Nang Mo, a very ambitious and goal-oriented young woman with many leadership qualities, was one of the first students to attend our programs. Her family had to settle in an internally displaced people (IDP) camp along the Thai-Burmese border for fear of being arrested. From there, Nang Mo began working with many different non-governmental organizations within the IDP education system, but realized that, without state infrastructure and resources, the education system was completely underdeveloped. Her ambition is to change, not only the education system within the IDP camps, but also those in Burma as a whole. Because Nang Mo did not need additional support in gaining the required qualifications to be admitted to the University of her choice, she was directly awarded a scholarship for a Masters of Educational Administration course at Ramkhamhaeng University in Bangkok. She completed her course in December 2012.
- 1. How did you meet We women, and what draw you to the organisation?
I was introduced to We women when I was working as a teacher in one of the internally displaced people (IDP) camps along the Thai/Burmese border. I especially like the way We women communicates with the students; the staff is very respectful. We women has a student-focused approach, and works on a one-on-one basis.
- 2. Why did you choose to study Education Administration at Ramkhamhaeng University, and looking back, was your study time as you expected?
Before I started my studies, I was working in education as a teacher and volunteer. I felt that the education I received so far was not enough to help improve the education system in the IDP camps. During the Masters course, I thought I would learn how to teach and about teaching methods, but this was not the focus. Instead, I learned other relevant things, and during my summer holidays I also joined a course that taught me how to teach.
- 3. What knowledge and experience did you gain from studying this Masters?
I learnt a lot at Ramkhamhaeng University, such as educational planning, the structure and foundation of educational organizations (I didn’t know about this before), and how to design curriculum. Because of this course, I’ve learnt how to write proposals, and, as a result, I have now successfully written a total of four funding proposals for the various IDP schools I work for.
I have been able to apply my new gained knowledge directly. For example, when the peace process started in Burma, the donor that had supported the IDP school I worked at, changed its focus to inside Burma. They withdrew their support, but the fighting continues and the people are still not recognized as IDP by the Burmese government. The result is that many have been left with less support. Thanks to my new skills, I have been able to reach out and get some funding. In addition to the theoretical knowledge I got from my Masters course, I learnt more about teacher needs and gained practical experience at the summer camp.
- 4. How do you think you can apply this knowledge and experiences in the future? How has the course brought you closer to your ambitions?
I now feel I have both the practical and theoretical knowledge to enable me to work on a policy level. I have big plans and big ambitions. I would like to reform the education system in Burma, working together with the different ethnic groups to achieve this. But, as I have to be realistic, I will start smaller, by reforming the education system in the IDP camps. The first thing on my agenda is to advocate the community and current leaders in order to be able to change it.
- 5. What has been the most challenging part of your studies?
My weak point, I would have to say, were group discussions. I’ve noticed this with other students from Burma as well. Compared to students from other countries, we are behind in this aspect. We never practiced discussions and also lack background knowledge on many of the subjects, making us feel insecure in a public speaking setting. This is a direct result of the poor curriculum and teacher-focused education system in Burma.
- 6. Do you feel We women has supported you, and can you say how?
Definitely! I did not participate in the pre-uni program, but We women supported me throughout my studies. They found me a tutor to help with my papers. My tutor was especially helpful with my final paper; we met every week at the We women office. She also helped me find the right books that I needed in my study.
- 7. What is your thesis subject, and why did you choose it?
I did my research on: “How effective are the teacher trainings, and are they applicable at the camps?”
The results show that most teachers still teach in the traditional Burmese style: teacher-centralized. Also, from the education administration point of view, I noticed that the organizational structure and curriculum have a big effect on the quality of the teaching. I found that the schools are not well organized, have a weak curriculum, and often use a mixture of Shan, Thai and Burmese language materials combined together. I also noticed bureaucratic, top-down management, when participative decision-making would be much more effective. Finally, many schools focus on administrational aspects, like funding, but forget about the importance of the teaching itself.
- 8. What is your future plan, and what are your new challenges? How can We women support you?
My focus is to reform the education system and work on a policy level. Right now, We women is assisting me in finding an Internship placement in a renowned organisation with a focus on curriculum development, financial management in education and/or academic management. I don’t feel comfortable to go to Burma yet, so the Internship can be based in any other country.
- 9. Do you have a word of advice for the students that are now in university or preparing to study?
For every theory you learn during your Masters, think about how you can apply this on a societal level.
- Do you have something you would like to say to your donor?
Please be with us, and keep supporting us, until we reach genuine democratic change.