Is country ready for full foreign investment in education?

According to the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration, Singapore, New Zealand, and Australia are interested in investing in Myanmar’s education, with Singapore having conveyed the most willingness.

The Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC) has allowed foreigners to make full capital investment in Myanmar, according to notification 7/2018 issued by the MIC on April 20. Thus, foreigners will now be able to completely own and operate schools teaching curriculums recommended by the Ministry of Education (MOE) or international educational programmes.

They will be able to invest in basic education schools, technical, vocational and training schools, higher education schools, subject-based schools and private schools designated by the MOE, according to the notification.

The adoption of the new private education law, which allows foreign investment in education results from negotiations between the Education Ministry and the MIC. The Union government has been promoting investment in this sector, said U Than Aung Kyaw, deputy director general of the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration.

“The mechanisms are already included in the private education law. The notification was published prior to adopting the law, which still has to pass. Whatever it is: foreign investment or cooperation and government or international curriculum, the more schools there are the better,” said U Khine Mye, spokesperson for the ministry.

According to the directorate, local people are willing to open international schools.

“In this time, it is important to know the requirements of the government in allowing private schools to open. When we talk about quality, not only public schools but also private schools must meet the standards. If the government allows new private schools to open without improving the public school standards, it may create disparities in education between public and private schools,” said a secretary member for the National Network for Education Reform.

“It is unfair from a social justice perspective as private schools are only attended by a few, and most students go to public schools,” she added.

Opening private schools to foreign investment will have positive and negative outcomes and the government must reflect its current national position on the matter. Though there may be some negative impact, the government should accept tentatively foreign investment in the education sector as the education system has not made significant improvement under the new government, said Daw Nyo Nyo Tin, former MP in the Yangon Region Hluttaw.

However, although foreigners are interested to invest in education, they might be a bit hesitant as the private education law has not yet been adopted.

“We are interested to invest in Myanmar’s education sector but there is no specific law for education. Thus, we are just waiting for a strong law for the private education,” said a rector of a private university that is providing pre-university courses for international university entrance exams.

As indicated by the MIC notice, the new schools must abide by the Myanmar Investment Law and the 2014 National Education Law. These legislations will remain in force until a private education law is passed, said the notice.

“We will have a supervising commission, which will include education experts, and the commission to manage and set the rules regarding the approval of investments. After approving the law, all will be processed according to the law,” U Than Aung Kyaw added.

The latest private education draft law was finalised in August 2017, which the ministry had reviewed many times. While the private education law has not yet been adopted, private schools have been opening for over a decade.

There may be some complication regarding private schools that opened prior to the adoption of the law, said Daw Nyo Nyo Tin,

“By having foreigners investing 100 percent in private schools, we can learn from their methods to improve education in Myanmar,” she added.

“We have not had laws and policies, so the private sector could not wait, and private schools have opened. After approving the law, all will be systematic and under the rules and regulations,” said the spokesperson of a private university offering international courses for the past 10 years who has been involved in drafting the law.

Source: Myanmar Times

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