Federalism and Education: Indian Experience

15 May 2019

As Myanmar is moving forwards to find the most suitable education system for the students, there are a lot to learn from other countries that have been using federal education system for many years. India is one of the countries with a complex and diverse system but it has one of the most productive workforces in the world through its complex and large education system. A round-table discussion organized by the Global Network on Federalism and Devolved Governance was held on 14 May 2019 at West Best Green Hill Hotel, Yangon. Shakti Sinha, Director of Nehru Memorial Museum and Library was the invited guest speaker who presented the Indian experience on federalism and education and many scholars different fields participated in the discussion.

Ko Thiha Wint Aung, the Program Officer of the Global Network on Federalism and Devolved Governance said, “Our country is on its transition into a democratic nation and adapt federal system. Therefore when we really embrace federalism as a nation, what could be the education system, healthcare and finance sector of a federal nation? With the purpose of learning on these matters from the countries which have many years’ experiences in these sectors, we organized this event”.

“In this round-table discussion, we have guests from several areas like education, health sector and finance department too and we have guests who are eager to bring changes in the country and the people who are eager to bring peace in the country. We hope that this round-table discussion will help us in the process of bringing changes in the nation. There are both negative and positive sides in federal system but by learning from the countries which have been long practicing federalism for years, we hope this event will help us in building a federal nation. We hope that there will be a better policy for the public in all of the areas by learning from other countries.”

Speaking on the Indian federal education system, Shakti Sinha, the director of Nehru Memorial Museum and Library said, “Indian education system is largely federal, all the schools and the states are run by the state government, the universities are the same. However since the state government has some shortage of money, they get funding support from the government of India. But otherwise, the education system in decision making is done at the state level but it is a partnership with the union and the state. So in developing policy, both work together to develop policy which is suitable for everyone.”

“About 60% of Indians speak, read and understand Hindi very well, 40% do not. Many others follow Hindi, therefore we don’t have a common language. Every state has its own language, for those who don’t speak the same languages, we use Hindi or English as communication. Just take the Indian example where we courage to learn their own languages, and out of the free will they also learn Hindi. But we don’t force everybody to learn Hindi. But that’s how we the Indian do it, Myanmar has to solve its own problems how to get the people get away with it, how best to bring everybody to the same platform. Therefore you can see what other has done”.

“I have been coming here for the last three years, four years now, sixth visit to Myanmar. I can see the changes happening, it is very good happening. I can see every time I come the airport is improve, the roads are better, the road flyover is constructed, now I can see young people taking part. That’s a good sign. But the roads of development are long road, it cannot be done quickly, so we will have to keep on struggling and keep on fighting”.

Z Nang Raw, Director for policy and strategy at Nyein Foundation said, “We had conducted a survey on 1000 students in six states in 2010 with the collaboration of educational research department and governmental education officials and the school teachers as well. What we found in our survey was that the primary school kids had to learn the school subjects with the language that they had no idea as the survey was conducted exclusively the ethnic area. The result of the survey was that the students totally forgot everything they learn from the school. They had no idea how to do math, unable to read, though they had already learnt. Therefore the kids might have passed class 4 but they were fit to sit at class 5. The recommendation we like to see in this case is we need to include the local content in the school curriculum and for the lower school primary kids, a mother tongue should be used in the school instead what teaching them with the language they don’t understand.”