March 3-9, 2008 Myanmar's first international weekly © Volume 21, No. 408

Myanmar students choosing Australian and Singapore unis

By Aye Thawda Thit
Students take a lunch break at a canteen in the Nanyang Technological University in Singaporre.

AN INCREASING number of young Myanmar students are striving to study at universities in Australia and Singapore because of the opportunities for residency these countries offer, according to sources in the education sectors.

“Many of them now tend to go to Australian universities because the government grants permanent residency (PR) status after staying there for two years,” said Daw Mon Yi Nyein, an official at YIUS Pre-University Level Studies.

Foreign students are also officially allowed to work for 20 hours a week while studying, she said.

She said other advantages for Myanmar students included the chance to work part-time for which a student can earn A$15 (US$14) an hour. Average annual tuition fees are A$15,000 ($13,930) with approximate accommodation fees of A$12,000 ($11,150).

But many foreign students are able to work longer hours unofficially, with the trade-off being a slightly lower wage and significant risks if they are caught.

But there are other attractions to studying in Singapore or Australia, besides permanent residency status.

“You also have better job opportunities after graduation and [in Singapore] the climate is similar to that of Myanmar,” she said.

But Daw Mon Yi Nyein said Myanmar students must have an IELTS (International English Language Testing System) score to study in Australia, which could pose problems for some students.

“You need to hold high points in this exam and it will be better if you also have a bachelor degree or a diploma relevant to the subject you want to apply for,” she said. “Another requirement taken for granted is you must have passed the matriculation exam.”

Daw Mon Yi Nyein said her company has so far been able to help more than 30 students join Edith Cowan University, Curtin University of Technology and the Perth Institute of Business and Technology.

“Most students pursue business, IT and accounting but mining engineering and mining technology are popular although they are not yet familiar with Myanmar students,” she said.

Daw Swe Swe Hlaing, an assistant manager at ICEC, said the most popular subject for Myanmar students at universities in Singapore was hotel and tourism management.

“[Singapore’s] expansion of their hotel and tourism sector is a main reason for this popularity because they need more employees,” she said. “And students of these majors can have on-the-job training after studying their course for six months. Job opportunities after completion of their studies also attract students to pursue this field.”

U Winston Set Aung, the research director at Asia Development Research Institute, urged Myanmar students to prepare themselves for studying abroad if that was their desire.

“Here, what we have is a spoon-feeding system,” he said. “Beyond our borders, you must learn to work independently. Teachers there just show you the way and then you must put in the effort, which is half the battle.”

He said it was a good thing that pre-courses were available in Myanmar.

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