Burma once had a strong and expanding education system. Since the current military regime staged a coup in
1988, the system has deteriorated to the point where post-secondary education is in effect non-existent. Nearly all of Burma’s universities and colleges have been mostly closed since the
student-led protests in 1988, in which thousands of non-violent demonstrators were gunned down
in the streets.
With the exception of military universities, the universities in Burma have been
open sporadically throughout the past 11 years for a total of 3 years. Most academic materials are
decades out of date and teaching English in schools was banned from 1966 until 1980. The
reason given for the school closures by the military is that they must maintain political stability.
The SPDC spends less than 1.1% of the GDP on education.
The greatest barrier of access to primary and secondary school education is poverty. Cuts in
government spending for education has meant an increase in costs to families in the form of a
series of taxes and donations paid to the education department, the school, and teachers.
estimated that 2/3 to 3/4 of children drop out of school before fifth grade.
Children in ethnic minority conflict areas are even less likely to have access to school, as
physical survival and the struggle for food security takes priority. Since the SPDC does not
respect even basic human rights, it is not surprising that it does not provide for education. In the
best-case scenario, a school may exist, but it will likely be run by SPDC government-sanctioned
teachers who seek to instill “Burman” values in their students. The other option is the
establishment of local community schools which must rely on self-help measures to survive.
Often only the military-sanctioned schools are allowed to remain open, while the non-Burman
community schools are shut down. This is part of the junta’s tactics of “Burmanizing” some of
the ethnic minorities by making it difficult for them to retain their own language and culture.
Open School Campaign