Education in Burma

Education in Burma
Education in Myanmar
Ministry of Education
Minister Dr. Mya Aye
National education budget (2001)
Budget US$97 million[1]
General Details
Primary Languages Burmese, English
System Type National
Established 1910
Literacy (2008)
Total 91.9%[2]
Male 94.7%
Female 89.2%
Total 8,092,510[1]
Primary 4,948,198[1]
Secondary 2,589,312[1]
Post Secondary 550,000[1]

The educational system of Burma is operated by the government Ministry of Education. Universities and professional institutes from upper Burma and lower Burma are run by two separate entities, the Departments of Higher Education (Lower Burma and Upper Burma), whose office headquarters are based in Yangon and Mandalay respectively. The education system is based on the United Kingdom's system, due to nearly a century of British and Christian presences in Burma. Nearly all schools are government-operated, but recently, there has been an increase in privately funded schools (which specialise in English). Schooling is compulsory until the end of elementary school, probably about 9 years old, while the compulsory schooling age is 15 or 16 at international level.

The literacy rate of Burma, according the UNESCO Institute of Statistics (2005) stands at 89.7% (males: 93.7%, females: 86.2%), although there is dispute over the accuracy of the provided literacy rates. The annual budget allocated to education by the government is low; only about 1.2% is spent per year on education. English is taught as a second language from Kindergarten.

Most of the early mission schools are since 1860 (such as La Salle schools) in Burma were nationalized on April 1, 1965 after the order restoration of general Ne Win.



During British colonial rule, educational access for women improved tremendously. In the pre-colonial era, male education was emphasized in the traditional Buddhist monastic education system. The number of female students enrolled in school rose 61% (by 45,000 students) from 1911-1921, and another 82% (100,000 students) from 1921 to 1931 with expansion of the colonial and private education system, primarily in the form of all girls schools.[3] This was mirrored by an increase in female employment. From 1921 to 1931, there was a 33% increase in employment of women in public administration, law, medicine (96% increase), education (64% increase), and journalism sectors.[3]

When Burma gained independence in 1948, the government sought to create a literate and educated population, and Burma was believed to be on its way to become the first Asian Tiger in the region. However, 1962 coup d'etat isolated and impoverished Burma. All schools were nationalized and educational standards began to fall. Burmese replaced English as the medium of instruction at Burmese universities in 1965, with the passing of the New University Education Law a year earlier.[4] This led to a rapid decline in English proficiency among the Burmese.[4] English was reintroduced as a medium of instruction in 1982.[4] In 1977, the 2 year regional college system was introduced by the Burmese government, as a way to disperse college students until they were about to graduate (the third and fourth years were spent at a traditional university), a system that was ended in 1981.[4]

Due to students' protest of 8888 Uprising, all universities were closed around Burma for 2 years. Since 1990s, new structure of education system was weak as government faced crisis to universities' clash and set up a 6th months term for an academic year. The SPDC government arranged irregular commencement dates for universities and colleges, however, students were still in que and clash/ Another series of students' strike in 1996 and 1998 resulted in another 3 years of closure. After the re-opening of universities and colleges in 1999, the government scattered universities in different regions. The relocation of certain universities were made under relative ministries. New system had been made that the university term was shortened by one year, providing a bachelor degree for just three year course. However, improvement were rapidly made despite the early disturbances. In 2005, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs officially announced that Burma education was reaching an international standard and the government had fully entitled to 156 universities and colleges in Myanmar.

Today, Myanmar lags far behind in terms of educational standards. Once at its zenith in the region, Myanmar today has well-trained qualified teachers[1], though very little resources, and aging materials. Many universities have been built and scattered throughout cities to prevent students participation in potential unrest.

Besides these actions, students attending these universities are not allowed to speak freely, to write freely or to publish freely.


School uniforms are mandatory throughout public schools in Burma, from kindergarten until the 10th standard.[5] From kindergarten to the 4th standard, the compulsory boy uniform is a white shirt and green pants, which can be short or long. Shoes and Burmese sandals may be worn. The girl uniform is similar, consisting of a white shirt and a skirt or pants. From 5th standard until matriculation, traditional Burmese attire is considered appropriate school uniform. The boy uniform is a white shirt (with a Mandarin collar or uncollared) and a green sarong called a paso, along with Burmese sandals. For girls, a traditional Burmese blouse (either the yinzi, with a front opening, or the yin hpon, with a side opening) and a green sarong called a htamein are worn, along with Burmese sandals.

