Systems strengthening for improved learning outcomes

Effective classroom processes in an enabling learning environment

Four inter-related dimensions of pedagogy, language, curriculum (including books and resources) and formative assessment constitute the direct determinants of learning outcomes.

With regards to pedagogy, in Myanmar there has been a general move towards a ‘Child Centred Approach’ (CCA) within the formal system, which has to some extent been adopted in programs that have supported monastic and ethnic systems.

The approach is by no means institutionalised and- in line with international developments – both the formal and monastic systems are realising that it might be helpful to avoid polarisation of ‘child centred’ and ‘teacher centred’ approaches and instead articulate a ‘learning-centred’ approach for the Myanmar context.

Ian Clifford and Khaing Phyu Htut . A Transformative Pedagogy for Myanmar. Paper presented at UKFIET International Conference of Education and Development, Oxford 2015. 

This would entail identifying approaches that engage learners cognitively and support the consolidation and long-term retention of new knowledge, according to the skills, concepts, or subjects in question as well as the age, ability, personality and cultural background of the learners. It is likely that many teachers will require support to gradually gain competence in selecting and applying a wider repertoire of methods and that there will be a need for increasing quantity, quality and availability of a range of learning materials.

Oral language is the core medium of learning, critical to cognitive development and concept acquisition, whilst literacy is the most central tool that is required to access learning across the curriculum and to enable self-learning. Across all language groups, traditional rote methods have tended to reduce opportunity for oral language development.

Meanwhile the results of sample early grade reading assessments in Myanmar language suggest that even in relatively advantaged Bamar areas many children are not acquiring core reading skills in the early years of schooling, often because these skills are not systematically taught, or supported by sufficient graded reading materials.

Amber Gove and Peter Cvelich. Early Grade Reading-Igniting Education For All RTI/ USAID, 2011.

As previously noted, multilingual contexts require the teaching and use of multiple languages and literacies and whilst some teachers and schools are seeking to implement MTB-MLE  there do so with limited capacity and in the absence of supportive overall frameworks.  It is likely, therefore, that many teachers will require pedagogic and broader framework/ materials support, to adopt effective approaches to literacy acquisition and to language learning and use in their specific-and often very challenging contexts.

Also vital is that the wider school environment, academically, socially and physically, is safe, inclusive and supportive. Some schools in the formal, monastic and ethnic sub-sectors have had support in developing ‘inclusive’, ‘quality learning’ or ‘child friendly’ environments, using a range of frameworks. However, it is likely that many schools will require further support to identify and create some of the basic conditions for successful teaching and learning to take place and to adopt approaches that promote gender and social equality and respond to the differentiated needs of all learners.

School management

It has been increasingly understood internationally that teachers can only work effectively with children where they are held accountable and supported by each other, the headteacher/ senior managers and the wider community.  There has been a trend towards  ‘instructional leadership’ (managers as primarily leaders of teaching and learning) and of  whole school approaches to school improvement, realised through cycles of participatory data collection, analysis and the identification, costing/budgeting, implementation and monitoring of strategies to improve access, equity, inclusion and learning.

Critical to both of these is the active participation of parents and community members in school support, management and monitoring/ accountability.

 DEVCO (2014) B4 Education discussion paper. Education System Strengthening

Myanmar is at an early stage in moving from an ‘administrative’ approach to school management, but in the formal and monastic systems instructional leadership and ‘whole school’ improvement processes are being pioneered, linked to the introduction of school block grants. It can be anticipated, however, that many school leaders and managers, particularly in ethnic education systems, will not yet have had professional development opportunities or exposure to these approaches.