September 2018

'I believe that education can change the life not just of an individual, but of an entire village.'

This summer, UWS Myanmar Country Director Dr Kay Khaing Win visited London to talk about progress in Shan State, Eastern Myanmar.

A specialist in Development Management, Kay has been leading health and education programmes in Myanmar for the past 12 years. She joined the UWS team in 2016 because she really believes in the work UWS does to provide high-quality education to the communities that most need it.



Why is the work that UWS does so important?

According to a 2014 census, there are 1.8 million children in Shan State, and only 33% of them have access to education.

There are only a few organisations working on the ground in Myanmar at the moment but there is a lot that needs to be done. The government education budget for the whole country (including primary, secondary and tertiary education) is just 2% of GDP, so there is limited budget for building schools in new areas.

The region is extremely diverse, with 135 different ethnic groups speaking over 135 different regional dialects.

Where a child is able to access a school, there is no guarantee that they will speak the same language as their teachers or their peers. One of our UWS schools in Shan State serves children of 3 different ethnic groups within the same village, each with their own language. It is a challenge, but something we need to deal with to ensure that these children are able to get an education.

In this situation, Burmese must be taught as a foreign language. Training teachers from the local community gives children access to education first and foremost in their own language, whilst protecting indigenous cultures and traditions.

What progress has UWS made in Myanmar?

Our schools are considered some of the best in the area.

They are well-resourced, there is regular teacher attendance, they offer a safe environment and they have local teachers who know the culture and speak the local language. The traditional approach to teaching in Myanmar is learning by repetition - so children are reaching or writing the same sentence over and over for the whole lesson. In UWS schools, we train the teachers in interactive learning techniques which are much better for learning.

What would you like UWS to achieve in Myanmar in the next couple of years?

We want to do even more, even better.

Our aim is to address any educational needs in Eastern Shan first, then move to Northern Shan and the cover any gaps in education across the entire Shan State. Secondly, we want to improve the quality of education in our schools and thirdly we want to set an example for other schools of what best practice looks like and encourage all schools across Myanmar to meet this standard. 

A key focus for us is on being trustworthy and accountable.

We really want to make sure that we are always improving and doing our best for these children and communities, so that UWS supporters can be sure that every single bit of support they provide makes a difference.