Engineering student Thaw Tar uses MIT digital learning resources to study underwater vehicle design.
Mark Brown
Office of Digital Learning

Thaw Tar (Photo: Thaw Tar)

Thaw Tar (Photo: Thaw Tar)

In a recent speech, Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel laureate and Myanmar’s opposition leader, brought international attention to the difficulties faced by students in her country.

She described how a series of student uprisings against the government over the past two decades created a situation in which “the focus of the military government was on maintaining discipline, not on providing education.”

For example, to contain unrest in the late 1980s and ’90s, she said, universities were closed nationwide for several years at a time; many were relocated far outside urban centers to reduce the influence of student activism.

The resulting drop in education standards meant that, as she describes it, “graduates have nothing except a photograph of their graduation ceremony to show for the years they spent at university.”

Yet with a healthy dose of determination, some Myanmar students still manage to acquire an advanced education. One example is 22-year-old Thaw Tar, who has supplemented his undergraduate studies through OCW and MITx, and hopes that his own curiosity and initiative will continue to open doors for him.

Growing up in the rural township of Aunglan, he describes his own early education as typical of many students in Myanmar. “Although most teachers are good-natured and hardworking, the style of teaching is very non-interactive, and few of them really teach children how to think. My education was largely about simply memorizing my lessons by heart.”

Fortunately, he says, his parents pushed him to become a critical thinker. “My mother taught high school and she made me read lots of books. I knew I needed to learn how to think scientifically since I was a boy, thanks to these books. Without them, I might not be where I am now.” Read more.