Education in Myanmar

Country Overview

Myanmar is one of Southeast Asia's largest nations, with a population of more than 53 million people. With 135 different ethnic groups calling Myanmar home, it is also one of the world's most diverse countries, with a rich history and panoply of cultural and religious traditions. A large majority of the population practices Buddhism, estimates range from 80% to 89%. Approximately 70% of Myanmar's people live in the countryside, and most rural families make their living from farming. The population has a median age of 28 years and in excess of 50% are of working age – a workforce which is hungry for education and opportunity after many years of isolation.

Burmese is the official language, aside the hundred languages spoken in Myanmar. English is the secondary language taught, it used to be the primary language in higher education from late 19th century to 1964.A gradual liberalization process has been under way since 2010. The country is expected to see a major shift after the government changed hands early in 2016. According to McKinsey, lessen the restriction on foreign companies and institutions would be the key factors in this transformation.

The GDP growth increased from 5.6% (2011) to 8.5% (2015) according to IMF. Growth was robust in 2015 despite cooling in the global economy. This ranks ahead of average growth among the five original ASEAN member nations – Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand – which stood at 4.6%, and average global growth, which reached 3.1%. GDP growth is expected to remain relatively steady in 2016, easing somewhat to 8.3%, as per IMF forecasts.

Higher Education Structure

Traditionally, Myanmar education market is dominated by UK and Singapore Institutions. But, recently, a lot of institutions from USA, Australia, New Zealand, France, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, India, Sri Lanka, etc. have been coming to Myanmar to explore the very high potential Myanmar market and set up collaboration with local partners.

Public Education Sector - Overview

The figure from the department of higher education highlights that there are 163 public higher education facilities in Myanmar operated under 13 ministries, with the majority of them are located in Mandalay, Yangon and Shan State. While the number of institutions falling under the control of Ministry of Education (MoE) account for 66 in total, the Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST) has regulated another 61 units in the form of technical, vocational, education and training (TVET) facilities. Based on a report conducted by the Institute of International Education (2013), while approaching Burmese public universities presents huge opportunities for foreign institutions in the long-term, the unavoidable short-medium term difficulties of inadequate infrastructure and lack of communication make operating a fruitful partnership troublesome. Research undertook by Martin and Richard (2013) has emphasized that insufficient public funding in education is the root of partnership difficulties. The level of national funding in public education is low and does not meet the current needs of the Myanmarese people. As latest information, In 2016, current government combined Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) into Ministry of Education.

Education in Myanmar

(Source: Department of Higher Education, Lower Myanmar)

Private Education Sector - Overview

In 2012, policies were implemented under the new government to allow private education to operate in order to increase schooling options. A report from the Oxford Business Group (2016) indicates an upward trend for the education market, as potential investors have submitted a large number of applications this year to build private education institutes in Myanmar. Investment in Myanmar education market, especially in the financial capital of Yangon, is anticipated to grow rapidly over the coming years as the demand for internationally accredited courses increases.

A report from the British Council (2014) has highlighted the growing trend of the private higher education market in Myanmar; outlining that HND programmes have become a popular choice amongst students. Local providers are actively seeking for overseas partners to offer top-up degrees for the stated reasons below (Quoted reasons by British Council (2014) for the popularity of HND programmes in Myanmar).

Education Regulation Framework

National Education Law was amended by the Burmese government in 2014 to serve the reform of the entire education system. According to the British Council (2014), policies that have influenced UK institutions to operate in Myanmar will depend more on the soon-to-be-released Higher Education Law and Private Education Law.

Higher Education Law will likely create an accrediting body for both public and private higher education institutions, allowing private HEIs to register as educational organizations with the government for the first time.

Private Education Law was implemented due to the government need to allow private higher education to help fill gaps in capacity and quality in Myanmar’s tertiary sector. The Law is likely to allow various forms of foreign involvement in Myanmar’s higher education sector, including dual degrees and even full branch campuses.