Myanmar

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Peace Leadership and Research Institute students at Thabyay Education Foundation take part in a conflict mapping exercise.


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Major Branches of Peace Education Observed in Myanmar. (click for details)
  • Democracy Education
  • Divided Societies
  • Global Citizenship Education (GCED)
  • Human Rights Education
  • Interfaith Peacebuilding
  • Post-Conflict Peacebuilding

Significant Approaches and Themes of Peace Education in Myanmar. (click for details)
  • Civic Engagement

Historical Context

Myanmar, also known as Burma is located in the western portion of mainland Southeast Asia. The country is bordered by China to the north and northeast, Laos to the east, Thailand to the southeast, the Andaman Sea and Bay of Bengal  to the south and southwest, Bangladesh to the west, and India to the northwest (Aung-Thwin 2020). The population of Myanmar is documented to be over 52.8 million as of 2020 (WHO 2020). 

Various ethnic Burman and ethnic minority city-states or kingdoms occupied the present borders through the 19th century, and several minority ethnic groups continue to maintain independent armies and control territory within the country today, in opposition to the central government. From 1824-1886, Britain conquered Burma and incorporated all the groups within the country into its Indian Empire. Burma was administered as a province of India until 1937 when it became a separate, self-governing colony (Central Intelligence Agency 2020). Since Myanmar’s independence from Britain in 1948, the country has been faced with ethnic conflict (Myanmar Peace Monitor 2019). After five decades of oppressive Military rule, Myanmar began a critical transformation towards democracy (USIP 2018).

In March 2011, hopes were raised for democratisation and reconciliation, after a civilian government was installed, but at the same time fighting between the government and the Kachin Independence Army resumed, breaking a 17-year long ceasefire (Peace Insight 2017). Following this, a further, gradual liberalisation began, which led to free elections in 2015 and the installation of a new government led by opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in 2016 (BBC Monitoring 2018). However, the Amnesty International Report for 2017/2018 noted that as the new democratic, civilian-led administration completed its first year in office, economic reforms had stagnated, the peace process had stalled, fighting between the Myanmar Army and several ethnic armed groups intensified, thousands of refugees were displaced, prisoners of conscious remain in detention, freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly remained subject to severe restrictions, a sharp rise in religious intolerance and anti-Muslim sentiment was recorded and the international community widely documented and denounced crimes against humanity of the country’s Rogingya population (Amnesty International 2018).

In 2017, The Asia Foundation completed a detailed report about Myanmar’s Subnational Conflicts and highlighted a number of recommendations to support the peace process including; the need to prioritize policies and projects that improve people’s lives without major intrusion and the necessity for a range of individuals to prepare to become political actors with important local leadership roles (The Asia Foundation 2017). These two recommendations are particularly relevant to the work of many peacebuilding organizations in Myanmar that implement peace education programmes.

