Administrative delay and budgetary constraints prevent textbooks from reaching Mon National Schools

May 20, 2019

HURFOM: According to officials from the Mon National Education Committee (MNEC), the Union government has postponed the provision of new textbooks to Mon National Schools. The announcement comes as a shock to members of the MNEC who have come to rely on the Department of Basic Education (DBE) to provide textbooks at the beginning of each academic year. Currently, there is no clear indication of when the textbooks will be released, leaving the MNEC with little option but to purchase the materials from the DBE.

In years past, all textbooks used in middle schools and high schools administered by the Committee have been provided by the DBE.

Every year, the books have been provided by the [Union] government, but this year, they’ve [DBE] said that they have to postpone giving us the books. They say that they have to first receive approval from the Ministry of Education,” said Nai Rot Ka Kao, member of the MNEC.

All the textbooks we receive are supplied by the government. The exception is in primary schools where Mon is the language of instruction. But for middle schools and high schools, we rely on the government for the books we need. We’ve had their support for years, but this year things have changed, and we don’t know why. We have received support elsewhere, and some of our teachers have had the opportunity to train with government schoolteachers. Still, we don’t understand why the government has instructed the Department of Basic Education to postpone the release of this year’s textbooks,” continued Nai Rot Ka Kao.

The foremost concern among members of the MNEC is that the cost of acquiring the textbooks will exacerbate the MNEC’s already precarious financial situation.

From the construction and repair of school buildings to ensuring that Mon National School teachers are provided a salary, or that students have the materials they need to succeed, the MNEC has repeatedly had to rely on donations raised by the monastic community, and provided by Mon communities abroad to cover operational costs. The purchase of textbooks for the upcoming academic year will likely deepen the MNEC’s budgetary constraints and reduce its ability to absorb any future financial shock.

According to the MNEC, there are three Mon National High Schools, 16 Mon National Middle Schools, and 113 Mon National Primary Schools, with a total of 10,779 Mon students. There are approximately 800 teachers currently employed in the Mon National School system.

The DBE’s decision to withhold the textbooks may not only jeopardize the viability of the Mon National School system, it undermines government efforts to implement the National Education Strategic Plan (NESP) by 2021, and by extension, to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 4: ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

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