Study Tour in Myanmar

Experiencing a Developing Country’s Educational Scene in Myanmar

Union Day
Participation in the student event for Union Day, a holiday in Myanmar

Sophia University held a study tour in Myanmar from February 2 to 13, 2020 as part of the Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) Project supported by the Inter-University Exchange Project adopted by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) in 2018.

Through visits to governmental agencies such as JICA and KOICA and international organizations such as UNHCR, as well as exchanges with students of local universities and educational organizations in cooperation with Jesuit Worldwide Learning (JWL), the four participating Sophia students experienced the educational scene of a developing country and deepened their understanding of the society of Myanmar, a multi-ethnic country.

JWL is an educational organization mainly established by Jesuit universities in the U.S. It contributes to human resource development in developing countries by providing online educational opportunities to refugees who have few opportunities to receive education.

This study tour in cooperation with JWL aims to develop human resources who can consider multicultural harmony and solve problems – in line with the purpose of COIL Project. Considering these key elements, the study tour included in-person exchanges between participating Sophia students and local students, as well as continued remote collaborative learning using COIL. In addition, the study tour aims for the faculty and students to learn together what challenges exist in implementing COIL in developing countries, and to link this to the development of the COIL Project.

Experience of Participating Student – a 2019 Graduate, Faculty of Law (2019 Graduate, Faculty of Law)

Visiting a local monastic school

While experiencing the vivid daily life of people coming and going from the market, I also witnessed the fundamental transformation of society during the 10-day study tour. I learned about Myanmar’s overall picture, history, and policies from many perspectives at various public institutions. I also had exchanges with students from the elementary to graduate school level at a variety of educational institutions, including state and private, urban and rural, and monastic and Jesuit schools.

What struck me most was the enthusiasm of the people for learning. I was overwhelmed by how each individual person recognized the value of investing in education and how they were eager to seize educational opportunities. I reflected on the opportunities that were available to me in Japan that I had taken for granted. Although I am blessed to have such opportunities, I felt I was running far behind the people I met in Myanmar as a student. JICA’s involvement in the revision of elementary school education textbooks was also very impressive. It was interesting to see the background of the work that is being done in cooperation with Japan which could create the norm for the entire nation in the future. At the same time, being able to witness the onsite conditions that can only be seen now made me feel motivated to continue following Myanmar in my own way.

Precisely because this was my first visit to Myanmar and I was still in the dark at times, I think there were many situations where I was able to engage in exchanges with the local people more seriously. The sight of students learning and having discussions together, with the future of the cultures of their ethnic groups and national development on their shoulders, gave me such a valuable experience that it helped form my own perspective questioning the stagnant society of Japan.

In the post-tour session after returning to Japan, the participants connected online with the educational institutions they had visited and deepened their studies by asking questions that had arisen in their reflections after returning home. In addition, it is planned for the participants to continue their exchanges using COIL through social media group pages and other means.

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