Current Issues & Conflicts
  • Myanmar’s upcoming 2020 elections and a stalling peace process. In July 2018, Aung San Suu Kyi presided over the third session of the 21st Century Panglong Conference, the government’s peace process forum, which has largely stagnated, failing to gain trust or traction among ethnic armed groups. 
  •  The drug trade in Myanmar as a  continuing driver of conflict and corruption. 
  •  COVID-19, the Myanmar government and ethnic armed groups appear willing to put aside politics and work together to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The exception is Rakhine State, where conflict is escalating, putting medical workers at risk and exacerbating a potential health disaster.
  • Myanmar’s economic relationship with China and the associated commerce projects could exacerbate conflict in the country. 
  • The need for a sustainable policy in the support and/or repatriation of Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh. 
  • The Gambia lodged a case against Myanmar at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the principal UN judicial body based in The Hague, alleging violations of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (usually known as the Genocide Convention) in Myanmar’s treatment of ethnic Rohingya Muslims.
  • Armed conflicts between the Myanmar military and ethnic armed groups in Kachin, Shan, and Karen States, stoked by large-scale development projects and disputes over natural resources
  • Ongoing fighting has fostered conflict-related sexual violence, with internally displaced women and girls especially vulnerable to sexual exploitation and abuse.
  • Trafficking of women and girls remains a serious problem in Kachin and northern Shan States, where conflict and economic desperation has made them increasingly vulnerable.
  • A reimposed internet shutdown in five townships in the western states of Chin and Rakhine, where fighting with ethnic insurgents has displaced tens of thousands.
  • On February 1st, 2021, the Myanmar military once again took control of the country citing constitutional powers, arresting government leaders, including popular leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and declaring election fraud without providing concrete evidence. This has undone a decade of liberalisation and work towards peace, triggered a deep economic crisis, and has led to renewed ethnic armed conflict.
  • Over months, thousands of protesters participated in strikes and some government employees took part in the Civil Disobedience Movement, which is a nationwide campaign whereby blue and white-collar workers from government bodies refuse to work under the military regime. This resistance to the military coup has been met with brutal violence against demonstrators. Protests have been violently disrupted by security forces and there have been many casualties and deaths. However, resistance movements remain determined to continue with general strikes and acts of civil disobedience.
  • In May, the People's Defence Force (PDF) was formed to fight back military troops. Some anti-coup protesters have begun to turn to violence. People who are non CDM, government employees and the people related to the junta and soldiers are being terrorised and targeted. There have been bombings, fires, murders and threats to destroy the administrative mechanism of the government.  
  • Huge challenges have been posed to education and peace education since the coup d’état, which began on February 1, 2021. Educators in mainstream education institutions have faced a choice either to participate in the Civil Disobedience Movement or to continue working for the new government, as many have lost their jobs for joining CDM. Many schools and universities are conflicted on this issue and faculties have been decimated. Furthermore, the civil society space to conduct peace education has been heavily restricted and many are living in fear of being detained by the regime.
  • There has been an increase in the number of explosions taking place in schools, education facilities and offices in recent weeks in Myanmar. Between February 1st, 2021 and May 31, 2021, at least 54 attacks against schools and school personnel have been reported, as well as 141 incidents of military use of education facilities. At least 39 of the 54 attacks occurred in the month of May alone (cited from UNICEF Myanmar's Facebook page).

Additional Resources for More Context

Significant Peace Education Efforts & Approaches

Myanmar has been a diverse, multicultural country since the Bagan era. Daw Aung San Su Kyi delivered a historic public speech on Myanmar Government’s efforts at reconciliation and peace and she said, “ Peace and stability was something that we had to achieve after nearly 70 years of internal conflict that started on the day of our independence back in 1948. And development has to be achieved within the context of the first two-nurturing democratic values, establishing peace and stability, and achieving the kinds of sustainable development that would be seen as equitable by all our people”.

The current basic education system in Myanmar comprises six years of primary, three years of lower secondary and two years of upper secondary education. The majority of these schools are centrally managed by the Department of Basic Education under the Ministry of Education (MOE). The aims and principles of the basic education system, which has undergone extensive reforms under the National Education Strategic Plan 2016–2021, include; developing “union spirit” and the appreciation, maintenance, and dissemination of languages and literatures, cultures, arts and traditional customs of all national groups;  enabling  students to become global citizens with awareness and appreciation of human diversity and abilities to practice basic knowledge of peace in their daily lives. The basic education curriculum  further emphasizes the notion of Peaceful Coexistence and Living in Harmony and states that Conflict Resolution Skills must be developed in students at all levels of society. The curriculum, textbooks and other teaching learning materials must promote students’ learning equally. Despite these extensive reforms and the inclusion of the aforementioned peace education elements into the curriculum, it is widely documented that unequal access, poor educational quality, and the rising rates of inequality in education exacerbate existing conflict grievances. The basic education system is marred by a high drop out rate and absenteeism and although Myanmar's constitution guarantees free access to primary school for all children, costs associated with schooling continues to keep a significant number of students out of school. Recent research has also documented that the basic education system is not equipping girls and other marginalised groups of youth with the necessary skills to address social, cultural hierarchies and prejudices.

