The Center for Promotion of Monastic Education

Photo: Gail Fisher Media

 

The Buddhist monastic institution in Myanmar has both currently and historically played an important social and cultural role in Myanmar society. Through networks of monasteries extending from urban centers to remote villages, the people of Myanmar can receive critical spiritual and emotional tranquility, as well as welfare and protective services, education, and healthcare despite their limited access to government-run services. 

 

Phaung Daw Oo Monastic School initially began the Center for Promotion of Monastic Education in 2009 in order to provide training for monastic school teachers and abbots. As an organization, it is committed to improving the monastic education system in Myanmar, through holistic development of each and every student in Myanmar. The majority of monastic schools are situated in rural areas and provide education for poor and marginalized children in society. Through the basic education provided by these schools, students become educated, learn their self-worth, and become social agents who are capable of developing and supporting change in their respective communities. 

 

In particular, monastic schools offer free education to children who are unable to afford even basic public education in Myanmar. Monastic schools are entirely free. They do not collect any school fees or supplementary fees, and they often provide free textbooks, basic stationery, and a school lunch for students. Although the majority of students come from impoverished Burmese and Buddhist families, in some cases schools have diverse student bodies with students from various ethnic, religious, and financial backgrounds. Most monastic schools operate only at the elementary level. Several schools, including Phaung Daw Oo, have now been granted permission from the Myanmar government to expand into secondary and high school levels. 

 

Monastic schools operate mostly on local donations. Teachers and other staff receive only limited stipends of approximately $35-50 USD per month. Currently, approximately 250,000 students enrolled in the 1,600 monastic schools in constitute 8-10% of all students enrolled in primary education within Myanmar. Enrollment at monastic schools increases annually due to the difficulty that impoverished families face in affording the basic fees required in government schools in Myanmar. 

 

Another challenge that monastic education schools face involves school management. Very few abbots, monks, and teachers have experience in school management. Instead, they only have a basic understanding of education principles and student developmental needs. These individuals do the best they can with the resources and skills available to them. Notwithstanding, the schools are often poorly resourced and overcrowded, with classes designed for 40 students often forced to accommodate 80. There is a dire need for facilities, teacher training, teacher aids, vocational equipment, and basic meals for the children.

 

Because of these challenges, the Center for Promotion of Monastic Education (CPME) was established in order to improve the quality of monastic education for both students and their communities in Myanmar. CPME's Teacher Training program has been developed to operate as a model for all monastic education. Rather than just focusing on basic literacy and numeracy, CPME's program teaches ethics while boosting self-esteem, critical-thinking, and other lifestyle skills like food consciousness and organic farming. In turn, this builds better lives for the abbots, teachers, students, parents, their communities, and the environment. CMPE aims to support the development of Myanmar's teachers and students with the hope of strengthening the next generation of Myanmar's youth through sustainability and peace.  

 

The program also focuses on leadership transformation, starting at the top with the most senior abbots.  As the head of the monastery and school, the abbot must lead by example. Abbots need to provide support for the teachers and parents as they acquire and practice the necessary skills for facilitating each child's learning. Simultaneously, abbots must also be engaged in the development of their respective communities. The holistic approach used by CPME is believed to be one of the most effective and sustainable ways to break the cycle of ignorance, poverty, and isolation that plages the poor communities in Myanmar. In other words, CPME aims to build up Myanmar's twin pillars of Respect for Learning and Faith in Buddhism to bring about the social, economic, and psychological changes needed to gradually empower poor children and their families to become more self-reliant and confident members of society. 

 

This is obviously an enormous task, which will take time to achieve. To start, CPME developed a practical and replicable model of holistic teaching and learning to be used in a few monastic schools. Currently, CPME has already completed over 12 batches of trainings and offers support with the following objectives and methods:

  

Objectives:

  • To strengthen the capacity of monastic schoolteachers and their senior abbots/principals through hands on, practical in-service training focusing on participatory learning, holistic education and sustainable life skills which supports both students and teachers development of critical thinking skills
  • To support and strengthen the governance, administration and management of monastic schools by providing trainings and follow up in these key areas
  • To support and strengthen systems of in-school coaching, mentoring and monitoring within monastic schools through regular the establishment of mentoring programs, regular school visits and guidance to monastic school teachers

 

Methods: 

  • Teacher Capacity Building Trainings twice a year for 60 participants ( each 10 weeks duration )
  • Principal School Management Trainings for 15 principals ( 5 days )
  • International Abbot Exposure Trips ( once a year for alumni schools principals )
  • International Monastic School Teachers Exposure Trips
  • Monitoring and Mentoring to alumni and perspective schools
  • Initiated for advocacy of Township Network Monastic schools’ principals and teachers
  • Peace Awareness Training ( three time a year )
  • In country teacher exchange visits
  • Library support for books and teaching material to alumni schools
  • Annual Gathering and Sharing of Alumni teachers

 

The program has already trained 340 teachers from 111 monastic schools in Myanmar. The original grant was supported by Pyoe Pin, AFSC (American Friends Service Committee), CCFD (Comité Catholique contre la Faim et pour le Dévelopement) and Open Society Foundations. All of these grants are core funding to implement the program activities and, unfortunately, being reduced every year.

 

Teacher Capacity Building Training

Teacher Training Design

 

The CPME program emphasizes teaching methodology and uses RWCT (Reading and Writing for Critical Thinking) and CCA (Child Centered Approach) methods, which are designed to help students think reflectively and become independent, life-long learners. The trainings have tangible results in terms of building the teachers’ motivation, self-confidence and more understanding about effective education methodology. The program is also unique in that it introduces the teachers to eco-friendly skills during the Life Skills Training section where they receive hands on practical life skills training which in turn are passed on to students, parents and community members which promote not only critical thinking skills but self-reliance and sustainability.

