In only a few months, COVID-19 has quickly spread all over the world causing major socio-economic disruptions, including in the provision of education and training services. For many countries, this new health crisis is an additional burden on struggling education systems and vulnerable populations, notably in crisis-affected and displacement settings.
Myanmar confirmed its first two official cases of COVID-19 on 23 March 2020. On 31 March 2020, the Committee for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) was formed by President Win Myint to fight the spread of COVID-19 in Myanmar. Prior to this announcement, the Ministry of Education (MoE) called for the closing of all schools, higher education institutions and TVET institutes. The MoE is not currently a member of the Committee established by the President. Myanmar unveiled its COVID-19 Economic Relief Plan (CERP) on 27 April 2020, designed with a set of comprehensive response measures tailored to address the immediate demands posed by COVID-19, and reaffirms the government’s long-term strategic direction. The CERP consists of 7 Goals, 10 Strategies, 36 Action Plans and 76 Actions, and emphasizes a coordinated “whole-of-nation” approach, underlined by the principle of leaving no one behind. In this context, the MoE is committed to the implementation of a response and recovery plan that shares the same vision, to place the country in a strong position to rebound to the strong economic growth witnessed in the last few years.
Since the crisis unfolded at the end of the 2019/20 academic year, it has fortunately not yet disrupted learning as it has been the case in many other countries. Most effects have primarily had to do with the marking of Grades 4 and 8 examinations, as well as the administration of examinations in some universities. However, while traditionally the academic year in Myanmar begins in June, for the 2020/21 academic year, a configuration whereby all education institutions would reopen remains at this stage highly unlikely.
Against this backdrop, there will be a critical need for alternative options for learning and training, across all sub-sectors, as well as for proper planning to ensure the safe reopening of education facilities when sanitary conditions allow. More specifically, the MoE is responsible for the protection of the health and well-being of learners, teachers/trainers/professors, education staff in Myanmar, and to ensure that teaching, learning and research are progressing and that academic requirements are being met. To effectively respond to the COVID19 crisis, the MoE and its partners need to develop a coordinated course of action that allows for emergency response strategies as well as for more sustainable interventions to ensure continuous learning for all, the safety and wellbeing of learners and education staff, and the protection of gains made in education in past years.
In this context, the MoE, in collaboration with UNESCO and partners for the Education and TVET sector Coordination Group, has developed a national response and recovery plan for the education sector. This plan is holistic, covers all States and Regions in Myanmar, as well as all education sub-sectors under MoE and provides an overall framework of strategies and interventions that aim at: i) ensuring education continuity for all learners in Myanmar despite the likely scenario of education facility closures beyond June, ii) ensuring a proper planning for the reopening of education institutions, and iii) contributing to safer and more resilient education environments. This plan is aligned with the overarching aims of the current 2016-2021 National Education Strategic Plan (NESP) to “Improve teaching and learning, vocational education and training, research and innovation leading to measurable improvements in student achievement in all schools and educational institutions”, and provides an opportunity to inform priority setting for the ongoing preparation of the next NESP.
Given the critical need to develop a plan for a coordinated national approach before the new academic year is scheduled to begin in June, this plan has been elaborated through a rapid consultative process with education officers represented in the subsector working groups.
As the evolution of the sanitary situation at global, national and sub-national level is still highly uncertain, this COVID-19 Response and Recovery plan should be considered as a living document, which will undergo an iterative planning and operationalization process, and will be adapted in order to take into consideration:
i) the evolution of the COVID-19 outbreak in Myanmar;
ii) the specific evolving needs, challenges and programmatic responses of States and Regions in Myanmar;
iii) the specific evolving needs, challenges and programmatic responses of subsectors (Preschool and kindergarten education, Basic Education (BE), Alternative Education (AE), Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), Higher Education (HE)). In-depth consultations will be held at a later stage with the relevant MoE Departments and sub-sector working groups (SSWGs) in order to specify the details of the programmatic response for each subsector. 1