“The biggest gifts we can give our children are love and a good education,” said the Ambassador of the European Union (EU), Kristian Schmidt, welcoming Myanmar government officials, education experts and more than 130 rectors and academic staff from Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, and the European Union to a Regional Conference on Cooperation in Higher Education from 29 – 30 November 2017 in Yangon. The EU is continuously expanding its cooperation with Asia in the fields of education and research, with the aim of promoting people-to-people contacts, stimulating innovation and increasing the responsiveness of education and research systems to the changing needs of the labour markets.
The European Union recognises that education for all, without discrimination, is an indispensable prerequisite for Myanmar to succeed in its democratic transition. “A democracy is a society where quality education is highly appreciated, and where any individual, whatever religion or ethnic group, can access quality education and make a contribution to the greater common good; a democracy is a society where critical thinkers and academics are able and free to challenge the status quo,” stressed Ambassador Schmidt. “After decades of isolation, Myanmar's democratic transition therefore also calls for dramatically improved education at all levels, for strong primary education, better vocational training and university graduates that are able to navigate our planet as global citizens.”
H.E. Myanmar Union Minister for Education, Prof. Dr. Myo Thein Gyi, underlined that the government’s National Education Strategic Plan is gradually gaining momentum. “The Ministry of Education aims at producing qualified graduates who can compete regionally and globally; at reforming Higher Education Institutions in order to enable greater knowledge, skill, motivation, professional, personality, and encourage research culture for supporting socioeconomic development,” said Minister Myo Thein Gyi. To this end, the Ministry of Education encourages universities to develop joint research programmes and academic exchange programmes with international institutions and enhance internationalization in higher education.
Education is one of the core areas of the EU’s development cooperation with Myanmar. With a budget of more than 241 million euros for the period 2014-2020, EU support to the country’s education sector focuses on structural reforms to the education system, modernization of curricula, development and upgrade of education facilities, and training of academic staff, teachers and pedagogues. Myanmar also benefits from a number of regional and global EU initiatives for students, teachers and academic staff, including the EU’s most successful flagship programme “Erasmus+”. Erasmus+ capacity building projects in higher education aim at building skills, knowledge and expertise of academic staff, and work with rectors and governments on improving curricula and national education policies.
The 2017 Regional Conference on Cooperation in Higher Education in Yangon was designed to put political commitments into practice. The conference brought “newcomers” to international academic cooperation together with scholars and academic staff from universities with a strong network with European counterparts. It provided a platform for an exchange of experiences and best practices and was complemented by practical workshops on project cycle management, project proposal development and an introduction to available funding opportunities under the Erasmus+ programme.