Higher education institutions in Myanmar are reinforcing their role as centres for creating and disseminating knowledge in their local communities. This is a positive development after the five decades of rule by the military government, which saw these universities serving only elite students and ignoring ethnic diversity. Outdated curricula is one of the more considerable challenges facing the country. With that in mind, the Ministry of Education is currently implementing short term and long term education plans to reform the higher education sector and to enhance the quality of higher education. To implement this objective, universities are trying to provide educational assistance to rural areas and to the communities in which they’re located to contribute to their development.
Like other countries of the world, Myanmar realizes that conventional education alone cannot cope with all the demands of education and training. In this new millennium, through new and flexible approaches, open and distance learning will play a bigger and more important role in developing human resources across sectors. Therefore, Yangon University of Distance Education was established to enhance education across all of Myanmar.
YUDE is built around correspondence courses that emerged around 1976.
Yangon University of Distance Education was established in lower Myanmar in 1992 and Mandalay University of Distance Education was established in 2000 in upper Myanmar to provide access to higher education to those who are unable to pursue it at conventional institutions for various reasons, possibly because they live in remote areas.
This is actually the main purpose of the establishment of universities of distance education – to offer courses of higher education to all within the country including those residing in border areas. 619 learning centers have been established across Myanmar but many of these centers are not sites of active learning any longer because most students of distant education are employed and their jobs make it difficult to attend classes.
YUDE is a leading university for distance education and is responsible for 15 regional branches. YUDE offers 19 disciplines. Courses such as Myanmar studies, public policy and creative writing are some of the disciplines that have been added under the aforementioned education development plans based on community needs.
YUDE provides teaching material packages to students and broadcasts radio and TV lessons. These are the main duties for YUDE faculty. But because of centralization and the transfer system, it’s common to find that once someone has been fully trained to prepare teaching materials for YUDE, she or he is transferred to another university and we have to train the new someone else. This is a big challenge in improving the quality of teaching staff.
YUDE is a Mega University and has huge student population size (almost 4 million in 2017).
As a response to the demand for quality assurance and the needs of a modernizing economy for more skilled human resource, YUDE offers online courses with the help of today’s digital technology. These online programmes present a more flexible and varied form of post-school education and job oriented training, increases access to higher education and provides greater choice. For example, the “Online Diploma in Law” for one year and he “Online LLB” for five years under Human Resources Development Program develop the potential legal knowledge of future parliament members and young politicians in Myanmar during the current democratization period. We have plans to open up an environmental studies course in collaboration with UK Open University in 2018.
In conclusion, improving open and distance education and achieving quality higher education are strong priorities for the people and government. On the other hand, some challenges that YUDE faces are:
- Need to improve staff quality for distance education (need training for staff, IT facilities, delivering system, funding)
- Need to develop more programs that fit what communities want and programmes leading to degrees as well as introduce programmes that will promote skills and provide the highest quality and most extensive learning opportunity by utilizing technology.
- Need to enhance the process of designing (for this, we need to have develop the pedagogy of the academic staff)
- Should be a separate Board of Studies (BOS) for curriculum and syllabus. (As of now, we are under the Yangon University BOS. If we want to change the curriculum based on the needs of our students, we have to inform the Yangon University’s BOS). A big challenge in the implementation of curriculum reform.
- Improve internal quality assurance.
- More collaboration with International Institutions.
- Set up research networks with other universities abroad.
Mo Mo Thant