Activists demand reform of National Education Law before by-laws sink in
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.
Students hold placards and flags as they march in protest against a national education bill in Yangon on February 15, 2015.