The EFA 2000 Assessment: Country Reports Homepage of the World Education Forum
Contents of country report Homepage of country reports Country reports listed alphabetically Country reports by region

Part I:  Descriptive Sections

Education for All: the year 2000 Assessment


The belief in "full and equal opportunities for education for all" is enshrined in UNESCO's constitution which was signed on 16 November 1945. This belief was re-affirmed at the World Conference on Education for All which was convened in 1990 at Jomtien, Thailand. The World Declaration on Education for All highlighted the need of providing basic education for all children, youth and adults. The major outcome of the Conference was a Framework for Action to Meet Basic Learning Needs. This important booklet outlined the actions to be taken by each country and by the international community. It is also included a time frame for action through the 1990s and culminating in the Year 2000. The goals which were set in 1990 at Jomtien - the EFA 2000 goals - were extremely ambitious. A number of meetings were held to carry out mid-decade reviews and to assess the progress of EFA activities in each country. Such reviews have resulted in a restatement of the EFA goals for most countries.

In Myanmar, education, since the early days, has been highly regarded. Nicolo Manucci, a Venetian who traveled in Myanmar about 1700 A. D. described the country as "a kingdom governed by the pen, for not a single person can go from one village into another without a paper or writing". Like Manucci, many travelers at that time from the West were impressed with what was practically universal education for boys long before anything of that kind existed in the European World. Life revolved round the village and the values of "extended families" were strong. The village, then, was a self-contained agricultural unit of community life. The monastery served as the center of culture and education where all children could learn their 3R's. Education was largely religious and ethical rather than economic - life and education were closely related in those days as it had been in mediaeval Europe.

The belief that education or rather formal schooling is a preparation for life was introduced into Myanmar with the coming of the British. Ironically, in this age of diminishing personal and family values and an increasing awareness of the environment and the world we live in, many educationists are returning slowly to the idea that education is life itself and not merely a preparation for life, that life is education.

In present day Myanmar, monastic education which had been the mainstay of education for centuries still exists side by side with the formal school system. Monasteries and monks still exert much influence in the lives of village folk. This is an important point for educational planners and decision makers to remember as a vast majority of Myanmar's population still live in rural areas and life in villages have not changed dramatically over the years; especially for those villages which are off the beaten track. Monasteries are still centers of learning and monks still remain essential partners in literacy activities in the rural areas. This still holds true of the other Buddhist countries in the Southeast Asia region.

The monastery in Ywama village in Kyaukpadaung township is a veritable learning center, which offers out-of-school children and adults an opportunity to learn basic literacy as well as handicrafts. The Sayadaw (the abbot), U Kawainda with the help of his assistant U Aye Nyan, a farmer from the village, has taught the village children and adults alike.

The students at the monastery are children who cannot attend primary schools for various reasons and adults who want to acquire primary education. There are many girls. A typical case was an eleven year old girl. She had to leave school after two years when her mother died. She was forced to leave as she had to look after her young siblings. She has continued her education at the monastery and is a bright and hard-working student. She is able to do so as she can take her young siblings along to the school.

The Sayadaw, the linchpin of the education activities at the monastery, is skilled in carpentry, wood carving, painting and embroidery. His handiwork can be seen inside the building of the monastery. He teaches handicraft to the students and is willing to teach anyone who wants to gain these skills to earn a living.

UNDP - HDI: Project Review

and Progress Report on the Education Projects (1995)

Myanmar, because of this monastic tradition, has a long history of literacy. Following the launching of UNESCO's experimental World Literacy Program in 1964, Myanmar embarked on a mass literacy program which culminated in the award by UNESCO of the Mohammed Reza Pahlavi Literacy Prize in 1971 and the Noma Prize in 1983.

Since 1965, when the nation-wide literacy campaign was begun, much notable success has been gained. The political will was strong and the literacy movement grew rapidly through mass campaigns in which entire townships in selected states and divisions were targeted. The literacy movement was carried out with the participation of students mostly from the universities, institutes and colleges. By 1988, it was claimed that 297 out of a (then) total of 318 townships had gained literacy. A force of nearly 500,000 volunteer teachers were actively involved and over 2.4 million persons were declared literate.

The Land and its people

Myanmar, the largest nation in mainland Southeast Asia (in terms of land area), lies between the two most populous nations of the world - China and India. These two nations which represent two of the world's ancient civilizations have also greatly influenced the culture of Myanmar. Buddhism, which began in India, is the dominant religion of the country where 80% of the population are Buddhists. The rest are made up of Christians, Muslims, Hindus and animists. Though there is full freedom of worship for followers of all religions, it is Buddhism which greatly influences the daily life of the Myanmar people. As many as 135 groups speaking over one hundred languages and dialects make up the Union of Myanmar. The term "Myanmar" embraces all nationalities, with the major ethnic groups being the Bamar, Chin, Kachin, Kayah, Kayin, Mon, Rakhine and Shan.

