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Parami Alumna Nan Baung Involved in Increasing Educational Equity for Students in Disadvantaged Communities

The Parami alumni are currently pursuing higher education abroad and working in diverse professional expertise, including NGOs and different development sectors: business, community development, environment, and education. We spoke with Nan Soe Sandar Aung (Nan Baung), a Parami alumna from Karen State, working in the education sector, improving educational equity access and employment opportunities for disadvantaged communities in Myanmar.

Nan Baung in Kalaw

Tell us about yourself. 

I graduated from the PLP in 2020. With a passion for working in the education sector, I have been working at Teach for ASEAN, a non-profit social enterprise that empowers youths to drive positive change in disadvantaged communities, as a Social Impact Program Executive for one year now. I have worked as a teacher for almost five years before joining this organization. 

What are you currently working on? Could you please highlight the project or work you would like to share? 

In our program, we have two different sectors―social business and social impact. I am working in the social impact team. My main responsibilities are to manage the development of the video lesson plans by working with three teams: the curriculum specialist team, the video recording team, and the video editing team (syllabus review). I am also a key contact person for social impact program communication with beneficiary homes, youth centers, orphanages, IDP camps, and the international team. One of my current main roles is expanding the online Educational programs for the underserved young people in fifth grade and above from Yangon, Kayin State, Rakhine State, and Shan State. Additionally, I also coordinate with the leadership team for the grant proposal writing to get the funding for the organization.

As schools have been closed for two years due to COVID-19 and the recent coup in Myanmar, we want students to stay in touch with education, so my team and I provide quality education to nurture educated young people in Myanmar. Over 350 students from 13 beneficiary homes in Karen, Kachin, Shan, Rakhine states, and Yangon are joining our online English program, providing education to students from orphanage centers, IDP camps, and rural areas who cannot attend school. 

From the social business program side, I am also taking a role in the curriculum development of Burmese Language Academy of Yangon, the first-ever social business language school program. I am working with the Burmese language tutors to make lesson plans. And we provide our lessons online to learners from eight countries, including the US, UK, Australia, Netherlands, Japan, Singapore, and Vietnam, for cultural development worldwide. We have already provided 30 talented Burmese language teaching opportunities for the youths to work with our program and support the educational programs for over 350 beneficiaries with its profit now. 

How did you get into this field? 

I have worked at other companies before. I realized that I needed more skills. I am interested in the education sector. I think working at Teach for ASEAN could improve my skills while working in the education sector to follow my passion. 

What is the most rewarding or enjoyable part of your job? 

I don't feel like I am just working [for the organization]. I am working for Myanmar because the harder I try, the more children in our community will have the opportunity to learn and stay in touch with education. I'd say that is the rewarding part. I really want to develop our community as we need a good education, and this is how I can contribute [to my community] at a young age. I am pretty proud of myself for having this job. 

What are the important concepts of liberal arts education you learned from the PLP classes that you have applied in your daily life and workplace? 

I've learned how to create a curriculum taught by teacher Mark from the Professional Education Studies course: This subject has been helpful in my career now as I am responsible for developing and checking the curriculum. I am very thankful to teacher Mark Brown. Without the knowledge from the class, I would not be able to work independently; even though I've taught before, I didn't know much about teaching methods. I also learned about child psychology, like the difference in student's brains and talents that have helped me a lot in teaching and my current job. 

Ethics and Identity course has changed my life. I was pretty conservative as my religion and culture influenced my thought. After learning about ethics and identity, some of my concepts have hanged. I have learned to respect other religions and beliefs because I realized that every religion has its own values. Another thing that Teacher Joe Decker has taught us is about freedom of thinking. For example, we cannot limit students' thoughts when teaching. We have to allow them to think freely. 

Because of Southeast Asia and Conflict course, I can analyze political situations effectively. Teacher Frances O’Morchoe taught us a valuable history that I did not get to learn at the state school. I also started to have an interest in politics. 

Kalaw Trip

Can you share a memorable in-class or general PLP experience that you found meaningful? 

The trip to Kalaw is unforgettable for me. Learning in the classroom is good sometimes. However, going on trips and observing new things is also fun as we can learn practically. The trip was a kind of anthropological learning [experience] where we learned about the community, including their culture, beliefs, and political views. We stayed with the locals [at their houses]. Three-four students had to stay at one place. We had to ask questions to the villagers as an assignment. When asking them questions, we got to know their difficulties and things like their beliefs.  

What is next for you?

As we aim to reach out to over 1000 students this year, I will be working on program expansion with our teams. I have to reach out to more new beneficiaries and students. We are also planning to create a curriculum for Burmese and Mathematical subjects for students in our community to study at home. The mathematics subject will combine Myanmar and Singapore mathematics. As I have not yet graduated from university in Myanmar, I am also planning to continue my studies in the future to upgrade my abilities and enhance my knowledge so that I can contribute to our community effectively.

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