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Rural Myanmar teachers turn on mobile ICT, transform classrooms

WATCH: Significant Changes to Teaching via ICT

UNESCO ICT for Education Programme Assistant Daw Nwe Ni Win has been supporting the implementation of UNESCO’s ICT for Education project, the first of its kind in Myanmar. She is from a village in Mon State, where some of the project schools are located. In this video, she shares her thoughts on the significant changes to teaching via ICT under this project.


The UNESCO project team adopts a sustainable approach by training a dedicated team from the Department of Basic Education in how ICT can be integrated into the classroom; this team then passes on that knowledge to teachers in project schools, with students being the ultimate beneficiaries. ©UNESCO/A. Tam

Approximately 21,000 Grades 8 to 11 students, half of whom are considered to be marginalized girls in Myanmar, show their great interest in learning via tablets in classrooms. ©UNESCO/A. Tam


Less than one year ago, Daw Yaung War Lin, like tens of thousands of other teachers in rural Myanmar, had never operated a computer, let alone considered using information and communication technology (ICT) to be more effective in the classroom.

Now as Myanmar’s new academic year begins, Daw Yaung War Lin, a life skills teacher at the Basic Education High School (BEHS) Pyuntasa 1 in Bago Region, is trained in the use of ICT in the classroom and is excited to share that knowledge with her students. Her school is one of 31 in rural and semi-urban areas in Myanmar that have begun using ICT for mobile learning for the first time following a series of ICT-pedagogy integration training that UNESCO has held since December, 2015.

Daw Yaung War Lin and many of the others who took part in those initial training sessions took time to get used to ICT, hunting for letters on keyboards and finding it difficult to control a mouse.

“At the beginning of the training, I felt frustrated because I was not able to closely follow what the trainers taught us,” Daw Yaung War Lin recalls. “In the training, we were given assignments every night. I tried my best to complete them and then realized the next day that I did not save my work. With the guidance of the trainers, I managed to do the assignments again and then I caught up faster.”

Six months later and the teachers had moved beyond those basics and were creating presentation files with graphics and videos to teach subjects such as mathematics, life skills and Myanmar. English teachers started using a mobile digital learning application created by UNESCO to teach English.

The teachers began to be excited by the possibilities of ICT in the classroom.

“I am now feeling more comfortable in teaching my class using ICT,” says Daw Yaung War Lin. “I have customized a number of presentation files as teaching aids to arouse students’ interest in learning life skills.”

Daw Yaung War Lin is involved in UNESCO’s ICT for Education project in Myanmar, the first of its kind in the country. The project is part of the Connect To Learn initiative in Myanmar launched by Ericsson, the UK Department of International Development (DFID) and other project partners, including UNESCO, to promote mobile technology for learning and to serve as another important milestone for the Ministry of Education in Myanmar’s education reform process.

The project has so far provided 3,100 tablets, 186 teacher laptops and over 270 training hours directly to 22 Department of Basic Education team members, 31 school leaders and 155 teachers in Mandalay Region, Bago Region and Mon State. Teachers trained in the initiative have been and will continue passing on that knowledge to other teachers in the 31 basic education high schools in Myanmar.

A number of other partners are involved in the implementation of the Connect To Learn project in Myanmar. These include DFID, which is providing project funding under the Girls’ Education Challenge; Ericsson a donor and overall programme and technology lead; and the Earth Institute at Columbia University , which is managing the student stipend and school grants programme as well as conducting implementation research at the schools. Finja Five, an innovative start-up at Lund University in Sweden, provides child-friendly computing solutions while EduEval Educational Consultancy conducts monitoring and evaluation. Qualcomm® Wireless Reach™ also provides funding and project management.  Myanma Posts and Telecommunications (MPT) is supporting network roll-out and provides SIM cards for the schools. The project also receives support from the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology in Myanmar.

Trained teachers have been and will continue passing on these skills to other teachers in the 31 basic education high schools in Myanmar. ©UNESCO/A. Tam


U Khin Mg Kyaw, Assistant Director of the Department of Basic Education, works closely with UNESCO in the implementation of this project. He is amazed by how quickly and enthusiastically teachers are adapting to using ICT – such as tablets, laptops and projectors – to improve their teaching and how eager they are to continue to advance their skills. “Teachers are diving into the ICT field not only for teaching in the classroom but also they can learn by themselves for their improvement on ICT knowledge and skills.”


