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Parami Students Produce Podcast to Discuss the Impacts of Myanmar’s Matriculation Exam on Students and Teachers

A group of students from the Parami Leadership Program has recently launched a podcast series on matriculation exam in Myanmar called ‘Gateway’ as a part of their research design class. According to the research team, the main purpose of this research project is to manifest how the exam and education system affected students’ life in Myanmar. 

To further develop their analytical skills, students got to participate in two research projects over two semesters. During the first semester of PLP, students get to work in small groups led by a faculty mentor or research mentor and produce a research project.

The Podcast Series on Matriculation Exam is one of the research projects in the first semester guided by Teacher Joe Decker, a faculty in Arts (Humanities?) at Parami Leadership Program. The students' research team consists of seven members— Thet San, Soe Lwin, Tun Min Latt, Nandar Win, Aye Sandar, May Thet Htar Lwin, and Nan Nwe Nwe Aye.

The research team of the podcast interviewed different stakeholders, including students, teachers, high school principals, and university professors from diverse areas such as Yangon, Bago, Dawei, Hpa-An,  Meiktila, Nay Pyi Taw, and Mandalay. 

The podcast series includes six (highlights or) topics related to the matriculation exam: History of Myanmar’s Matriculation Exam; Learning and Teaching Methods; Resources; Ambition and Future; Stress, Pressure and Assessment; and Solutions. The research team decided to produce the podcast series in Burmese to reach the Burmese speaking audience. Here are the summaries of all episodes of the podcast series on Myanmar’s Matriculation. 

Episode 1: History of the Matriculation Exam 

The first episode talks about exam history in four periods: Myanmar's education in colonial times, post-independence, under military government, and civilian government on wards.  Before colonial times, Buddhist monastic education was the only source of learning in Myanmar. Those monastic schools helped provide education to all walks of life, but women were disadvantaged as students. And it led to a lower female literacy rate and losing basic human rights. During colonial times, different kinds of schools, English-speaking schools, government schools, and private schools emerged. Still, equality towards education was undermined. After independence, educational reforms were introduced to bring a better education system. However, some equality issues remain unchanged. The military government made changes in the education system along with its political ambitions, which devalued the quality of education as a whole. 

Episode 2: Learning & Teaching Methods 

The 2nd episode mentions how teachers tend to train students to learn by heart and recitation. Students rely too much on extracurricular instruction, also known as tuition, which hampers their all-round development. The existing curriculum prevents students from learning/pursuing general knowledge. These challenges have been addressed, but educational reform got suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Episode 3: Resources 

This episode focuses on issues related to resources for the matriculation exam. School infrastructures and facilities, parents’ perspective towards education and their educational backgrounds, and family financial statuses are the main issues of the education system in Myanmar. In some ethnic regions, language barriers prevent some students from higher education. Teachers’ salary, teaching aids, capacity building, and accessibility are the resources that should be improved. School infrastructure and facilities should also be provided.

Episode 4: Ambition & Future

This episode highlights how the matriculation exam has been discouraging students from pursuing  their ambition. Children are usually influenced by their society or parents when choosing fields of study or universities for their further study. For example, parents encourage their children to obtain government jobs because they believe that their children can rely on a pension when they retire. However, there have much discrimination in the matriculation exam between students who pass and fail. If the students pass the matriculation exam, they are far more advantaged to access opportunities than those who fail the exam. Thus, this podcast episode manifests how the matriculation exam can decide the future of students.

Episode 5: Stress, Pressure & Assessment 

This episode explains how students, parents, and teachers have to deal with the stress and pressure related to the matriculation exam. According to social norms, parents were unconsciously (and/or intentionally) competitive with others due to their children's reputation. Those kinds of circumstances can impose more stress and pressure between students and their parents. Moreover, the matriculation exam research team highlighted how students are assessed based on their matriculation exam scores for choosing universities.

Episode 6: Solutions 

This episode presents the solutions shared by interviewees who are longing to make a change to the Myanmar matriculation exam and education system. Some professors and teachers expressed that having teachers’ autonomy can enhance their capacity and improve student's critical thinking as teachers can create assessments that fit with students’ learning abilities. By collaborating with and providing positive feedback to parents, teachers can enhance and develop a student's learning experience. The research team pointed out that necessary teaching training will also encourage teachers to practice more systematic and effective pedagogy methods. Providing training to teachers can be one of the essential moves in Myanmar's education system reformation process. 

Click here to listen to the podcast series on Myanmar’s Matriculation Exam. 

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