Over 70 students, who are attending three high schools operated by the Mon National Education Committee (MNEC), will take the exams offered by the Union Ministry of Education.
The government offers two years of high school, ninth and tenth standards, in what are known as Government Schools. Students can take the matriculation exams to qualify for university after completing the tenth standard but the vast majority of students in the Mon education system never finish high school, and do not take the exams.
MNEC is an alternative school system run by the New Mon State Party (NMSP), an opposition political party that also operates an armed-wing called the Mon National Liberation Army (MNLA). The group, one of many armed ethnic groups in the country, signed a ceasefire with the central government in 1995 and a tenuous peace still holds.
MNEC operates 138 schools throughout Mon State, including 89 primary, 29 post-primary and 16 middle schools. So few students stay in school through the tenth standard that there are only three high schools and one post-high school for the entire system.
The 74 Mon students taking the exams this year represent a decline from the 93 students who sat for the 2015-16 school year. This year, 23 students from Andin Mon National School will take the exams, as well 35 from Nyisar and 16 from Wingabar.
“Last year five of the 40 [Andin] students who took the exams passed, so some will try again this year. We registered 29 students but only 23 would take the exams,” said Nai Mae Jor, the headmaster at Andin Mon National School.
Students from the other two schools did not do much better; only two of 17 students from Wingabar and four of 36 from Nyisa passed last year’s exams. The exams are notoriously difficult in Myanmar, leading some students to take them two or three years in a row. Still, only a small fraction of those who try each year can expect to pass.
Complicating matters, Wingabar Mon National School resides in an area of neighboring Karen State controlled by the MNLA and students will take the exams in Kyarinnseikgyi, a neighboring town. Students from Nyisar and Andin schools will take the exams in Ye Town, in southern Mon State. Exams throughout the country will be held between March 8 and 17.
“Last year only two students from Wingabar passed the exam, so this year we brought the students to Mawlamyine for more intensive instruction. I think this year we’ll see more students pass,” said Nai Rot Ga Kow, a central committee member of the MNEC.
The Mon National Education Committee was created in 1972. MNEC students have only been able to sit for the Ministry of Education matriculation exams since 1995, when the NMSP signed a ceasefire agreement with the then Burmese military government.