School education in Myanmar is free of charge
for everyone where it is available, which is the case in
all cities but not always in the countryside. According
to the UN agency Unesco, over nine out of ten adult
Myanmarians can read and write. However, almost a third
of the residents can only handle the simplest reading
and writing tasks.
The children can start in preschool at the age of
four. Compulsory compulsory education covers five years
and starts at the age of five. Then follows a four-year
middle school and a two-year high school. Virtually all
children begin elementary school or attend Buddhist
monastic schools, but only over half of a year's class
continues in middle school.
Country facts of Burma, including geography profile, population statistics, and business data.
After colonial times Myanmar had a comparatively high
level of education for a long time, and literacy was
high. The universities of Rangoon and Mandalay have
traditionally been the foremost. When the military took
power in the 1960s, the standard of education dropped
slowly but surely, with a marked deterioration at all
levels from the mid-1990s. For several years, the regime
has spent just over 1 percent of GDP on education.
During the gradual democratization in the 2010s,
governments have shown higher ambitions and education's
share of GDP has risen. The democratically elected NLD
government spent more than 6 percent of the state budget
2016/2017 on education.
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There are a number of private schools. Some charge
high forward fees while others are run through charity.
Partly with foreign aid, in recent years several new
private schools have been started.
The larger universities in Rangoon and Mandalay were
closed almost entirely in 1996 after student revolts.
Only doctoral studies are allowed. The universities were
only reopened in 2013.
FACTS - EDUCATION
Proportion of children starting primary
97.7 percent (2017)
Number of pupils per teacher in primary
Reading and writing skills
75.6 percent (2016)
Public expenditure on education as a
percentage of GDP
10.2 percent (2017)
Public expenditure on education as a
percentage of the state budget
10.2 percent (2017)
Continued battles in the north
The fighting in the north between the government army and the rebel groups
Shan State's Army North and Kachin's independent army continues without being
affected by the NLD's election victory. None of these groups signed the
ceasefire agreement in October.
NLD wins a landslide victory
The election results show that NLD has won 255 of the 330 electable seats in
the House of Representatives (the lower house). USDP has received 30 seats and
the regional parties of Arakan National Party (ANP) and the Shan Nationalities
Alliance for Democracy (SNLD) have won 12 seats each. In the National Assembly
(upper house), NLD receives 135 out of 168 eligible seats, while USDP receives
12 seats, ANP 10 and SNLD 3 seats. Thus, the NLD gets an absolute majority in
parliament and can independently elect the country's next president. President
Thein Sein congratulates Aung San Suu Kyi for the election victory and USDP
admits defeat. The army chief says the military will cooperate with the
country's next government.
High voter turnout on a quiet election day
The election is held on the exposed day under calm conditions and with a
large safety offer. The turnout is high; According to the Election Commission,
it is around 80 percent. International election observers state that the
electoral process has largely been free and fair, with relatively few
irregularities. However, the fact that hundreds of thousands of residents,
mainly Rohingya, are not allowed to vote casts a shadow over the election.
Suu Kyi's "superior president" if NLD wins
Aung San Suu Kyi says she will lead the country's government if the NLD wins
the election, even if she is not allowed to become president. She says she will
be "the superior president". The NLD leader criticizes the electoral process
which she believes was not free and fair and that the Election Commission has
not dealt with the irregularities that have arisen.
Muslim hostile electoral rhetoric
UN chief Ban Ki-moon expresses deep concern over the Muslim hostile rhetoric
used by some people in the electoral movement. According to analysts, many
Muslims, including Rohingya, are stopped from voting in advance.
Armistice is entered into with guerrilla groups
Eight of the 17 rebel groups that have negotiated a ceasefire with the
government sign an agreement. Nine groups reject the cease-fire agreement. Among
these are the most active resistance groups, such as the United States Army
(UWSA) and the Kachin Independent Organization (KIO), whose militia faction KIA
controls a large part of Kachin in the Northeast. Information comes about
continued fighting there.
The electoral movement begins
The electoral movement before the parliamentary elections begins. Around 90
parties stand for candidates, and about 30 million inhabitants are eligible to
vote. The election applies to the electable seats in both the National Assembly
and the National Assembly. After the election, the two chambers will together
elect a new president.
More difficult to convert from Buddhism
Parliament adopts new contentious religious laws, proposed by Buddhist
nationalists (see July 2015). This time there are restrictions on the
possibility of converting from Buddhism to another religion. Criticism of the
laws warns that the ultranationalist laws may lead to increased intolerance
against religious minorities.
The USDP leader is dismissed
President Thein Sein dismisses his chief political rival in the USDP, Shwe
Mann, who is also the Speaker of Parliament, from the party leader post. Shwe
Mann is removed from the USDP's headquarters by security guards. He is known to
exert great influence over the more conservative forces within the military and
USDP. The president's action exposes a power struggle within the USDP top tier
that has been fought ever since 2010. Provision is made only a few months before
the election is held and shortly before the presidential candidates are
Floods hit a million
Irrawaddy water levels rise sharply during the monsoon season and large areas
are flooded. Some areas of the river delta are isolated because of the water
masses. President Thein Sein urges people to leave the risk areas. In the middle
of the month, more than 100 people were killed in the floods and almost one
million inhabitants have been affected by them in some way.
