Education sector reforms started at the end of 2012, continuing in 2015 with the third phase of the Comprehensive Education Sector Review (CESR). The third phase involved the development of a National Education Sector Plan (NESP) based on the earlier rapid assessment (phase 1) and in-depth analysis (phase 2) of previous years. MEC has sought to engage specifically on issues related to teacher education, access and inclusion, curriculum and NFE to ensure that the needs of ethnic minority children, refugee students and teachers, migrant children, children with disabilities, and out-of-school children were taken into account in the sector plan.
MEC’s goal has always been to promote greater civil society engagement in the education reform process. This has been challenging despite building very strong relations with the CESR team. The main consultation phase was organised at very short notice and focused on government stakeholders with only one opportunity for broader consultation.
As a result MEC adopted the role of playing the facilitator through the program’s various network groups (discussed more below), providing briefings, sharing draft planning and then feeding back on behalf of civil society organisations through the direct participation position MEC held. While this approach was not as strong as supporting direct civil society engagement it was an effective and practical solution and gave civil society organisations an opportunity to raise their views that would not otherwise have been available.
In July 2015 MEC, in collaboration with World Education and Save the Children Thailand, facilitated a briefing for ethnic education organisations before their participation in a CSO consultation with MoE and the CESR on the draft NESP. Over the last two years MEC has built strong links with the long-standing ethnic education networks that have been operating from Thailand for many years which has largely developed around refugee issues, especially Karen and Karenni Education Departments and associated CSOs.
These groups have previously had limited opportunities to engage in formal policy discussions inside Myanmar and so MEC engagement has quite significantly changed the level of awareness and the engagement of border groups with Myanmar policy reform. MEC worked with these groups to develop key policy positions prior to the meeting and saw positive changes in the final draft of the NESP (December 2015) as a result of the recommendations proposed by the CSO consultation group on issues of student transition, language of instruction, local curriculum development and recognition of teachers. For some of the groups it was the first time for them to directly engage in policy dialogue with the Government of Myanmar.