Additionally, many students access education through monastic, private, community, ethnic education schools and non formal education programmes. Many peace education focused programmes take place in these education centers outside of the state run basic education system. These peace education programs employ a myriad of approaches, principles, and goals, but areas of focus include building capacity for civic engagement, community development and developing leadership skills to empower students to take active roles in the political transitions and attempts to foster peace in Myanmar. Studies have shown that youth feel that education is a key transformative element for their agency as peacebuilders. Below are some explanations of peace education activities in the country:

  • Cultivating Public Awareness of Peace Processes
    Peace Education through generating public awareness in Myanmar can be seen in a variety of activities including;  the creation of educational materials to aid understanding about the economic benefits of supporting and engaging in the peace process,  holding Myanmar's first TedX event, creating of a Festival showcasing work from activists, human rights and peace educators, panel discussions and music and film workshops themed around peace and conflict alongside generating technical media skills. 
  • Federalism Education
    Peace Education activities that aim to generate understanding and knowledge about the mode of political organization that unites separate states or other polities within an overarching political system have involved; strengthening leadership skills of different ethic groups leaders, developing inclusive principles federalism across community groups, providing technical advice to parties and stakeholders on key aspects of the constitutional development process and state constitutions, and to advise on strategy for future technical support.
  • Dialogue
    Much of the dialogue work within Peace Education in Myanmar, focuses on developing the skills of political negotiation to facilitate cooperation across Ethnic Armed Groups. Projects have included; creating dialogue platforms using traditional methods, conducting consultation meetings for strengthening coordination and understanding, and the contribution of policy inputs to peace and national dialogue conferences
  • Human Rights
    Human Rights Education in Myanmar is taught through non formal education programmes and to Law students at University, it is not included in the general education curriculum. Much of the work is dedicated to developing the skills of university professors and teachers to be able to promote and engage in Human Rights Education. Projects have also included youth advocate programmes and intensive courses for activists. The Human Rights Education Institute of Burma (HREIB) facilitates a broad range of human rights training and advocacy programmes for grassroots organisations and community leaders. 

Regarding the further promotion of peace development and democracy practices in education in Myanmar, there are two essential areas that need to be the focus of the future; the development of peace education curriculum and providing training courses to teachers, staff, the partner organizations, the parents, and the community members in support of collective efforts. School systems need to be strengthened and the curriculum updated. Schools and the Government need to work collaboratively on policy to promote peace education in Myanmar.  

Legislative and Policy Initiatives

It is widely considered that education is the foundation for Myanmar’s sustainable social and economic development and will play a key role in securing the lasting peace and security of the nation. However, there has been a divide between the national peace process and the process of education reform policy and legislation. What needs to be highlighted is that education reform since 2011 has taken place in a highly politicised arena driven by various and competing interests. Nonetheless, this has resulted in peacebuilding and peace education principles being notably absent from key reforms. Before the initial education reforms in 2011, Myanmar's basic education curriculum was about 30 years old, with the last amendment made in 1985. The department of Education Research Bureau under the Education Department started creating a new curriculum in 2012. UNICEF supported the government to implement the National Education Strategic Plan, this detailed document lays out plans for comprehensive and phased education reforms to be undertaken over five years, 2016-2021. A new curriculum was introduced in the 2016-17 academic year. Although the plan and the new curriculum reforms do not explicitly refer to peacebuilding or peace education,  the visible reduction of military references in social studies indicates a move to delegitimize violence. Furthermore, the curriculum includes a freedom to use 20% local context content. However, what is notably absent within policy reforms in education is legislation about violence on and within education systems. As education and poverty alleviation have been identified as two key drivers to support the democratic and peacebuilding process to achieve the national goal of becoming an upper middle income country by 2030, there is hope that education policy and legislation will continue to develop with building peace as a focus. 

