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Bangkok Post News (14/11/98)

Burma's education placed at deep bottom of the class

Colleges, schools kept shut by junta's orders

Less than a third of all children in military ruled Burma now complete
primary school, on of the lowest percentages in the world, the regional
director of the UN Children's Fund said on Thursday.
"Primary school coverage in Myanmar has plummeted to one of the lowest
levels in this region and one of the lowest levels in the world," Kul
Guatam, Unicef director for East Asia and the Pacific, told Reuters.
He was speaking on the sidelines of a conference on children and
development organised in Bangkok recently.
Until the military seized power in Burma in 1962 the country enjoyed one of
the best literacy records in the region.
"Primary school completion rates are now about 27 percent, which is very
low," Mr Gautam said, adding that this compared with an average rate of
about 81 percent in Vietnam.
"Myanmar right after its independence [in 1948] did a very good job in its
education and in literacy. They were one of the more successful countries,"
he said. "In basic education that worries us greatly."
Mr Guatam said Unicef was also very concerned about higher education in
Burma, where schools and colleges have been kept closed by the government
for most of the decade since troops crushed a student-led uprising for
He said that unlike university level, the problem at primary level was more
one of neglect than deliberate policy, although the lack of teacher
training had the effect of discouraging school attendance.
He said two successful Unicef prouects in Burma had shown what was possible.
"It's not only a financial problem," he said. "In areas in which we are
involved the coverage is not 27 percent, it's in the 70s, he said.
"So what this shows is that it's possible to improve and one of our
messages to the government and to others is please replicate these working