Aung San Suu Kyi calls for help from UK universities

Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi has called on British universities to help remedy the suppression of Burmese universities by the nation’s former military regime

Source: Htoo Tay Zar

The Burmese opposition leader told an event held at the University of London today that there were “no residential universities in Burma”. Campus life had been “destroyed” by the military regime – which ruled Burma between 1962 and 2011 – as it feared gatherings of young people were “dangerous” and would “demand the fall of the government”, she added.

Ms Suu Kyi was speaking, via a specially pre-recorded video message, at a UK-Burma policy dialogue co-hosted by the British Council.

After elections were held in Burma in 2010, a nominally civilian government led by President Thein Sein - who served as a general and then prime minister under the junta - was installed in March 2011.

In 2012 two parliamentary committees were formed, each chaired by Ms Suu Kyi, who leads the opposition National League for Democracy, and tasked with drafting a new law on Burmese higher education, and specifically the revitalisation of the University of Yangon.

In her address, Ms Suu Kyi , a University of Oxford graduate, said: “The focus of the military government was on maintaining discipline, not on providing education.

“Now the standard of our university education has fallen so low that graduates have nothing except a photograph of their graduation ceremony to show for the years they spent at university.”

Higher education reform was about “much more than mere education. It is really part of our efforts to revitalise and reinvigorate our society,” she said.

She continued: “We want to make our academic institutions independent. We want to make them vital and we want to modernise them to be in keeping with the developments of the times.

“The very first thing we need to do…is to recreate campus life. Our young people have not known campus life for decades…Starting with that, we want to provide them with the highest educational standards possible, not just in our region but in the whole world. We have to be ambitious.”

She appealed for help from British universities to aid education reform and help build “a happier human society”.

The policy dialogue was the culmination of a tour of Scottish and English universities by a Burmese delegation, organised by the British Council.

john.morgan@tsleducation.com

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