While education is traditionally highly valued in Myanmar, the education sector has suffered from decades of underinvestment. This has led to significant dropout rates, in particular at secondary education level and left many young people under-educated, under skilled and unprepared for the job market, depriving them of access to many forms of employment, further education or training. The Myanmar government is committed to the Sustainable Development Goals, and has prioritized reform of the education sector, recognizing the importance of human resources, and thereby investment in education, for inclusive growth.
Education is hence also one of the European Union’s key focus areas for its development cooperation with Myanmar. Until 2019, much of the EU's assistance to education sector reform was channelled through the multi-donor "Quality Basic Education Programme" (QBEP) that supported the government in developing a National Education Strategic Plan and helped strengthen the access to quality primary education in some of Myanmar's most disadvantaged townships. In 2019, the EU and Myanmar signed a financing agreement for €221 million in budget support and complementary measures for the reform of the education sector. Over five fiscal years, this "Education Sector Reform Contract" (ESRC) will assist Myanmar in supporting a combined reform of curricula, teacher training, and assessment and examination systems, to improve the relevance of secondary education to employment needs and increase completion rates of secondary education. The ESRC also provides the means to expand and improve the quality and relevance to labour-market needs of skills-training opportunities, in particular for the many that do not access/complete upper secondary education.
Leaving no child behind - Conflict Areas Support for Education 2 Learn project (CASE2Learn)
Access to education and schools has been marred by Myanmar’s complex and long history of conflict. In remote and conflict-affected areas, education services are often provided either by Indigenous providers, the monastic system or faith-based organisations. Many ethnic and remote areas are not reached by state education services. In many areas, schools are not available at all or only for a limited number of primary grades. Where schools are available, accessibility is often limited by weather, distance and terrain, in particular for younger children, those with disability and for girls, due to security concerns.
The EU's CASE2Learn project was specifically designed to help improve access to quality education and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) in remote, ethnic and conflict-affected areas. It works with over 300,000 indigenous teachers and students in 9 states and regions throughout Myanmar, supports the modernisation of curricula, trains teachers and school managers, provides learning materials and teaching resources, and engages civil society organisations in particular to foster literacy of women and girls.
As part of the EU's support to Myanmar in addressing the root causes of conflict in Rakhine state, the EU also funds a development cooperation project that works with almost 100 education facilities for children of all communities in villages and IDP camps across Rakhine State to improve access to and quality of education services.
Myanmar goes global - Erasmus + and Asi@ Connect
Both students and academic staff from Myanmar increasingly participate in the EU's flagship education programme ERASMUS+ and benefit from its attractive scholarship offers and academic exchange opportunities. A high-level higher education conference in 2017 brought together higher education experts from Europe with senior university staff from across Myanmar and the region to start building academic networks and expand the access to research and study opportunities for Myanmar's youth at European universities.
Asi@Connect now also expands to Myanmar to connect higher education institutions with research institutions in 24 Asian countries and foster collaborations between more than 55 million researchers and academics in the Asia-Pacific region and Europe through the Trans-Eurasia Information Network (TEIN).