Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) won a landslide victory in Myanmar (Burma) after general elections on 8 November 2015. It was the country's first national vote since a nominally civilian government was introduced in 2011, ending nearly 50 years of being a closed country under military rule. This means Myanmar is now communicating more with the outside world and that communication is primarily in English.
In order to develop the English communication skills of key individuals in Myanmar the English for Parliament Programme was established. It is funded by DfID via the Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) and delivered by British Council Burma and aims to develop the English proficiency of the Myanmar Ministers of Parliament (MP) and Parliamentary Support Staff (PSS). English will allow the MPs and PSS to collaborate with international agencies like United Nations for Development Programme (UNDP) and WFD as well as other international agencies to ensure there is a successful transition to a democratically functioning parliament.
A team of four trainers and an academic manager, who are embedded in the Htullaw Parliament in Nay Pyi Taw, have been tasked with training 240 MPs and 140 (PSS) over six months. All the participants took the British Council’s English language proficiency test, Aptis, resulting in a wide range of English levels. A needs analysis with participants and stakeholders also highlighted a desire for the development of 21st Century Skills (communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity), global awareness and an understanding of good governance. British Council Burma proposed two courses:
- a 120 hour Elementary English course following a recognised course book
- a 120 hour Content Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) course using bespoke materials developed by the team around the themes of economy, human development, conflict, environment and parliamentary procedures
The team are creating content for the course with just-in-time production of CLIL materials allowing them to nimbly respond to participant feedback and to develop informed content relevant for their students.
The English for Parliament Programme is only two months old but the signs are positive with high attendance (90%) and favourable feedback. A recent course feedback survey showed that:
- 94% of the participants strongly agree with the statement: I am enjoying the course
- 95% of the participants strongly agree with the statement: the trainer prepares well for the lessons
- 99% of the participants agree with the statement: my skills have improved
The trainers are enjoying the experience too, saying it is a privilege to be helping contribute at this important juncture in the history of Myanmar.
By Graham Horn