What happened to higher education is Myanmar since coup in 2021? 2022-05-23

Project Performance prior to COVID-19 Pandemic

HGU has been working to strengthen the sustainable development capacity of developing countries through the UNESCO UNITWIN (University Twinning and Networking) Program. As part of this effort, HGU has maintained a cooperative relationship with Myanmar universities through the UNITWIN Joint Education Program since 2015. The Joint Education Program began after the University of Computer Studies, Yangon (UCSY), and Yangon Technological University (YTU) signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with HGU in 2015 and 2016 respectively. Since 2015, HGU has been maintaining exchanges with Myanmar professors and students by regularly attending the International Conference on Computer Application (ICCA) jointly hosted by UCSY and the Myanmar Ministry of Science and Technology. In February 2015, HGU met with the Minister of Science and Technology of Myanmar to explain the plan for educational cooperation with Myanmar universities and the UNIWTIN Joint Education Program. Efforts have been made to promote smooth mutual cooperation between the two countries. In addition, to strengthen the IT competency of Myanmar students, lectures on computer-based programming such as Arduino, Raspberry Pi, and graphic design were held. Not only major-related courses, but special seminars on nurturing human resources for Myanmar’s national development were also offered. 

 In 2019, HGU signed an MOU with Mandalay Technological University (MTU), and commenced discussions on cooperation with Technological University, Mandalay (TUM). That summer, HGU hosted the Mandalay Summer Smart City Studio Camp along with MTU, TUM, and Ton Duc Thang University in Vietnam. HGU provided a platform for Mandalay regional universities to expand their tertiary education network and to build capacity in developing countries. At that time, the Myanmar government took a great interest in the Smart City Studio Camp and cooperated throughout to ensure a successful event. The Camp fostered greater governmental interest in, and support for, higher education in Mandalay. As a result of HGU's BIM (Building Information Management) education since 2015, an architectural firm using BIM technology was established in Myanmar. It has laid the foundation for forming a cooperative relationship with Korean companies in Myanmar and Myanmar universities. Discussions have also begun to attract excellent students from Myanmar to HGU Master programs. 

HGU was unable to send professors to visit Myanmar in person due to the spread of COVID-19 in 2020, but various seminars for Myanmar universities were held online. To ensure a smooth online learning experience, HGU supplied software and equipment. HGU provided and distributed video lectures for Myanmar students to continue their learning even after the university closed due to the pandemic. Textbooks were donated to Myanmar partner universities so that students could access learning materials. In order to support flipped learning by Myanmar professors, HGU held seminars while providing necessary materials such as related textbooks and software (e.g. Autodesk Maya and Zoom). 

Progress of the project after the February 2021 military coup in Myanmar

Since the February 2021 military coup, Myanmar universities, many of which were at the forefront of a civil disobedience movement (CDM), have been practically shut down as thousands of academics, university staff, and students were suspended or imprisoned by the military junta. Striving to continue higher education in Myanmar, Handong Global University (HGU) maintained contact with professors and students via e-mail and encouraged them to participate in online camps and seminars at HGU. As a result of such efforts, the BIM (Building Information Management) camp and Big Data camp on architecture and IT were held online in 2021 by HGU for students in Myanmar partner universities, with tutoring and group activities conducted between Myanmar and Korean students.

As a prompt resumption of Myanmar's higher education sector was not expected, a Minerva-like Online Education Transformation Committee(MOETC) in charge of operating online universities for 
Myanmar and other developing countries in Asia was tasked with building an online learning platform for Myanmar. This committee discussed curriculum and technical issues, educational methodologies between countries, and cultural differences, as well as innovative online education such as the development of open source-based educational content that could be accessed even in areas outside city centers that lacked Internet access.

HGU has been actively utilizing the UNITWIN LMS (Learning Management System) since 2021 as a way of overcoming operational difficulties and improving learning outcomes. Lectures by HGU professors can be delivered efficiently via LMS to students in Myanmar and other developing countries. The LMS serves as a communication channel for students who have difficulties in following lectures. HGU professors are able to see how well students are following lectures by checking the number of views and assignment pass rate. 

As a pilot project, in October 2021 the Online Smart City Series Lecture (OSCSL) was held for 12 weeks with 60 Myanmar students. The initial plan was to recruit 50 students for 10 weeks but during the recruitment period about 560 Myanmar students applied. Based on the students’ academic majors and English proficiency, 60 students were selected. Each week’s coursework comprises of a one-hour lecture by an HGU professor followed by a students’ group presentation and/or discussion for another hour. As students from all over Myanmar participated online, HGU provided online collaboration software to support online group activities without difficulties. Student Pann Ei Phyu and other participants expressed their gratitude on social media and by e-mail for the opportunity to continue their higher education online.

LMS Operation Performance and Plans for 2022

Starting from the spring semester of 2022, HGU commenced full-scale support for the Joint Education Program by opening six business administration and five computer/ICT engineering online courses. The maximum student capacity per course was 120~150. A total of 759 students have enrolled in the spring semester. A preliminary survey in regard to distance education was sent to Myanmar students in the spring and 2,189 people responded. According to the survey, 92.6% of students said that they have a good internet connection, and 92.4% said that they could take online classes at their place of residence. Based on the results of the survey, HGU will continue to support online courses for Myanmar. Starting from the upcoming fall semester, additional courses for the four-year business administration and computer/ICT majors will be provided. Additionally, courses from other majors will be offered. Myanmar students will be able to choose from a wide variety of classes according to their major and university year. Student Phyo Wai Han said via e-mail, “I am grateful that HGU has given Myanmar students such an opportunity”. Many students also expressed their gratitude and their intention to enroll in the online courses in upcoming semesters. In addition, HGU plans to provide a certificate of completion to students from Myanmar partner universities who have met the completion criteria for the online courses. In the future, those who complete a course of study will also receive a transcript. Professor Jinwon Ahn from HGU (School of Business and Economics) said regarding the project: “By the time the political situation in Myanmar is normalized, students who have received the certificates and earned transcripts from HGU would have a wide array of perspectives and insights to become the future leaders in Myanmar. Through the program, HGU seeks to contribute by providing a steppingstone for building a better future in Myanmar.”