Level/Standard Typical age
Pre-Kindergarten 4–5
Elementary school
Kindergarten 5–6
Standard 1 6–7
Standard 2 7–8
Standard 3 8–9
Standard 4 9–10
Middle school
Standard 5 10–11
Standard 6 11–12
Standard 7 12–13
Standard 8 13–14
High school
Standard 9 14–15
Standard 10 15–16
Post-secondary education
Ages vary
Vocational education Ages vary
Adult education

Preschool and kindergarten

Preschools are opened for children over 2 years of age and they are in extensive care or public systems. Kindergarten starts from the age of 5 (not younger than 4 Years and 8 months at the time of school's commencement date). Primary, Lower Secondary and Upper Secondary Schools in Burma are under the Department of Basic Education. The official commencement date for those schools is 1st of June.

Primary education

Primary education is officially compulsory. It lasts five years, and to continue onto secondary school, students must pass a comprehensive examination of basic subjects.

Secondary education

Secondary education is divided into middle schools (standards 6 - 8), and upon passing the Basic Education Standard VIII Examination, students continue onto high schools, which cover standards 9 -10. At the end of standard 10, students must pass the Basic Education Standard 10 Examination (matriculation exam) in order to receive their diplomas. Students who do pass the matriculation examination receive either Diploma A or Diploma B. Those with Diploma A are allowed to continue their educations at university.

Secondary schools are usually combined, containing both middle and high schools. Children of military personnel and those with military connections are often given easier access to the more prestigious secondary schools. There is much corruption in educational equality. But in both primary and secondary schools, the system is "no-failure education system". Only at the end of the high schools or at the entrance of the college/university, the system is changed.

High schools students choose one of 2 tracks upon entering high school: science or arts. All high school students take Myanmar, English, and mathematics. However, Science-specialized students also take 3 additional subjects: chemistry, physics and biology as part of their coursework, while arts-specialized students take geography, history and economics. These routes also determine what matriculation subject exams they are administered and what tertiary schools they can apply to.

At the end of Standard 10, students take the University Entrance Examination (တက္ကသိုလ်ဝင်တန်း စာမေးပွဲ), commonly referred to as the matriculation exam in English, administered by the Myanmar Board of Examinations annually in mid-March.[6] High marks in a subject garner a distinction known as gondu (ဂုဏ်ထူး). Students who achieve distinctions in five or more subjects (or a combined total of approximately 500/600) are generally guaranteed placement in one of Myanmar's medical universities, the most selective of universities. Test score results are released at testing sites throughout the country in June.[7]

Students who attend international English-language schools or other private schools are not eligible to sit for the matriculation exam, nor are they allowed to enroll in Burmese universities.[8] Instead, they typically study overseas, at destinations such as Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, United Kingdom and the United States. In 2010, 695 Burmese international students studied in the United States, particularly in private liberal arts colleges.[9]

Tertiary education


  1. ^ a b c d e "Table 1: Budget for Education". South-East Asian Ministers of Education Organization. Retrieved 2009-01-18. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b Ikeya, Chie (2008). "The Modern Burmese Woman and the Politics of Fashion in Colonial Burma". The Journal of Asian Studies (Cambridge University Press) 67: 1277–1308. doi:10.1017/S0021911808001782. 
  4. ^ a b c d Thein, Myat (2004). Economic development of Myanmar. Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. pp. 115–118. ISBN 9789812302113. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Announcement for submitting matriculation exam applications". The New Light of Myanmar. 2007-09-14. Retrieved 2010-09-03. 
  7. ^ Min Zaw (2008-03-17). "Parents feel the stress of matriculation". Myanmar Times. Retrieved 2010-09-03. 
  8. ^ "Burma Considers Private Education". The Irrawaddy. 2009-11-18. Retrieved 2010-09-03. 
  9. ^ Quizon, Derek (25 July 2011). "Liberal arts colleges attract Burmese students". USA Today. Retrieved 12 August 2011. 

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