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Changes in education policy and new curriculum for second graders

Amendments to the kindergarten and Standard 1 curriculum took place in 2016-2017 academic year and changes in the curriculum for Standard 2 students will follow in 2018-19

During the time of previous governments, changes often took place in the education sector due to circumstances and according to their policies. Similarly the present government has also continued amendments in the education sector. From the by-heart learning way to obtain good mark and high grades, the system has been heading in a direction where children will be able to learn the skills of critical thinking when learning lessons.

Amendments to the kindergarten and Standard 1 curriculum took place in 2016-2017 academic year and changes in the curriculum for Standard 2 students will follow in 2018-2019.

“The main reason for changing the curriculum is to steer the students from learning by-heart to a state in gaining the ability to be able to memorize the lesson in a way of critical thinking,” Dr Zaw Latt Tun, Deputy Director-General of the Education, Research, Planning and Training Department of the Ministry of Education told the Myanmar Times.

Learning by-heart was practiced for many years and was even dubbed as a “Parrot learning” system. It no longer exists in ASEAN countries but in Myanmar due to various reasons it is still slow in amending this system.

“Except Myanmar, nearly all other ASEAN countries have made changes to this KG +12 System,” he added.

However, as parents are accustomed with this old learning system and are not familiar with the new one, they are not that willing for the change. Last year Myint Myint, Than, a student’s parent from Pyinmanar who encountered the new curriculum and new learning system for Standard 1 said “Although they say it’s much better, I don’t see any difference. The only distinctive point is where the curriculum is divided into small groups,”

Dr Zaw Latt Tun does not repudiate that remark. In the new curriculum there are many lessons from the old one that still exist. “The difference is the style of approach. A paragraph in the lesson may be the same as of the previous lesson, but the style of the paragraph has a new approach. Tests will also be in a new style. Topics which are relevant with the present time will also be added. Therefore, it could not be said there is not much difference,” he said.

In the old style, a paragraph is read out by the teacher or else written on the whiteboard. Children have to copy this paragraph and recite for at least four to five times. “Now it’s not that way anymore. The teacher will explain about the paragraph and inquire whether the children understand it. Then every child will share his or her opinion and based on their answers records are made,” he added.

According to this new approach although children will gain the ability to consider and make decisions, the teachers may face some difficulties.

“Sometimes we even have to make performances like dancing, in an attempt for the child to understand. So one can just imagine how much the teacher suffers from fatigue due to these kinds of acts,” an anonymous teacher shared her experience.

Then for a teacher to be efficient in teaching all ten subjects according to the new curriculum and new method will still be a difficult process. “Some may not be that good in performing physical exercises while some may be weak in fine arts, so on and so forth. However, most essential points in every subject that teachers should know are explained to them without fail,” said Dr Zaw Latt Tun.

It is also important to explain to parents why lessons are not taught in kindergarten. According to KG+12 System, there are no lessons taught in the kindergarten. “Although the kids are sent to school, no lessons are taught,” complained Myint Myint Than. She feels frustrated as while her child is stammering, her neighbors’ kids can fluently read out invitation cards.

Parents also need to know that time periods have already been arranged for those kinds of situations said Dr Zaw Latt Tun. “Naturally every parent would like their child to be able to learn. However, I would just like to say that parents should pay attention that trend has changed in the teaching method and to cooperate as much as they can.

Every parent expect for their kid to be able to speak when the child comes to a speaking age and in the same way when they send their child to school they expect the child to read and write in a short span of time. Patients should be patient which is an advice from Thuzar Win Tun, Assistant Director of the Basic Education Department.

“It’s just like a gourd. When the hair from a gourd is removed while it is still tender, it stops growing. Similarly, a child is just the same. In a child, there is a limitation to the development of the brain. If parents are too demanding and force their child to study, the child’s brain will stop developing as it normally does,” she added.

On one side it’s the classroom and ratio of students and on the other is how much teaching and learning equipment can be provided. So teachers become more exhausted due to all these factors. In a classroom where there are approximately 40 students, explaining lessons to each and every student according to the new teaching method is still a big challenge for the teachers. “When the academic year first began, I even suffered from voice loss and daily challenges took a toll on my mind and limbs which lead to chronic fatigue when I got home,” said an anonymous teacher.

“Compared to the old teaching method, teachers feel stressed out by the new one. They have to exert more effort. But as they become familiar and able to handle each and every student, it will become a more comfortable situation for both the teacher and student,” said Dr Zaw Latt Tun, who said that he understands the situation.

Although it is said that education sector has been given priority in the allocation of the government budget, there are over 40,000 Basic Education Schools and the supply of teaching and learning equipment are still short. So if school principals and school supporting groups can get together and consult to find a way, the situation may improve, he added his advice.

Most parents are disgruntled as an extra academic year is added to the new system, but at the same time they are afraid of whether it might reverse back to the old system in future.

“Poor families have much difficulty keeping a child in school. As one year has been added it will only add the burden for one more year,” says Khin Hla Win who has to survive on casual jobs.

But for Dr Zaw Latt Tun, keeping a child in school for an extra year without learning anything will gain many benefits according to the new system.

“Just at a glance, it can be deduced that an extra year is added. But extending this extra year in the kindergarten gives the child more exposure to the environment. That is why learning lessons become late for a year. In the past, soon after enrolment, the child immediately has to learn the poem Nya A Kha, La Thar Thar (The moon shines brightly at night time). So to belt out these poems, the child has been trained for a year. In this way, the child’s ability in absorbing the nursery rhymes becomes much better. Although it may be seen as the child has to attend an extra year in school, the benefits gained are not the same,” he added.

However, parents who have experienced changes made to the education system by previous governments are anxious of whether the system will reverse to the old one. “Now it is said the new system is good and changes are made. Right! But within a period of say, five to ten years, will the system change again? It is really upsetting. If children are taught with this new system but when they reach the 9th or 10th standard and the system changes again it will be a great loss for both the child and the parents,” says Khin Hla Win.

However, Dr Zaw Latt Tun said reviews and amendments can be made during a certain period of time but there will not be a complete overhaul to the system.

“Although reviews and revisions will take place, there will not be a complete overhaul which will switch back to the old system. According to the policy, some matters might be amended. But we are trying our best from coming to that state and if it really happens, it will be based on the existing system,” he said.

Source : Myanmar Times

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