Myanmar's populations stands at 47.2 million and will double itself in the next 35 years. The Myanmar household averages 5 or 7 people with the extended family being the norm. The population growth rate is generally accepted as 1.84%. The last National Census Report was published in 1983. Though the inter-censal period is ten years., the latest National Census Report has not yet been published. This may be due to the fact that many of the border areas which had known only strife and warfare had, during the last decade, returned to the legal fold and are now, once again, integral parts of the Union . The resulting peace and tranquility have made it possible for people to move freely in and out of these hitherto inaccessible areas.

Myanmar is a country in transition where its centrally planned economy has been replaced with a more liberalised economic policy based on a market-oriented system. Economic indicators show that Myanmar's economy is now expanding at a respectable rate. Myanmar has rich resources both above ground and below ground. It is also well endowed with renewable and non-renewable energy resources. Agriculture, which has been the main- stay of Myanmar's economy, still remains its main sector. Modernization measures have been taken to increase productivity, the diversification of crop patterns, and revitalisation of agricultural exports.

It is in this setting of a relatively modest, highly religious, agrarian society which has been out of much of the mainstream activities till 1988, that the story of progress made over the past decade to meet the EFA 2000 goals must be related. In doing so, mention must be made of the many partners in this endeavor who were responsible for the progress - their struggles, their disappointments, their failures and their successes. However, the EFA story is a human story in which individuals and their right to education play a pivotal part. The individual's story will be told, many times over, in many forms as case studies of many individuals' efforts to gain education.

Naw Lah Eh Hpaw is 15 years old. She is now living in Yangon in the house of a university professor. She is a vibrant confident healthy young girl. But this has not always been the case. When she first came to Yangon two years ago. She remembers that she was very thin, had a very bad cough and did not feel at all well.

Naw Lah Eh Hpaw was born in Kyudaw village near Wet-Thay village. These villages are not too far away from Chaung-Tha, a beach resort on the Rakhine Coast in Ayeyarwaddy Division. Her mother died in giving her birth and so she does not know her mother, not even her name. Her father soon remarried. and left her in the care of her grandparents. Her grandparents U Kyar Thein and Naw Hta Ro were the only parents she knew. Her grandparents were farmers. They were Karen Baptists and were literate. They used to take her to church. Her grandmother, though the family was very poor, insisted that Lah Eh Hpaw goes to school. Then her grandmother died of snake bite and Lah Eh Hpaw's world collapsed around her. She had by that time passed the second standard. She had to leave school. Her grandfather was too old and feeble to look after her. She had to go and live with an uncle whose household numbered thirteen. There was never enough to eat and life was very difficult. So Naw Lah Eh Hpaw had to leave and find a home elsewhere. She was lucky she's found a home where she had learnt to read again and was relatively happy. She feels sad when she thinks of her grandparents especially her grandmother who taught her to read and write and sent her to school. If only my grandmother had not died I would have finished school. When I have children of my own, I will send them to school, whatever happens". If only" is a very sad phrase, but this case study just reinforces the universality of the slogan - Educate a woman, you educate a family, a nation.

Education for All

The World Declaration on Education for All adopted at Jomtien in 1990 urged all governments to set their own targets to meet the basic learning needs of children, youth and adults. These targets were to cover the six target dimensions of EFA set forth in the Jomtien Framework for Action to Meet Basic Learning Needs. These dimensions are:

1. Expansion of early childhood care and developmental activities, including family and community interventions especially for poor, disadvantaged and disabled children;

2. Universal access to, and completion of, primary education by the year 2000;

3. Improvement in learning achievement such that an agreed percentage of an appropriate age cohort attains or surpasses a defined level of necessary learning achievement;

4. Reduction of the adult illiteracy rate to one-half its 1990 level by the year 2000, with sufficient emphasis on female literacy to significantly reduce the current disparity between male and female illiteracy rates;

5. Expansion of provision of basic education and training in other essential skills required by youths and adults, with programme effectiveness assessed in terms of behavioral changes and impacts on health , employment and productivity;

6. Increased acquisition by individuals and families of the knowledge, skills and values required for better living and, sound and sustainable development made available through all education channels including the mass media, other forms of modern and traditional communication, and social action, with effectiveness assessed in terms of behavioral change.

