Ensuring all children attend school and develop to their full potential
Education is a child's right and a key to national growth and prosperity. Myanmar has made strong progress in increasing children’s access to education and improving the quality of education, yet many children remain out of school, and schools struggle to give young people the strongest start in life.
Key challenges in Myanmar include limitations in the quality of education services at all levels of education and the number of qualified teachers, as well as weak school infrastructure and outdated teaching methods. In addition, protracted conflicts and emergencies are disrupting many children’s path to learning.
Early years and primary education
A child’s early years are vital to develop the skills and attributes that prepare them for the future. Only 20 per cent of children in Myanmar between ages 3 and 5 are attending an organized early childhood education programme, according to a 2015 survey.
Access to early learning is recognized as a specific child right and a key target under the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030.
At primary school level, 81 per cent of children aged 6–10 years attend school, the 2014 census found. This means that 1 in 5 children are not attending, either because they never entered school or dropped out. Fees related to education are one of the main causes for many children to give up on schooling. Another main reason for children to drop out of school is the limited quality and relevance of the education that is offered. Economic hardships force many young children to give up education in order to work.
A 2015 labour force survey found about 21,000 underage child workers. More than 60 per cent were girls.
Adolescence is a period of great opportunities – as well as special needs and potential risks. During this delicate period (age 10–19), many children are out of school, with school attendance dropping to around 30 per cent by age 17, according to the 2014 national census.
Natural disasters as well as conflicts are affecting thousands of children in Myanmar. Around 184,000 children aged 3–17 in conflict-affected areas of Kachin, Rakhine and northern Shan States are most at risk of missing out on education, according to a UNOCHA humanitarian needs survey of 2018.
Myanmar has made upgrading the national education system a priority, and UNICEF supports the Government to implement the National Education Strategic Plan 2016–2021, together with other partners. UNICEF also supports the implementation of the National Early Childhood Care and Development Policy.
The goal is to ensure all children—especially the most disadvantaged—are able to access inclusive and quality education throughout the journey of childhood.
Bringing more children into education at an early age, and keeping them in quality schools as they get older, requires action on multiple fronts. Strengthening teaching and learning policies and systems, improving learning environments and enhancing the capacity of educational personnel, are vital. Targeting the specific and different barriers children face in accessing inclusive and quality education is also key.
A head start
UNICEF supports measures to ensure all children aged 0–8 years receive holistic, quality care and support for their optimal development, through our assistance to the national policy for Early Childhood Care and Development.
In 2017, over 1 million children in kindergarten benefited from learning and playing materials provided by a multi-donor fund through UNICEF.
In addition, vulnerable children aged 0–5 years are being reached through pilot holistic Early Childhood Intervention services in seven sites. These integrate child protection, health, nutrition and sanitation/hygiene and education services for children who are developmentally delayed, disabled, or atypical in development, helping them transition into preschool and primary education.
Boosting primary education quality is vital to keep school-aged children in school. UNICEF supports the operationalization of key national quality frameworks and guidelines for schools and education workers, helping make schools more inclusive and relevant to children’s needs.
Children’s learning outcomes have directly improved as a result of in-service teacher education services reaching more than 32,000 teachers since 2012.
“I have many expectations of my students, but most of all I want them to finish school, and become responsible citizens, so that they can contribute to the development of their village,” – U Khin Maung Aye, a primary school headmaster in Rakhine State whose school has benefited from UNICEF-assisted school rehabilitation.
UNICEF works with the Government and partners to help ensure that children transition successfully from primary to secondary education. Children who missed out early on education opportunities may access non-formal primary and middle school education initiatives that give them a second-chance opportunity to rejoin the formal school system.
UNICEF co-leads the coordination of Education in Emergencies at national and sub-national level. In 2018, more than 26,000 children aged 3-17 years were supported by UNICEF to access formal and non-formal basic education while 78,007 children benefitted from Education in Emergency (EiE) materials.