By LAWI WENG – The newly appointed Burmese government has continued to allow Mon students, from the ninth and tenth grades, the opportunity to take exams at the government schools during the 2011 academic year despite the end to the ceasefire agreement with the New Mon State Party (NMSP).
Nai Aie Con, a Mon National Education Department (MNED) committee member, said, “Naypyidaw informed us that they will allow us to join their schools. We are still working for our students to have exams at the government schools in the year 2012.”
Last year, in April, the Burmese authorities in Ye Township threatened the MNED that the year 2011 would be the last year Mon students would be able to take exams because of NMSP’s refusal to join the Burmese-run Border Guard Force (BGF). Instead, the current government has declared it will allow Mon students to take these exams next year as well.
“The situation is fine now. They do not make problems because it is about education,” said Nai Soi Ha, a senior member of MNED.
Since the NMSP joined in a ceasefire agreement with the Burmese government in 1995, the MNED cooperated with the Burmese authorities in Ye Township to allow the 9th and 10th grade students the opportunity to take national education exams.
Those students who pass the government school exams will have the chance to attend university in Moulmein. These exams produce an official certificate which is recognized by the Burmese government, whereas before, students studying at Mon schools were not recognized by the Burmese education system.
According to MNED statistics from 2011, there are 156 Mon National schools, which are managed by MNED. There are 116 other schools with a mixed curriculum of both Mon and Burmese.
MNED staff have found it difficult to travel through regime-controlled areas once the ceasefire agreement collapsed in April 2010. This made it quite difficult for MNED to manage the schools under their control.
Some Mon community leaders and members of MNED have considered letting Mon Buddhist monks lead and manage the schools in order to maintain the teaching of Mon language. However, the MNED will wait before deciding because the Burmese government has allowed their students to take the national exams for now.
After the ceasefire, Mon classes became an integral part of the school curriculum in Mon State, which was seen as a benefit of the ceasefire agreement for Mon children.
Since the NMSP signed a ceasefire agreement with the Burmese junta in 1995, an informal understanding between the former Burmese Prime Minister, Khin Nyunt, and the NMSP allowed the Mon language to be taught at Mon national schools and even taught at some state-run schools in Mon State.