Education policy environment: meeting basic learning needs in Myanmar

Myanmar is currently in the process of transforming its political, social, economy and administrative systems. A National Convention is being held to undertake the task of formulating a new constitution. The existing education system and the policies guiding it are gradually being reformed to meet the changing needs of Myanmar society.

An important milestone for the Education Sector during the last decade was the formation of the Myanmar Naing-Ngan Education Committee to co-ordinate education activities and to plan new ones at the national level . But more importantly, this body ensures the proper implementation of these plans and activities with appropriate follow-up measures. This Committee is the highest-level decision-making body for the education sector and it ensures that issues in education are accorded prompt and proper consideration.

Also as a step towards education sector reform, the Ministry of Education in collaboration with UNESCO and UNDP undertook a joint effort to evaluate the current state of education and manpower training in the country and to formulate sector development strategies and action programs . Phase I of the Education Sector Study was begun in 1990 and completed in 1992, and Phase II in 1993.

The overall objective of the Education Sector Study is to provide a framework for the design and implementation of a sector development strategy. In particular, the study aims at providing a rational justification for specific action, designed to promote and strengthen the skills and institutions required for sustainable sector reforms and improvements. The Education Sector Study also addresses particular development concerns, such as Education for All, also enhancing the social and economic conditions of the most vulnerable groups in Myanmar society.

Education Sector Study: Phase I Report

Another major milestone followed the World Summit Declaration on the Survival, Protection and Development of Children. Myanmar is a signatory of the Convention of the Rights of the Child. It acceded to the Convention and subsequently signed the Declaration of the World Summit for Children on July 16, 1991. Since that time, numerous steps have been taken to follow on these commitments. Legislation has been passed to reaffirm that basic education is the right of every child and essential to the development of the person. In order to do this, the following steps were taken:

Chapter IV (20) which states:

(a) Every child shall

have the opportunity of acquiring education;

have the right to acquire free basic education (primary level) at schools opened by the State.

(b) The Ministry of Education shall

have the objective of implementing a system of free and compulsory primary education:

lay down and carry out measures as may be necessary for regular attendance in schools and the reduction of (untimely) drop-out rates;

make arrangements for literacy of children who are unable for various reasons to attend schools opened by the State.

Implicit in the Child Law is the acceptance that education is a potent tool against poverty and an instrument for sustainable and equitable development. It is also accepted that education for all is an important goal because education improves both the lives of children and the economic growth and social welfare of nations.

Following the World Summit Declaration on the Survival , Protection and Development of Children, Myanmar drew up its National Programme of Action and forwarded it to the United Nations Organization in September 1993. The preparation of Myanmar's National Programme of Action (NPA) was undertaken by a multi-sectoral group from the various ministries working together with a number of UN agencies and NGOs. UNICEF, Yangon was an invaluable partner in this exercise.

The World Summit Declaration on the Survival, Protection and Development of Children urged all governments to prepare National Programs of Action (NPA) to implement its goals. Though Myanmar's NPA will require a number of policy commitments in the economic and political areas as well as the social sector, such commitments are clearly economically necessary, politically desirable and socially indispensable. The private sector and communities must also assume responsibility for implementation if the objectives of the programme are to be achieved.

Myanmar's NPA, 1993 (Introduction)

1. EFA goals and targets

Myanmar's National Plan of Action (NPA) which was submitted to the United Nations Organization in September 1993 following the World Summit Declaration on the Survival, Protection and Development of Children first set out the goals and targets. These are




Status 1990


Method of data collection

Responsible agency



1. Universal access to basic education and completion of primary education by at least 80% of school aged children through formal or non-formal education

Proportion of children enrolled in primary school who belong to the primary school-age group (net primary school enrolment ratio).

Proportion of children entering kindergarten who complete grade 4.
































Routine reports









2. Reduction of adult illiteracy rate to at least half the 1990 level

Illiteracy rate




Survey Census


3. Expansion of early childhood development activities

Per cent of children 3-5 in ECD centers






4. Increased acquisition by individuals and families of the knowledge skills and values required for better living

Per cent of adult population aware of Facts for life (Myanmar version)  






5. Improvement of the situation of children in especially difficult circumstances

Proportion of CEDC provided with improved protective services    




Source: Myanmar's NPA (1993)

Though not included in Myanmar's National Plan of Action improvement in learning achievement by addressing the qualitative improvement has been carried on in schools under the UNICEF assisted Continuous Assessment and Progression System (CAPS) Project. Steps are also being taken to introduce life-skills education on Healthy Living and HIV/AIDS as part of the core curricula for all primary, middle and high schools in the country.

