Since 1962, the Burma/Myanmar government curriculum has been taught in Burmese language, despite over 100 languages being spoken by the people who live there. For children from ethnic nationalities who have their own ‘mother tongue’ language and dialects, this can make the early years of schooling extremely difficult as they learn an entirely new language, and has been blamed for the high drop-out rates of children in ethnic rural areas. Until recently, the only alternative was to study in parallel education systems of local mother-tongue based schools, which came with its own barriers to participation in ‘Post-10’ and tertiary education.
Recent educational and broader political reforms have opened up new opportunities for greater inclusion of ‘mother-tongue’ languages in Myanmar’s curriculum – and has the potential for both educational and political impact.
PK Forum speaks to Professor Joseph Lo Bianco from the University of Melbourne about the opportunities and challenges presented by these reforms, and how mother-tongue-based education can support peace building in Myanmar.