Global Goals 4 & 5: Contributing to quality education for Myanmar's girls
“When we know we’re going to be using the Connect to Learn devices in school that day, my friends and I wake up earlier and walk to school faster.” That’s a quote from a girl named May, whom we interviewed earlier this year as part of the Connect to Learn team’s ongoing visits to participating schools in Myanmar. May is one of the 21,000 students who are now benefiting from the program. Hopefully, one day, she and her friends will have more options with regard to tertiary schooling and career choices because of the way ICT has now become an almost everyday part of their school life.
It’s cute that the kids are excited to go to school to use the Connect to Learn devices, but May’s words are actually much more significant. Motivating students to go to school, and stay in school, is a challenge for teachers in Myanmar. Part of the problem has been that education was low on the country’s list of priorities in the past – something that the government is now seeking to address with comprehensive reforms of the educational system. The years of neglect, however, led to a decline in the quality of education, in the number of qualified schoolteachers, and in the availability of new and modern facilities (such as computer labs) in the country’s schools.
Another challenge is that most of the learning in schools in the past was by rote. This is changing now, however, and it’s a change that’s being embraced by the teachers. Daw Than Dar Win, a headmistress from one of the Connect to Learn schools, says of the changes: “While we have taught in our own school using less emphasis on purely rote learning, the bigger change with the availability of ICT resources is that before, the teachers had to search for books and materials in the library or from other sources. Now they have access to more material for their lessons.”
Things are indeed changing, and changing fast, considering that mobile communications in Myanmar didn’t become widespread until late 2014.
Today the students in the Connect to Learn program quickly and adeptly manipulate the tablets for their lessons, and it’s clear that the devices add a new dimension to their day-to-day learning. May told us that the tablet is very useful when working on pronunciation: “With the tablet we can record our voices and write the words afterwards. We learn more this way, beginning from the pronunciation. Everything gets better!”
And that’s my wish – #whatireallyreallywant – for everything to continue to get better for these students, especially in terms of the quality of their education. Quality education for female students will result in better quality of life overall, both for the girls and for their families. Having said that, the benefits of our Connect to Learn program in Myanmar are enjoyed by students of both sexes.
Headmistress Daw Than Dar Win summed it up nicely: “Regardless of their social standing, they now have equal rights to use the Connect to Learn devices, which, I think, also places them on equal footing to build their futures.”
May doesn’t know it, but she’s got the local, regional and global Connect to Learn teams working in the background to help make education better in Myanmar. She is one of 21,000 reasons why it’s so important that we succeed.