According to The Irrawaddy Magazine, Thailand’s Rajamangala University of Technology Lanna (RUMTL) is poised to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Burma’s Department of Higher Education. Here’s a slice of yesterday’s article:
The proposed exchange program aims not only to strengthen mutual understanding between Thai and Burmese students, but also between the two countries, said [RUMTL President] Eurviriyanukul, who visited Burma from July 19-22. He said the move was timed to prepare for the inauguration of the planned Asean Economic Community (AEC) in 2015.
During his trip to Burma, Eurviriyanukul traveled to [the capital] Naypyidaw to discuss the MoU with Deputy Education Minister Ba Shwe and Zaw Htay, the director general of the Department of Higher Education (Lower Myanmar), which is a departmental body under Burma’s Ministry of Education.
Under the proposed agreement, RMUTL will offer exchange programs is areas such as language and cultural studies. The university will also offer internships and scholarship programs to Burmese students to allow them to study at its six campuses.
Of course, it is commonly believed that providing quality education and training opportunities to smart students helps build the future of a community. One can hope that this is exactly what RUMTL is thinking when proposing these programs to Burma, even if President Eurviriyanukul states in the article, “Education has nothing to do with politics.” Ha!
The quality of higher education in Burma (or Myanmar – it’s official name, imposed after the military junta seized power in 1989 and one which select countries acknowledge) is unclear. Until recently, Burma has been closed to much of the outside world, including outside evaluators. Governmental reporting on several education factors, including literacy rates reported to UNESCO, has been in dispute.
With Burma’s recent openness policy, one can hope that more programs to build the capacity in Burma and of Burmese students will sprout up. One longstanding program is the Open Society Foundations’ Supplementary Grant Program Asia. (A disclaimer: I previously worked for OSF Scholarship Programs, so there may be a bit of favoritism involved in this post.) The Thabyay Education Network, based in Chang Mai, Thailand, also offers and administers scholarships for Burmese students. If you are aware of other Burmese higher education scholarship programs, please leave a comment.