Difficult to marry across religious boundaries
Parliament adopts a law (called the Law on Marriage for Buddhist Women),
which imposes a number of restrictions on marriage between Buddhist women and
men of another religion; Among other things, these couples must apply for
marriage permits from local authorities. If they do not, they can be sentenced
to two years in prison. A law on child restraint was passed in May. Similar laws
are initiated by influential Buddhist monks with a conservative and nationalist
Thousands of prisoners are released
The government releases 6,966 prisoners in a mass amnesty for "humanitarian
reasons". Among the released prisoners are 210 foreign nationals, including the
recently arrested Chinese forest workers. It is unclear if there are any
political prisoners among the released.
Lifetime prison for deforestation
A court in the northern Kachin state sentenced 153 Chinese citizens to life
imprisonment for illegally harvesting rainforests. China is upset with the
judges, which it believes are too harsh, and lodges a diplomatic protest with
Journalists are fined
A court in the country fined two journalists ($ 800 in fines each) for
defaming President Thein Sein. The charge was brought by the Ministry of
Information and concerns a newspaper article published in November 2014 in which
both journalists criticize the president for being unclear as to whether he will
stand for re-election or not. Human rights groups claim the verdict is part of
the regime's scare campaign against media ahead of the November elections.
Election day nailed
The government announces general elections until November 8.
The Kokang guerrillas face a ceasefire
The Kokang guerrilla MNDAA announces a unilateral ceasefire. Assessors
believe the decision comes after negotiations with China.
Suu Kyi visits China
China's ruling Communist Party invites Aung San Suu Kyi to China for the
first time, where it meets, among others, President Xi Jinping. The invitation
is interpreted by analysts as China expects that the NLD will win the autumn
election and that China therefore wants to position itself ahead of the
impending change of power. China is likely to secure access to Myanmar's natural
resources and ports on the Indian Ocean.
Boat refugee crisis deepens
The boat refugee crisis going on in the sea outside Myanmar's coast is
getting worse. Thousands of refugees, many of whom are Rohingy, get stuck in
boats out at sea during severe hardships. The reason is that Thailand has
launched a strike against refugee smugglers and that refugees on their way from
Bangladesh or Myanmar to Indonesia and Malaysia are denied access to the
countries of the region. Following international pressure from, among others,
the UN, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand's foreign ministers meet in Kuala
Lumpur to do something about the crisis. Indonesia and Malaysia promise to
provide 7,000 refugees with temporary protection, while Thailand refuses to sign
the agreement. Myanmar reluctantly agrees to contribute to the resolution of the
crisis. As a result of the pressure, the Myanmar navy performs its first rescue
operation as they tow a boat with around 200 refugees into land near the border
Continued student demonstrations
The protests among the university students continue with unabated strength
(see January 2015). When they carry out a sit-down strike for several days in
the city of Letpadan, the police enter and interrupt the campaign, among other
things, they use batons. The students are demonstrating against a new law which
they consider to restrict academic freedom.
Tense location between China and Myanmar
Representatives of Myanmar and China meet to discuss how to improve the tense
situation in Kokang. China emphasizes the importance of the tens of thousands of
refugees from neighboring countries returning home. The conflict leads to
increased tensions between Myanmar and China, when Chinese nationals are killed
by mistake in a Myanmar air strike. At the end of the month, more than 200
combatants were killed as well as an unknown number of civilians.
Hard fighting in Shan State
The toughest fighting in at least two years is erupting in Shan State in the
northeast between government forces and the Kokang rebels Myanmar's National
Democratic Alliance and Army (MNDAA). After a couple of three weeks of fighting,
state media reports that more than 130 combatants have been killed. The violence
flares up when one of the rebel leaders, Phone Kya Shin, returns from five years
of exile in China and launches assaults on army posts. This is happening at the
same time as the government is trying to agree on a ceasefire with the country's
various ethnic rebel groups. Tens of thousands of people are reported to flee
across the border to China ahead of the fighting. Combat aircraft are also used
by the military.
Warning for backlash in democratization
UN human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein warns of setbacks in the reform
process. He criticizes Myanmar's government for its way of dealing with ethnic
minorities, in particular Rohingya, and for increased restrictions on media
freedom. Zeid provides, for example, that regime critics have been imprisoned
and that peaceful demonstrations are being squandered.
UN criticism for discrimination against Rohingya
The UN special envoy to Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, criticizes the country for
discrimination against the Muslim people group Rohingya. She also addresses
legislative proposals initiated by nationalist monks to limit the possibility of
marrying people of different religions and to convert. A high ranking
nationalist monk and Buddhist leader calls the UN envoy "sly" and "whore". The
government accuses Lee of interfering with the country's internal affairs and
not looking at the positive aspects of the democracy process.
Rohingy may not participate in referendum
President Thein Sein persuades Parliament to give people with a so-called
white card (a kind of temporary ID card) the right to participate in a
referendum on a new constitution in May. The white cards were distributed by the
junta to the country's roughly 1.5 million Rohingyas so that they could vote in
the general election in 2010. The Rohingyas are considered by the state as
illegal Bangladeshi immigrants without citizenship and voting rights. Later that
month, the president withdraws the decision to grant temporary voting rights to
Rohingya. Hundreds of Buddhists have been walking the streets in protest. The
validity of the white cards expires in March.
Student protests without permission
Hundreds of university students, without permission from the authorities,
launch a protest march from Mandalay to Rangoon. The protest concerns academic
freedom at higher education institutions; the students feel that the central
authorities' control over the universities must be reduced, that students and
teachers must be able to more easily form interest organizations and unions, and
more. The students also demand that the government spend more money on higher
education. The police are watching the march closely.
Offensive against Kachinrebeller
The army goes on offensive against Kachinrebeller in the north since the
insurgents kidnapped the local transport minister and three police officers.