At the conference on Higher Education in Myanmar earlier in February, a person involved with the education reform made a presentation on the situation of basic education in Myanmar: primary and secondary schools. The data is quite alarming. While ~90% of the children enrol in primary school, only about 30% enrol in upper secondary. Noting that these are government figures, the actual data can be worse.
She also said that evidence shows the students learn by rote memorization, and the teachers have poor pedagogical skills. As a result, the students are unprepared to contribute to society, or for higher education. Many of the people I met during my very short stay seemed to corroborate that observation.
Much of this is, perhaps, due to decades of isolation. The challenge is great indeed. In our own small way, we hope to make a contribution with our service-learning projects.