Friday, August 18, 2017

Lessons to learn from matriculation review

The results of the 2017 matriculation exams, probably the most important turning point event for every Myanmar youth, have been announced.

Data from the 2017 matriculation examination shows that the poorest states of Chin and Rakhine had the worst performance. Chart - Zaw NyuntData from the 2017 matriculation examination shows that the poorest states of Chin and Rakhine had the worst performance. Chart - Zaw Nyunt

The Department of Myanmar Examination said that out of more than 0.7 million candidates, about 0.25 million passed, which reflects a 33.89 percent pass rate, while the remaining majority of half a million students failed to make the grade.

It is surprising that the area with the most successful matriculation exam record in 2017 was not developed regions like Yangon or Mandalay but a less-developed Mon State, which had a 41pc pass rate.

The Mandalay Region stood with the second-best pass rate at 40pc and Sagaing Region was third with 37.7pc.

Yangon was fourth with 37.2pc.

However, the undeniable fact that there is a relationship between poverty and educational standards was proved again by the matriculation results because the poorest states of Myanmar, namely Chin and Rakhine states, had the worst performance and were at the bottom of the table with a mere 19pc and 17pc pass rate respectively.

There is also a gap between regions and states. While the average pass rate of the seven regions together with Nay Pyi Taw stood at 35pc, that of the states was just 28pc.

Among seven regions, Ayeyarwady has the worst pass rate with only 27pc, which is inferior to the individual performances in Mon, Shan, Kachin and Kayah States.

The poor performance of the Ayeyarwady Region, one of the poorest among the Regions, may be due to the effects of the 2008 Cyclone Nargis and the resultant poor internet connectivity.

Poverty hurts everything and education is no exception. It means four out of every five students in the poorest Rakhine and Chin states failed at this matriculation exam.

Poverty and education are the head and tail of the same coin. By reducing poverty, educational standard can be promoted and similarly, by promoting education, poverty can be reduced.

Including those in the two bottom States, there were altogether more than 0.5 million students all over the country who failed in 2017 matriculation exam.

Most of them are between 16 and 20 years in age and some will try again next year.

But some may absolutely drop out of schools because of many reasons and finance is the main one.

Despite the fact that many will go on to a university education, there will be many more who will not.

Every year, after the matriculation results are announced, there will be hundreds of thousands of young people who will not have a definite future.

The question many face will be whether to go to university or to get a job.

It may seem to be a potentially bad situation but the positive side is that they can be part of a productive potential labour force for the nation, if properly managed.

However, if this potential is not harnessed, it can become a challenge before becoming social and economic problems.

In facing those challenges and overcoming possible threats, the role of Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) becomes significant.

When the NLD-led government came into power, more emphasis has been given to the nation’s education, especially the TVET segment.

State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi also pointed out at a TVET forum, held last July, that only when vocational education is developed in the country, will there be a better livelihood for citizens.

For systematic development of TVET, a bill is now being put together on its programs and curriculum.

The government policy on TVET education is also being enhanced by an investment policy under new Myanmar Investment Law.

The education service sector is being promoted where investors can enjoy tax relief and exemption between three and seven years, depending on the state and region level of development.

Undeveloped areas like Rakhine and Chin states are included in Zone 1, with the highest seven-year tax exemptions.

There is an estimated three to four million youths in the 16 to 20-year age bracket in Myanmar that make up the the workforce.

This is based on the matriculation results over last five years. While these young people constitute a potentially huge skilled labour force, they need support and encouraging measures like an appropriate government education and investment policy in place.

The TVET education segment can definitely be a very attractive and promising area for foreign and local investors to come in.

Results will have to be followed by reviews so that both successes and failures in the 2017 matriculation examination can be transformed into lessons learnt to make a better and brighter future.

The 41pc pass rate in Mon State is success story that should be thoroughly studied and their methods will have to be emulated in other areas.

Likewise, the reasons why more than 80pc in Rakhine and Chin States failed must also be studied and rectified.

However, education level does not stand alone. There are other related issues like poverty reduction, electrification, infrastructure development, conflict settlement and investment promotions will also have to be addressed.

In addition, in a society which has been misunderstanding for decades that university education is the only and best solution after matriculation from secondary school, TVET awareness, but also TVET job opportunities must be promoted and will become increasingly more relevant to the nation’s socio-economic well-being.