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Students Learn to Embrace Diversity More While Developing a New Understanding of Race and Ethnicity

Through an interdisciplinary approach, Parami has diversified modular courses ranging from humanity to science in the 2021 Fall semester to provide a variety of fields in liberal arts and science education to Myanmar youth. Scientific Analysis of Race and Ethnicity, one of the Parami Fall semester modular courses, brought together students with diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds from across the country. 

The Scientific Analysis of Race and Ethnicity course is taught by Dr. Kyaw Moe Tun, the President of Parami University. The course aims to equip students with a better understanding of the elusive notions of race and ethnicity. 

"The whole purpose of this course is to serve as a reminder to students to think twice whenever they encounter the terms' race' and 'ethnicity.' Normally, people think that race has a biological basis as people associate race with some physical features. Through the class, the students get to see that the concept of race has no scientific basis but is a social construct that has enormous implications on how we live our lives," said Dr. Kyaw Moe Tun. 

The students from the course explored various topics such as Human Evolution, Biological Race, Social Darwinism, and Eugenics, Beginning of the Modern Understanding of Genetics, Understanding Human Genome, Racialization of Intelligence, Racialization Athletic Abilities, Ethnically Rich Societies, etc. They have developed a better understanding of the elusive notion of race and ethnicity from scientific, sociological, cultural, and anthropological aspects.

Sai Stanlay Sam

Parami students will be completing the modular courses in the first week of October 2021. Some students from The Scientific Analysis of Race and Ethnicity course were excited to talk about their class and share their knowledge. The students highlighted their understanding of race and ethnicity and how the concept has changed their perspective. 

Sai Stanlay Sam joined this course as he wanted to learn more about people and gain knowledge of race and ethnicity for a career in public affairs in the future. 

"Origin of human beings is one of my favorite class sessions because it is a controversial issue, especially for people from Myanmar; we have different religious backgrounds and a very conservative way of growing up. This kind of liberal way and a scientific way of viewing human beings is quite thrilling for me to learn," he said. 

He continued that the knowledge would be beneficial as he might encounter people from different backgrounds, religions, attitudes, customs, and traditions working in public affairs. He has also learned how to deal with people with diverse backgrounds when attending this course. 

May Thu Aung

With volunteering experience working with young people from diverse ethnic backgrounds, May Thu Aung said that she attended the course as the terms scientific analysis, race, and ethnicity sparked her curiosity to explore more about this subject. 

"Class session three is my most favorite one because we got to learn about human skin colors, and I was surprised to know why human color is different. In the class session, we had to read, watch videos, and do quizzes. This class session has shown how humans have different skin colors under different environmental factors and how people's perceptions of skin color could cause discrimination and human rights violations. We have different skin colors, but we are all the same," she shared. 

The students highlighted how their understanding of the concept of race and ethnicity had changed the way they look at themselves, people, and the world around them. 

 "Race is not a biological thing. Different people have different characters and genetic mutations, and It's a social construct. In the same way, ethnicity is also more about social construct created in each country, like, people are categorized into different ethnicities or groups. As a human being, I don't see the difference. I appreciate it when someone has a good heart, is honest, and behaves right. I also treat other people like I want to be treated."⸺Sai Stanlay Sam

May Thu Aung explained that before joining this course, she did not know about the difference between race and ethnicity as she did not have a chance to learn about the terms before. 

“When I heard the word ethnic people, I thought we were different from each other. Through this course, I have learned the true concept of these terms [race and ethnicity]. Race is perceived from our physical appearances, such as skin color, eye color, and ethnicity is our identity and the language we speak. Both are social constructs. In the class discussion, we all agreed that all humans are the same. Although we have different ethnicities [in our country], we are not different.” ⸺May Thu Aung

The students discussed how the new understanding of the concept of race and ethnicity is essential for the young people in Myanmar. 

"As we are not learning a specific thing, but we are learning from different perspectives about race and ethnicity, this course is quite useful for young people in Myanmar as we live in an ethnically diverse country. It is compulsory knowledge that young people should acquire. Our young people should learn more about race and ethnicity to know the true concept of these terms. By developing this knowledge, I hope our young people will better understand the difference that we have to eliminate stereotypes and embrace the different religious points of view," said Stanlay. 

May Thu Aung highlighted the ongoing ethnic conflict in Myanmar and said that changing perceptions of ethnicity and embracing the differences could avoid the conflict in the country. 

She added that "as young people are the future of our country, improving youth's understanding of race and ethnicity is important for Myanmar so that we will not make the same mistake as our older generation did, like, the ethnic conflict. If we think we are not different, our perception towards other ethnicities could change, and all together, we could create a better society." 

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