Monastic education refers to a nation-wide network of schools run by monasteries and nunneries that have long provided free education to girls and boys of all backgrounds, mostly attracting students from poor, ethnic and migrant communities.
Like ethnic schools, these schools have certain strengths related to community support, inclusion, local flexibility and cultural adaptation. However, monastic education is only beginning to develop as a ‘system’, with processes and structures for planning, school leadership and management, teacher training, quality assurance and professional and performance standards for teaching and learning still in the early stages of development.
In June 2015 the Burnet Institute Myanmar (BIMM) in partnership with the Monastic Education Development Group (MEDG) completed their project to improve quality and access to monastic schools in Myanmar.
Four strategies underpinned the partnership:
- To build the management and leadership capacity of the Monastic School System
- To increase the capacity of teachers and schools to deliver effective child centred education
- To improve the school environment
- To mobilise community support.
A key technical partner for this project was the Yaung Zin teacher development group. The Yaung Zin competency based teacher training modules were developed with leading national experts and endorsed by an Australian university and this has been the key approach to systematically improve teaching practices across the monastic system. Yaung Zin independently accredits teachers, who have completed the training but this is not formally accredited by the Government of Myanmar and this remains a key goal.
A key achievement has been establishing MEDG as a recognised partner within the sector – both by government and the Ministry of Religious Affairs – during the programme period and increasingly by the community of monastic schools. BIMM worked at the leadership level by working directly with monastic schools to improve school management and quality of teaching.
The strength of the BIMM / MEDG approach was in working through a national civil society organisation to support the established monastic system. The programme investment has resulted in the early stages of a common approach across the monastic school network and an organisation in MEDG which is well placed to provide coordinated support across monastic schools.