i­sa­tion Poses for Demo­cratic Ed­u­ca­tion”.

Daw Nyo Nyo Thin added that the ex­ist­ing laws should be re­drafted with the in­put of lo­cal ed­u­ca­tion ex­perts from all ar­eas of the coun­try.

Speak­ing at the same event, Ko Th­win Linn Aung, an­other mem­ber of the NNER, said, “The cen­tral­i­sa­tion [en­shrined in the ed­u­ca­tion law] can dam­age the peace pro­cesses and keep the qual­ity of ed­u­ca­tion low.”

Yes­ter­day, U Thein Lwin also pointed out that when the Pyi­daungsu Hlut­taw re­or­gan­ised the Na­tional Ed­u­ca­tion Pol­icy Com­mis­sion on Septem­ber 16, no eth­nic mi­nor­ity mem­bers were cho­sen. In­stead, the com­mis­sion is dom­i­nated by re­tired gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees.

U Khaing Myal said the ap­point­ments were made to en­sure con­ti­nu­ity and to utilise the knowl­edge of for­mer bu­reau­crats.

“I think in­volv­ing re­tired gov­ern­ment staff and ex­perts on the com­mis­sion is a good idea,” he said.

The NNER plans to lobby the gov­ern­ment about the draft by-laws in an up­com­ing meet­ing with rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the hlut­taw, the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion and the pol­icy com­mis­sion. The meet­ing is ex­pected to be held within the month, though a date is yet to be fi­nalised, ac­cord­ing to U Thein Lwin.

“The meet­ing will de­pend on the when the gov­ern­ment’s side has free time,” he said.

Photo: AFP

Stu­dents hold plac­ards and flags as they march in protest against a na­tional ed­u­ca­tion bill in Yangon on Fe­bru­ary 15, 2015.

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