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ESU supports students’ right to protest in Myanmar

YANGON – On Tuesday, the government of Myanmar announced it would postpone its discussions with student representatives on the new National Education Law. The European Students’ Union (ESU) stands in solidarity with students in Myanmar and supports their right to organise wide-spread demonstrations.

The new law is believed to undermine severely academic freedom in Myanmar because it centralises authority, places restrictions on the formation of student and teacher unions and makes curriculums rigid. Students in Myanmar took to the streets to protest those plans and presented recently their demands to the government.

Eleven points for a reform

The students’ demands consist of eleven points for an educational reform. Faculty and student representatives should be allowed to participate in the drafting process of all legislations and policies on education. The existence of student and faculty unions should be permitted and legalised officially. The current composition of the National Education Commission and the Universities Coordination and Cooperation Committee needs to be discussed. Administrative and managerial power must be decentralised. Significant changes must be made to the university admissions and examinations. New methods of teaching or pedagogy that foster independent thinking introduced. Basic language freedom of ethnic minorities respected. Non-discriminatory education implemented that accommodates the needs of disabled learners. Students that have been expelled due to political activism must be re-instated. The government should invest twenty percent of its budget in education. Compulsory free schooling should be raised from the 4th to 8th Standard.

Members of the student-led movements Democracy Education Initiative Committee and the National Network for Education Reform (NNER) were supposed to meet representatives of the government and parliament yesterday to discuss those points. However, the government stated it had other obligations to attend and decided to postpone the meeting. It also questioned that the students represented Myanmar’s student population.

The government of Myanmar must understand this grave situation. Students must be included as full partners in all decision making processes that affect the education system. They are the main benefactors of education and contributors to a knowledge driven society. The students have now presented eleven fair suggestions that will enhance academic freedom, the social dimension and student centred learning. It is also crucial that basic human rights are respected, such as students’ rights to seek education free of political oppression,” says Elisabeth Gehrke, ESU’s Chairperson.

Students’ rights protected

The Students’ Rights Charter, adopted by ESU in 2008, defends students’ rights to access and participate in quality education. According to it, students have the right to organise themselves freely in legally recognised entities. Students must not suffer academic, financial or legal consequences stemming from such involvement.

Article 19 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations state that all people have the right to freedom of assembly, opinions and expressions.

We hope that the government of Myanmar will act soon. It must launch a negotiation process in which student representatives are deeply involved in the reforms of the education system,” Gehrke states.

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For more information, please contact:

Elisabeth Gehrke, ESU Chairperson: +32/479.591.499 // or Robert Hlynur Baldursson, ESU Communications Manager: +32/473.669.894 //

The European Students’ Union, headquartered in Brussels, is the umbrella organisation of 47 national unions of students from 39 European countries. ESU represents and promotes the educational, social, economical and cultural interests of students at the European level. Through its member unions, ESU represents over 11 million students in Europe. To find out more about ESU, follow us on Twitter @ESUtwt, check out or Facebook page or visit ESU celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2012.


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