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From Girl Guides to Buddhist monks

Dr Khaing Phyu Htut and Wai Lin Kyaw report on an innovative new training scheme developed by the British Council in Burma

Girl Guides and teachers in monastic schools are two of the most interesting groups to have participated in the training and support programmes of the British Council Burma. Our trainers have been supporting education from all angles, participating as core trainers for staff from the Comprehensive Education Sector Review, education colleges and Millennium Centres, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, NGOs and non-formal-education actors.

A key activity for our trainers over the last few months has involved delivering teacher training to fifty primary and middle school teachers at Maha Thatipahtan Yeiktha Buddhist Monastery. This is in Yone Sin Gyi, Taungtha Township, which is located in the central dry zone. It has very limited access to educational support and resources, and teachers there do not receive much training.

The programme was specifically developed for the local teachers as a result of feedback from a training session in 2012. It is a thirty-hour course which focuses on teaching with limited resources, promoting critical thinking skills in students and helping teachers think beyond the textbooks and exams.

‘We are teachers from monastic schools catering to the education needs of the most poor and vulnerable kids,’ said Daw Wunna, a Buddhist nun and teacher, adding, ‘Since we are in the dry zone, the economic situations are really tough and we rarely get support. Our head nun can’t thank the British Council enough.’

Another programme saw us working with Girl Guides. In 2012 Guide and Scouting groups were re-established in Burma after more than half a century. The Ministry of Education has been key in bringing these groups back to schools and our team has been supporting the programme since the beginning by providing facilitators, materials and technical assistance.

Last December we supported the First International Camp for Myanmar Girl Guides and Osaka Girl Scouts, which brought girls from Burma (or Myanmar as it is also known) and Japan together to build friendships and share knowledge about their respective countries. The camp lasted three days and 36 students from Burma and nine from Japan participated in it, supported by nine teachers from Burma and four from Japan, as well as the energetic British Council trainer Daw Myat Thinzar Tun. She helped as the organiser, translator and facilitator for the whole programme.

‘Having British Council trainers at our programme led to great results and we thank the BC greatly for assisting us and making our programmes more effective and whole. They helped us a lot, coaching teachers, guiding Scouts and Guides, communicating with international experts, doing practical demonstrations and facilitating the events,’ U Tin Nyo, retired director general of the Ministry of Education, commented.

Dr Khaing Phyu Htut is programme manager at British Council Burma. Wai Lin Kyaw is programme coordinator at British Council Burma,