Aung San Suu Kyi call to UK universities

Monday 13 May 2013

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the Chairperson of the Burmese National League for Democracy and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, has made an impassioned plea to UK university leaders for their assistance in reforming Burma’s higher education system, at the end of a special study tour of the UK organised by the British Council on 1-9 May 2013.

The tour of institutions in Scotland and the UK culminates today in a policy dialogue hosted by the University of London, with a keynote address made by Aung San Suu Kyi specially recorded on video. ‘Please help us to put Burma back on the map of those countries where education is enjoyed by as many people as possible, and the education that they enjoy is one that will help not just our country but the world to build a happier human society’, the Lady told the delegates.

In 2012 two ad hoc parliamentary committees were formed, each chaired by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, tasked with drafting a new law on Burmese higher education, and specifically at the revitalisation of the University of Yangon. The British Council has been active in Burma since 1947 and Daw Suu approached the British Council to support their work by introducing senior Burmese policy-makers to policy and practice in UK higher education for the benefit of the redevelopment of the sector in Burma.

In her address, Aung San Suu Kyi explained that ‘The focus of the military government was on maintaining discipline, not on providing education.

’Now the standard of our university education has fallen so low that graduates have nothing except a photograph of their graduation ceremony to show for the years they spent at university’, she told the delegates.

The goals of the committees’ work, the Lady explained, ‘have to do with much more than mere education. It is really part of our efforts to revitalise and reinvigorate our society.

‘We want to change the situation to give our people pride in themselves and to do that we need to strengthen our education system. We need to produce vigorous young people who are capable of meeting the challenges that our country will have to face in the future.’

Aung San Suu Kyi outlined to the UK delegates the steps the Burmese government’s reforms must take in order to reform the Burmese higher education sector: ’We want to make our academic institutions independent. We want to make them vital and we want to modernise them to be in keeping with the developments of the times.’

‘The very first thing we need to do … is to recreate campus life. Our young people have not known campus life for decades…Starting with that, we want to provide them with the highest educational standards possible, not just in our region but in the whole world. We have to be ambitious.’

The four-person Burmese delegation visiting the UK consists of Prof. Dr. Myo Myint, Deputy Union Minister for Education, Hon. Prof. Dr. Mya Oo, Chairman of Women and Children’s Affairs Committee, Amyothar Hluttaw (Parliament), Professor Dr. Mya Oo, Secretary of Education Development Committee, Pyithu Hluttaw Representative (Parliament), and Prof. Dr. Aung Kyaw Myat, Director General, Ministry of Science and Technology.

The London policy dialogue aims to bring UK higher education expertise into the dialogue currently taking place within the national reform agenda and is expected to be followed up by a second event in Yangon in June.

Notes to Editor

For more information, including the programme of today’s Policy Dialogue please contact Tim Sowula, Snr Press Officer, British Council on 0207 389 4871 or 07771 718 135

The full text and video of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s speech is available here

The embed code of the video is <iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

The full programme of the delegates’ study tour is available.

About the British Council in Burma

The British Council has worked in Burma since 1947, and been a consistent presence for Burmese people in offering access to international opportunities. More recently, we have established a firm relationship with the new civilian government as a trusted and capable partner for reform.

Education in Myanmar (Burma)

Like many of Myanmar’s institutions, Burmese higher education has faced many challenges over the past 25 years. Anti-government student protests in 1988 led to all universities being closed for two years, while further demonstrations in 1996 and 1998 resulted in additional periods of closure. In Yangon (Rangoon), between 1988 and 2000, universities were closed for a total of 10 out of 12 years. After they were re-opened, the military government dispersed campuses outside of city centres. This and a chronic lack of investment in education has resulted in a reduction in standards of teaching, research and infrastructure, all areas which the new civilian government is now working hard to tackle.

In early 2012 the Burmese government took the critical decision to embark on a Comprehensive Education Sector Review (CESR). The review, led by the Ministry of Education, is co-ordinating inputs from relevant ministries and development partners including British Council and the Department for International Development . It will include a detailed review and assessment of legislation and policies, and will culminate in the development of a costed plan for education sector investment.

More recently two ad hoc parliamentary committees have been formed, each chaired by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. The first is focused on drafting a new law on Burmese higher education while the second is looking specifically at the revitalisation of the University of Yangon. They consist of members of parliament, ministry officials and university representatives, a number of whom sit on both.

Study tours are now taking place to universities in the UK, India, Thailand and Australia. The tour groups comprise members of both parliamentary committees and include the Deputy Minister of Education, a Director General and two members of the Burmese parliament. The British Council is organising the visit to the UK.

Study tour and policy dialogue

The UK study tour takes place from 1 to 10 May 2013. Kindly hosted by the Universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow Caledonian and London, it includes a policy dialogue event at the University of London Senate House on 9 May. The aim of the visit is to expose senior policy-makers to policy and practice in UK higher education for the benefit of the redevelopment of the sector in Myanmar.

The visit will be relevant to both parliamentary committees as it will allow presentation and analysis of issues related to university policy, governance and management that will inform both the higher education law reform and the revitalisation of the University of Yangon.

The London policy dialogue aims to bring UK higher education expertise into the dialogue currently taking place within the national reform agenda and is expected to be followed up by a second event in Yangon in June.

About the British Council

The British Council creates international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and builds trust between them worldwide. We are a Royal Charter charity, established as the UK’s international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations.

We work in more than 100 countries, and our 7000 staff – including 2000 teachers – work with thousands of professionals and policy makers and millions of young people every year through English, arts, education and society programmes.

We earn over 75% of our annual turnover of £739 million from services which customers pay for, education and development contracts we bid for and from partnerships. A UK Government grant provides the remaining 25%.  We match every £1 of core public funding with over £3 earned in pursuit of our charitable purpose.

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