Key Education/Peace Education Policy and Legislation Timeline

  • In 2009, Kant Law School under Thabyay Education, were given permission to begin the first civic and Human Rights education intensive program in Myanmar. This was a Non-Formal youth empowerment education programme.
  • In 2011, President U Thein Sein committed the government to a reform of the education section. In February 2012, the Ministry of Education agreed to undertake a comprehensive review with the aims of more transparency and evidence-based decision making on policy reforms.  Early drafts of the reforms demonstrated an understanding of placing education as a part of the path towards addressing inequalities and grievances but demonstrated little peacebuilding language or rationale.
  • The 2011 UNESCO’s Global Monitoring Report summarises the challenges faced by Myanmar’s education system for 6 decades: “Schools as a vehicle for social division” (2011a: 167), through the imposition of a dominant language, the manipulation of textbooks to encourage intolerance, the championing of a culture of violence, and segregation.
  •  Private Schools Law 2011, allowed basic education schools established privately to teach according to the subjects contained in basic education curriculum and syllabus prescribed by the Ministry of Education  with added lessons for the said subjects for raising the quality of education. It does not specifically mention peace education content in the law but does stipulate that private schools may not teach politics or religion not relevant to the subjects being taught which could inhibit peace education curriculum. 
  • In 2013, UNICEF Myanmar joined the Peacebuilding, Education and Advocacy Programme which  had the goal of strengthening (1) resilience, (2) social cohesion, and (3) human security in 14 conflict affected countries across South and Southeast Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, Eastern and Southern Africa, and West and Central Africa. PBEA aimed to achieve this through five outcomes focused on strengthening education (1) policies; (2) institutions; (3) individual capacities; (4) access to conflict-sensitive education; and (5) evidence-generation.
  • The National Education Law 2014: was approved on September 30, 2014, with its amendments approved on June 25, 2015. This educational law was the very first of its kind in Myanmar. In February 2014, the Language Education and Social Cohesion regional initiative was expanded in Myanmar to support the preparation of a “peace promoting national language policy” and associated state-level policies in Mon, Kayin, and Kachin.
  • In February 2016, teacher training demonstrated increasingly context-sensitive approaches including community relevant content, tailored competency frameworks and a focus on empowerment.  It was united that peacebuilding seemed implicit in the content of this training and the outcome was bringing more teachers together across divides.
  • In November 2019, Alternative Education Sub-sector Framework was created with UNICEF.  Specifically, the framework focuses on providing children and youth who are out of school with knowledge, skills, attitudes and values for lifelong learning. It will facilitate their access to flexible, non-formal education, which in turn will provide opportunities for them to enter or re-enter formal education or follow other development pathways, such as learning entrepreneurial skills or other life-skills that will prepare them for the workforce.

Additional resources:

Policy / Legislation (click for details)
  • Direct

Teacher Training (click for details)
  • Mandated

SDG Indicator 4.7.1 Data / Analysis (click for details)

No formal reporting on 4.7.1 is currently available.  For general reporting on SDGs, please visit the Central Statistical Organization website of Myanmar

Preliminary analysis of SDG Indicator 4.7.1 was conducted in 2018 by UNESCO (based on 2016 data) that provides a ranking according to Myanmar's inclusion of global citizenship education and education for sustainable development across five indicators.  The scores are denoted by numbers (the higher the number, the greater the inclusion): High = 3, Medium = 2, and Low =1. M is used to refer to missing national responses.

National Education PoliciesCurricula: ContentCurricula: ResourcesTeacher EducationStudent Assessment
21211

From the UNESCO Report: “TCG4/16 Development of SDG thematic indicator 4.7.1” (2018)

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Collaboration activities in Peace Education take place in a training provided by Mote Oo.

Peace Education Organizations, Projects, & Models

News on Peace Education in Myanmar

Access the comprehensive archive of news articles related to Myanmar on the Global Campaign for Peace Education website.
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Research on Peace Education in Myanmar

Access the comprehensive archive of research articles related to Myanmar on the Global Campaign for Peace Education website.
For a more customizable search, please visit the Global Campaign for Peace Education Clearinghouse.

Where to Study Peace Education in Myanmar

Visit the Global Campaign for Peace Education Global Directory for where to study peace education in this country and around the world

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Youth workshops take place in the Space for Youth Learning Center Gyobingauk.