In AY 1996-97, the Special Program for Primary Education (SPPE) was launched in 30 townships to cater to the needs of school-drop-outs and other out-of-school children. This program is being expanded further.

2. EFA strategy and / or plan of action

Myanmar, in its efforts, to attain its national EFA goals has employed a range of modalities to implement various aspects of EFA programs. The crucial element for the successful employment of these modalities is a continuing supportive environment. Be it at the local grassroots level; at the state or division level; or at the national level, goodwill is essential for any EFA program to succeed. This goodwill must be shared by policy makers and implementers alike; and must be manifested by cooperation, mutual trust, support and recognition. There must be open channels of communication and networking to bring about the establishment and maintenance of a supportive environment. Without such an environment and shared commitment, even the most successful time-tested modalities and strategies will have only limited initial and on-going success. In order to meet the basic education and development needs of the nation, the goodwill and commitment of all the people involved in the process is vital. EFA can no longer be regarded as a sectoral issue, it must be regarded as a societal one.

At the Jomtien EFA Experts Meeting held in November 1994, the representative from Myanmar in his country report proposed a national EFA strategy model. In the proposed model, the EFA committees at various levels receive policy guidelines from a high-powered National EFA co-ordination committee. The functions of this decision-making National Committee are to decide on the strategy and spell out the plan of action for EFA activities. It is also to provide co-ordination between the policy channel and the technical support channel.

In Myanmar, the administrative hierarchy comprises:

At the Basic Education level, there is at least, one school in every township and a primary school for every 2 villages.

In AY 1998-99, there are

The policy channel is to ensure administrative support at various levels. Technical support is to be provided by the core institutions like the Myanmar Education Research Bureau (MERB), the Institutes of Education; the Colleges of Education and the various universities, degree colleges and professional institutes: the University of the Development of National Races; state schools; monasteries; NGOs and international agencies. The cluster-based teaching-learning centers/ community learning centers will be the hub of the EFA activities and also serve as a source of information providing feedback to evaluation task forces and survey teams. These centers will also be places where EFA records will be entered into the community database. They will, thus, be an indispensable source of much needed information for the communities they serve. (See Appendix)

This model has been adopted and adapted and used nationwide. The decentralized nature of the model with its central co-ordinating authority has proved to be workable.

The Second National Five-Year Plan which covers the period from FY 1996 - 97 to FY 2000 - 2001 has laid down educational objectives which are to be implemented. The following seven objectives are directly (or indirectly) concerned with EFA. These are

    1. to ensure that all children of school-going age are in school;
    2. to provide equal access to basic education for those living in villages and border areas;
    3. to try to reduce educational wastage at various levels of basic education;
    4. to provide greater access to vocational and technical education;
    5. to allows NGOs and individuals to participate in the development of education within the framework provided;
    6. to implement professional development programs for teachers; and
    7. to further promote out-of-school education programs.

3. EFA decision-making and management

Just prior to the Jomtien World Conference on Education for all (WCEFA), a National Seminar on Education for All was held in Yangon on February 22, 1990. Then Myanmar attended the World Conference on Education for All and was a signatory to the Declaration of the WCEFA. The existing Education for All committee was the APPEAL (Asia Pacific Program of Education for All) Committee. It was an intra-ministerial committee headed by the Director-General of Basic Education. In 1993, this committee was reconstituted and chaired by the Minister of Education with representations from a few other ministries and NGOs. Its name was changed to the National APPEAL/EFA Committee. To ensure the successful implementation of the National Program of Action for Education for All, the National EFA Central Co-ordinating Committee was formed on December 27, 1996 under Government Notification No. (45/96). This is a committee formed at the highest level. It is chaired by the Chairman of the Myanmar Education Committee who is also Secretary (1) of the State Peace and Development Council. Of its 24 members, 14 are ministers of cabinet rank. The Secretary of the Committee is the Deputy Minister, Ministry of Education.

The functions and responsibilities of this Committee are five-fold:

    1. to lay down the policy and provide guidelines for the successful implementation of EFA activities which are in consonance with the political, social and economic objectives of the nation;
    2. to review and revise the structure, functions and responsibilities of EFA Committees at various levels (of the administrative hierarchy);
    3. to co-ordinate various ministries, organizations and EFA Committees for the achievement of EFA goals and targets;
    4. to supervise, monitor and evaluate EFA activities; and
    5. to effectively implement EFA programs in accordance with the guidelines provided by the Myanmar Education Committee.