Trained teachers started using ICT including tablets and a context-specific mobile digital learning application to teach English. ©UNESCO/A. Tam


UNESCO ICT for Education Programme Officer U Htain Lynn Aung says that Myanmar’s very recent mobile technology boom has been largely limited to the cities. Only an estimated 28% of rural households in Myanmar have a mobile phone, for example, and ICT use in schools has been limited to the university level and in some multimedia classrooms in urban high schools. “It is encouraging to see the progress that has been made by trained teachers in the rural or semi-urban basic education high schools targeted in the project,” he says. “The project mobilizes the wider use of ICT in teaching various subjects in high schools. I believe this kind of practice will develop a classroom environment conducive to learning and promote an ‘e-education system’ in Myanmar.”

Teachers are the key to ICT being used to improve student learning. UNESCO has been delivering professional development training on ICT-pedagogy integration throughout this project. Taking the country context into account, UNESCO implements the project to support the existing system to ensure its sustainability. UNESCO is working closely with the Department of Basic Education to train a dedicated team, comprising educators from Nay Pyi Taw, Mandalay Region, Bago Region and Mon State with expertise in ICT, English, mathematics, life skills and Myanmar.

UNESCO supports different levels within the existing system of the Ministry of Education to ensure the sustainability of the project.


“The Department of Basic Education has provided excellent support to implement the project. A dedicated team has been trained to lead the project from the government side, so that the team can be prepared to provide continual support to school leaders and teachers in the project schools and to facilitate the possible scaling up of the project in the future,” says UNESCO ICT for Education expert Antony Tam. “Sustainability of the project has been emphasized since its inception.”

A dedicated team from the Department of Basic Education has been trained to provide continual support to school leaders and teachers in the project schools and to facilitate the possible scaling up of the project in the future. ©UNESCO/A. Tam

In addition to providing teachers with ICT-pedagogy integration training, UNESCO has conducted training for school leaders to support them to formulate plans to help teachers succeed in ICT in teaching over the long term.
“There is more to do than simply saying, here is your tablet, now go and teach your students. Teachers need to know that they are not alone. The Department of Basic Education and UNESCO are there to support them,” says UNESCO ICT for Education expert Diana Gross. “School leaders have a very important role in that they must create systems to manage all of the ICT devices and support the teachers by providing encouragement and time for ongoing training.”

Other than teachers, school leaders are trained in ICT-pedagogy integration so that they understand the effective use of ICT in teaching and are able to support teachers to succeed in ICT in teaching over the long term. ©UNESCO/A. Tam

UNESCO’s training is designed to support teachers to gradually adopt ICT in teaching through four stages: emerging, applying, infusing and transforming. At each stage, customized sessions are conducted by UNESCO to train teachers on topics such as basic ICT literacy, ICT integration for teaching and learning, and pedagogical use of ICT for active learning. This step-by-step approach enables  teachers to learn about and practice the effective use of ICT to facilitate learning in a more active way. A conference will be organized in the coming months to provide further training, allow trainees to share experiences, and recognize those who have already had successes in integrating ICT in the classroom.
Apart from the teacher professional development component, UNESCO is implementing the two other main components that make up the initiative, which focus on utilizing mobile broadband technology to provide students with an English language programme and a life skills programme, including the development and delivery of context-specific applications and learning content in English and life skills.

For more information on this ICT for Education project, please contact Mr. Antony Tam, ICT for Education Expert of UNESCO Yangon, at kh.tam@unesco.org and U Htain Lynn Aung, ICT for Education Programme Officer of UNESCO Yangon, at hl.aung@unesco.org.


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RELATED LINKS:

ICT for Education Project in Myanmar well received at the UNESCO Mobile Learning Week in Paris
UNESCO’s basic ICT training benefitting educators in Myanmar
UNESCO partners with Ericsson to launch an ICT for education project in Myanmar
Connect To Learn
Girls’ Education Challenge



19.09.2016