 

The ability of teachers to put their new skills into practice depends on the understanding and support of school principals. Participants were given insight into the value of using participatory and experiential learning techniques which give children the freedom to develop their own knowledge.

 

CPME is continuously providing the training to monastic school teachers to apply the CCA and RWCT methodology in their classroom and to develop the children’s thinking skills. The children are happy to learn in their school and due to the participatory methods used, the students are able to generate and feel confident to ask questions.

 

The Center for Promotion of Monastic Education (CPME) was formed under the umbrella of Phaung Daw Oo Monastic Education School, and is officially registered with the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Ministry of Home Affair. The Principal, Ven. U Nayaka, is the Chair of the CPME’s Board of Directors. The CPME provides holistic, eco-friendly, child-centered teacher training.

 

In order to provide further support to the teachers who participated in the training, the CPME Mentoring and Monitoring Teams were established. These Mentoring and Monitoring teams visited 9 clusters for mentoring throughout the year. The Mentoring and Monitoring Clusters were held in: Sagaing Division, Mandalay Division, Ayerawaddy Division, Tanantharyi Division and Kachin State. The mentors noted changes in teaching methods and attitudes in the cluster schools visited which had teachers from nearby schools joining the meetings. They discussed each other and find out their strengths and weaknesses. Moreover, together they prepared the lesson-plan and practice teaching in classrooms and then gave feedback to each other. In addition, some schools had begun life-skill practices as extra-curriculum of school activities, e.g. vegetable gardens and shared information on eco-friendly life skills to other teachers and within the community.

 

The mentoring and monitoring process encourages alumni teachers to meet regularly, and requested the principals to support and help them. Three of the areas started to make township alumni gathering meetings where they discuss with each other and are organized to participate together at regular meetings.

 

Advocacy workshop for Networking Approach in each Township

 

The program tried to emphasize the Networking Approach among the teachers to meet regularly that to share their experience and to support each other.  It needs to lead and involve the Chief Monk of Township Monastic School Supervisor Committee and other principals.  The most important, all teachers need to participate in regular networking meeting by stimulation of the principals. CPME team advocates to all principals and teachers to understand in regular meeting process and give the guide line what should to share and what should to do.

CPME program provided the teacher capacity building training number is limitation. It could not cover to all monastic school teachers. Majority of the schools have new teachers, have not received yet. CPME believe that the networking meeting might be improved teaching skills, become strong network and good relationship among the schools of each township.

 

At the advocacy networking meeting, CPME team explained about the education process and changing about the Ministry of Education ( MOE ) policy. The Government will extend schooling level that learning period will increase into 13 years ( KG+12 years ) instead of currently 11 years ( KG+10 year). That process will complitaly change within (2016-2020) and also the curriculum will be change in future. Thus, CPME team encourage to all teachers, we have to work hard to improve for our skills.

 

All the Chief of Township Supervisors are willing to do the networking meeting while CPME team contacted to them. Normally, there is no any teacher coordination in their township and no negotiation in teaching process. The monks said that we got the message to make the meeting in each township from Monastic School Conference, but it could not implement. Now, it is time to implement to stimulate our teachers.

 

Project Activities Timeline

No

Training Title

Training Duration

1

Teacher Capacity Building Training Batch-13th

28 Jan 2016

8 April 2016

2

Teacher Capacity Building Training Bactch -14th  

25 April 2016

3 July 2016

3

School Library Support

30 April 2016

3 July 2016

4

Advocacy workship for Networking Approach in each Township

July 2016

Dec 2016

5

Monitoring to alumni schools

July 2016

Dec 2016

6

Peace Awareness Training ( 3 Times )

 Aug 2016

 Sept 2016

7

Regular Encourage to Township level

August 2016

November 2016

8

Local experience exchange

August 2016

September 2016

9

Alumni Teachers Exposure visit

6th Aug 2016

17th Aug 2016

10

Abbot Exposure visit

2nd Nov 2016

14th Nov 2016

11

Abbot Management Training

15th Nov 2016

20th Nov 2016

12

Alumni Gathering and Sharing

25th Dec 2016

27th Dec 2016

  

 

Estimated Budget of Main Activities

Line item

Units

Total (local currency)

Transportation

 

$

Transportation for staff

 

667

Subtotal

 

667

Equipment & Supplies

 

$

Supply and Equipment (printer, computer, funiture & Others)

 

417

Office supplies (stationary & Otherthing )

12 months x 30000 kyats

500

Subtotal

 

917

Monitoring & Mentoring

 

$

Mentoring for teachers and follow-up

15 cluster school

18,138

Regular Technical Support to Township

20 township visit

14,250

Annual Gathering and Sharing Workshop

1 time for 220 pax

10,495

Annual External Audit fee

 

2,000

Subtotal

 

44,883

Student Projects

 

$

Teacher Capacity Building Training ( first training )

 training for 30 pax

22942

Teacher Capacity Building Training ( second training )

 training for 30 pax

22942

Abbot Management Training

1 training for 15 pax

1,355

Peace Awareness Training

2 trainings for 90 pax

4,153

Local experience exchange

3 times visit for 42 pax

2,757

External Study Visit for Abbot

1 trip to for 15 pax

19,140

External Study Visit for Alumni Teacher

1 trip for 32 pax

16,650

Basic School Support to Alumni Schools

16 school x 500000 Ks

6,667

Subtotal

 

96,606

Grant Total

 

143071

 

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