The executive arm of the Central Committee is the EFA Executive Committee which is headed by the Minister of Education who is also the Chairman of the Myanmar National Commission for UNESCO. This 26 member Committee includes 10 deputy ministers and representatives from government departments and NGOs.

In addition to these two Committees, there are five support committees. These are

    1. The EFA Formal Education Committee
    2. The Non-formal Education Committee
    3. The EFA Planning and Statistics Committee
    4. The EFA Fund Raising Committee
    5. The EFA Information and Communication Committee

But most important of all are the following Committees which implement the EFA-NPA programs. These are

These implementing committees at different levels of the administrative hierarchy reflect the decentralized nature of this national network for EFA. Management is not only top-down but bottom-up also. (See Appendix)

4. Co-operation in EFA

Basic education in Myanmar is almost totally financed by the Ministry of Education. However, there are affiliated schools in the rural areas where schools are funded by the local community. Then, there are the monastic schools which in most cases are funded by the Ministry of Religious Affairs and the local communities. Those monasteries which are outside this mainstream, especially in the more remote rural areas, offer on their own basic literacy and numeracy to the children of the village. In Myanmar, social or gender barriers which prevent people from participating in or benefiting from education are non-existent. Even the most impoverished person from the lowest rung of society regardless of gender, if motivated enough, is able to gain a basic education from the Buddhist monasteries and nunneries which also have their own programs for deprived children.

Professional NGOs such as the Myanmar Red Cross, the Myanmar Medical Association, the Myanmar Maternal and Child Welfare Association. Myanmar Women's Association are active and valued partners in the National EFA Effort. The Myanmar Women's Entrepreneur Association and various construction companies have donated considerable sums of money towards education and EFA. There are also many individual philanthropists who have donated generously towards education. Of the external agencies UNDP and UNICEF are the two UN agencies, apart from UNESCO, which are involved in EFA. UNDP's input is through the Human Development Initiative (HDI) programs. UNICEF is directly involved through its ACIS and CAPS projects. This agency is also stepping up its intervention in Early Childhood Care and Development. UNICEF's program inputs are provided from its General Resources and from Supplementary Funds. The Supplementary Funds were provided through the generous assistance from the Government of Germany, and the UNICEF National Committees of Japan, Norway and the Netherlands. ACCU of Japan is also very active in the production of literacy materials.

With the spirit of Jomtien as a basic, the two education projects of UNICEF - CAPS and ACIS - together with the education projects of the UNDP - Human Development Initiative - have sought to seek a comprehensive solution to the problems confronting primary education in Myanmar through an integrated, multi-dimensional approach which simultaneously addresses the complementary aspects of quantitative as well as qualitative improvements in terms of physical infrastructure and promotion of innovative training techniques and capacities. Appropriate infrastructural support through a series of specific, well-targeted intervention such as school construction and renovation have a direct impact on all levels of education and must be seen as a necessary, albeit insufficient undertaking, which plays an important catalytic role in mobilizing additional human and financial resources. The UNICEF projects are being continued and the HDI project will continue into its third phase.

Following the National Seminar on Basic Education held last year (1988), schools have established their own Boards of Trustees. These Boards are made up of parents and well-wishers who undertake the improvement of the schools in particular and generally upgrade the educational environment in general.

5. Investment in EFA since 1990.

There has been progress in the education sector.

School Year

No. of schools

No. of teachers

No. of students









Source: DEPT

The main thrust of EFA is at the primary education level through Universalization of Primary Education (UPE) programs. The Department of Planning and Training which has received the most input in terms of governmental financing for training has begun the Special Program for Primary Education (SPPE) for out-of-school children as its first phase in 30 townships. The SPPE was launched in June 1996 and all 324 townships will be covered by the year 2000.

(million in Kyats)

Sr. No







Actual Expenditure

Actual Expenditure

Actual Expenditure


(30) townships

(110) townships

(210) townships

(324) townships


Building/ classroom



























Central Office












Expenditure for SPPE programs Source: DEPT

In terms of UN agency inputs, UNDP through the Human Development Initiative (HDI) in 1994-96 allocated US $ 3.9 million for Primary Education, in the extension to HDI covering the period 1996-98 was US $ 5.9 million. Though in terms of real money there was an increase; in terms of the percentage of the total HDI allocation, the input for primary education allocation fell from 14% to 12%.

UNICEF inputs for education and early childhood development are given according to type of intervention.

(in US$)





% of Total

Capacity Building














Monitoring and Evaluation





Supplies and Equipment










Source: UNICEF