State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in her capacity as Chairperson of the National-Level Central Committee on Prevention, Control and Treatment of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) held a video conference about reopening of schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic with relevant persons in the education sector yesterday.
The video conference from the Presidential Palace in Nay Pyi Taw was joined by Director-General U Ko Lay Win from the Department of Basic Education under the Ministry of Education, Daw Nilar Win, representative from the Myanmar Teachers’ Federation, and U Kyaw Htay, representing parents of school children.
After some words of greeting by the State Counsellor, U Ko Lay Win discussed reopening of schools in other countries, step by step resumption of classes for primary, middle and high school children, and coordination plans being made between the Ministry of Health and Sports, the Ministry of Education and parents to prevent the spread of the pandemic in schools.
Daw Nilar Win talked about preventive measures against the pandemic when schools are reopened, possible challenges in implementing directives for the COVID-19 due to shortages of teachers and facilities, and suitable school attendance plans in line with the needs of their school being adopted by teachers, parents and responsible officials. She also advised restarting only middle and high school levels in the initial phase, while KG and primary children should learn at home with the help of parents.
U Kyaw Htay presented about the worries and concerns of parents regarding the reopening of schools, the need for advance preparations for common monsoon diseases, the need for school ferries and individuals to follow COVID-19 directives, the need to upgrade the online teaching system for teachers in Yangon where the spread of the disease was high, and requirement of COVID-19 vaccine.
In response to discussions, the State Counsellor advised strict adherence to the directives for preventing the spread of the disease. She also spoke about the need for teachers to be ready before reopening of schools and also the need for teachers, parents and school ferry operators to understand and abide by the COVID directives.
In her concluding remarks, the State Counsellor assured that the Union Government would take into serious consideration the views of the Ministry of Education, teachers and parents and after taking into careful consideration at which level schools should be reopened, adopt the most pragmatic method. She added that classrooms would be resumed on a trial basis and that at the present moment it was not yet clear which approach would be successful.
She further stated among the countries that they have studied, Vietnam was the most impressive country in addressing COVID-19 crisis as it could take effective measures and that Vietnam’s experience has been studied; schools have also been reopened in Vietnam; both countries share the same situation, and that the situation in developed countries and the situation in Myanmar was very different; because of this difference, it would not be practical to calculate what would happen in Myanmar based on observations of what had happened in those countries. Since the situation in Vietnam and Myanmar was very similar, there was ample time to study Vietnam’s experience.
The State Counsellor added that during the COVID period, teachers would be given training about teaching methods; teachers and parents should be given awareness training on how best to cooperate for the education of children during this COVID period; that they also needed to give pragmatic suggestions to solve the problems; that it would be possible to know about the concerns of parents only if they gave advice and participated in discussions such as this one; that is was not enough just to present concerns, she wanted to hear practical solutions to the problems; for example, the idea presented by the teacher that it would be possible to reopen the higher-level classes although there was a concern for the lower- level classes. She said this type of practical advice should be given. Only then would they be able to arrive at a decision.
The State Counsellor emphasized that the education of a country should not be stopped; children might lose their enthusiasm for education when they are away from classrooms for a long time; U Ko Lay Win shared his experiences on this; long-term closures of classrooms would have negative impacts on education; being too hasty with a shortcut in teaching could not generate well-educated persons; just by having a degree does not mean a person is educated, the type of education system she had in mind was not just to churn out degrees; the education must be able to benefit the individual, the community, the country and the whole world. She said this was the type of education system they wanted to give to the country.
She also said that the COVID-19 experience should be regarded as a learning experience for all; it was a learning experience for the Ministry of Education, parents, and teachers; it was not only the children who need to learn, all of them were learning; with respect to COVID-19, every day was different, the situation was changing every day; decisions had to be made depending on the way things developed; for some situations, there was no advance thinking, in fact, it was not possible to do so; the unexpected thing happened, that in essence could be called wisdom. She added, wisdom was the ability to make a correct assessment of a particular situation and to decide upon the best course of action. She ended the discussion by saying that at this time, everyone was trying to understand and make a correct assessment of the COVID-19 situation; it was also a time when everyone was trying to decide on the best course of action based on this assessment. That was why she wanted to thank all three individuals who participated in the discussions. She said by having this type of discussion, she hoped that all citizens would gain more knowledge not only about COVID -19 but also other issues and that they would all have good health and well-being.