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Myanmar professors accepting Japanese way of teaching

Professors and graduate students ask for advice from Japanese university lecturers during a course in Yangon.

TOKYO -- Japanese professors are coaching their Myanmar counterparts on how to teach science, engineering and other technical subjects.

     In late May, the government-affiliated Japan International Cooperation Agency dispatched to Myanmar 11 professors who teach machinery, electronics and electrical engineering. The professors -- from Nagasaki, Kumamoto, Okayama and two other national universities -- offered advice on how to give lectures and prepare syllabuses.

     Yoshinobu Matsuda, an associate professor of electrical and electronic engineering at the graduate school of Nagasaki University, said he received numerous questions from his Myanmar counterparts on how to teach and conduct research.

     Roughly 130 faculty members and graduate students at Yangon Technological University and Mandalay Technological University attended the five-day program in Yangon. During the seminar, two Japanese professors presented simulated lectures, which were followed by mock classes attended by their Burmese counterparts.

     According to Matsuda, many Myanmar university teachers seemed to lack basic teaching skills, such as how they should stand and talk, where to look, how to write on blackboards and how to adjust the pace of their classes. Matsuda blamed these shortcomings on inexperience.

     Until the early 1960s, the country's higher education was considiered among the best in Southeast Asia. But after the military seized power in 1962, universities were either closed or relocated to suburbs. Those that remained had their budgets significantly cut -- all because the military feared universities might breed democratic activists.

     According to Akiko Komori, chief researcher at the higher and technological education department at the cooperation agency, Myanmar professors often conduct research at their own expense.

     Another training course will be held at Mandalay Technological University in November.

     Myanmar has an urgent need for competent engineers, so Japan will continue holding professor-training programs in Myanmar through October 2018. It will also offer assistance so Myanmar universities can purchase research equipment.

     Other Japanese are also passing along their expertise in education to Myanmar. Former professors at Nagasaki University and Kyoto University have been working as full-time advisers at Yangon Technological University for several months now.

     Meanwhile, 40 students from technical universities in Myanmar are expected to come to Japan to study in doctoral programs at Nagasaki, Chiba and other national universities this year and next. When they go back home, the plan is for the students to teach at Myanmar universities.

     Myanmar people who have studied in Japan are also collaborating with Japanese groups to develop Japanese-style higher education institutions in their country.

     The Myanmar Association of Japan Alumni, which has roughly 1,500 members, decided in April to establish a training center for students of manufacturing. The association has already started developing specific plans. Members hope the center will develop into a university of technology in the future.

     The center's model is the Thai-Nichi Institute of Technology, established in 2007 in Thailand by the Technology Promotion Association (Thailand-Japan). The Thai institute's mission is to teach the Japanese way of management, Japanese-style automotive engineering and the Japanese language. The institute recently began supplying Japanese businesses in Thailand with a number of skilled workers who understand Japanese and who have the Japanese manufacturing spirit.

     The Myanmar Association of Japanese Alumni is hoping that opening this kind of school in Myanmar will encourage more Japanese companies to invest in the country and help the government to develop industries.

     Myint Wai, a former chairman of the association, says graduates of such a university would be a big help for Japanese companies doing businesses in Myanmar. Wai is a top executive at a conglomerate that is active in mine development, construction and other industries.


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