St. John High School, Pathein
The quality of the Myanmar education system is far below that of the neighboring countries. Burmese education, at both primary school and university levels, has suffered badly from decades of political unrest and military dictatorship. The former English colonial education system was good and effective, but was destroyed through the nationalization of all missionary and private schools fifty years ago.
The new civilian government which took office in 2011 is trying to promote change in the country and in its education sector. The government acknowledges the need for radical change in education. First steps have been taken to improve the dire situation in schools and universities. The government has made room for academic freedom and for cooperation with non-governmental institutions to tackle a wide range of tasks. In a change of policy the Ministry of Education is prepared to grant operating licenses to private schools with a Burmese curriculum. This had not been possible since 1964 when all schools were nationalized and put under state control. The only exception has been some Buddhist monasteries which were allowed to operate monastic primary schools in rural areas and recently, some private schools with a strictly English curriculum teaching without official license in the major cities have been tolerated.
Education in Pathein
Due to the declining economic, social and educational situation in Myanmar, many students drop out of school or do not pass their final high school exams. Given this situation, the Catholic diocese of Pathein decided to make education a priority about 15 years ago. During the last decade the diocese worked hard to achieve a high level of standardized nursery, pre-school, primary, middle and high school education through private tutoring. Parish Education Workers (PEWs) and Village Education Workers (VEWs) and Catholic teachers have educated, trained and empowered both parents and students alike independent of religion and race.
As the government has loosened its grip on the high school monopoly of the state, the Catholic diocese of Pathein has applied for the license to build and operate a private middle and high school in Pathein. The government in Naypyidaw has already granted a license to the new high school. St. John High School will be the first Catholic High School in the whole of Myanmar since the nationalization of the missionary schools.
The Catholic private school will accommodate 200 – 300 students. The students will come from different backgrounds, religions, ethnic groups and localities. Poverty stricken, yet hardworking students who demonstrate talent and potential will be given an opportunity to join and will receive scholarships.
St. John High School will start in the Myanmar academic year 2015 (June 2015) with a limited number of classes in temporary quarters.
The permanent high school building will be completed and fully operational the High School in 2016.
PIN is confident that the St. John High School will be successful and will attain its main objectives:
- To make changes to the existing school system in Myanmar so that the children may gain substantive education for their future.
- To provide new opportunities for talented poor children who are normally deprived of the basic right to education. Students from poor families will be supported by scholarships.
- To accept students into the school on equal and fair selection criteria.
PIN helps to arrange the construction financing for the high school. As of June 2014, half of the construction costs for the new high school had been raised. In the medium term the school fees should cover the expenses of running the private school.