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Title: Pedagogy of the Karen: Indigenous Education as Self-determination
Other Titles: ระบบการเรียนการสอนของกะเหรี่ยง: การศึกษาของชนพื้นเมืองในฐานะการกำหนดเจตจำนงตนเอง
Authors: Saw Ni Thaw Htoo
Authors: Lect. Dr. Shirley Worland
Asst. Prof. Dr. Prasit Leepreecha
Saw Ni Thaw Htoo
Issue Date: Feb-2020
Publisher: เชียงใหม่ : บัณฑิตวิทยาลัย มหาวิทยาลัยเชียงใหม่
Abstract: In a context of seven decades of armed conflict since 1949, the Karen have educated their children in and outside of Myanmar in often extremely difficult circumstance. During the decades of civil war between ethnic insurgencies against successive Myanmar government’s regimes, the ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) including those of the Karen, developed their own ethnic education regime in response to the uneven access to education services from the State. The Karen have been fulfilling educational provision by the Karen community over several decades. Especially, the Karen National Union/Karen Education and Culture Department provides educational services to its marginalized communities under its territorial control and mixed control areas since the independence of Myanmar. The successive Burmese governing regimes manipulate education as a tool to serve so-called ‘Burmanization/Myanmarfication’ in nation-state building. The pedagogical approaches are also different. Whereas the mainstream system practices a teacher-oriented and banking model of education widely, KECD schools encourage a more student-centered and critical thinking classroom. As such, there is no accreditation of KECD education certificates by the Myanmar Ministry of Education. Despite this lack of recognition that denies KECD high school graduates accessing jobs or furthering their education in the Myanmar mainstream systems, many have found gainful employment in the non-government (NGOs) and civil society sectors (CBOs) and some have crossed the border into Thailand to access higher education opportunities provided by NGOs. In this research, the author argues that the provision of Karen education is the act of emancipation to achieve freedom which preserves cultural identity and rights of the Karen whilst striving for self-determination according to the principles of a federal democratic union. The research raised two questions for the study 1) how has Karen indigenous pedagogy developed and has been implemented under the leadership of KNU/KECD? and 2) how has the Karen education preserved and promoted cultural identity and human rights through the provision of KECD education? Consequently, the research aimed to study two objectives 1) to explore the successive Myanmar government national education for nation building and their influences towards Karen society, and 2) to examine the KECD pedagogy, the consequences and social meaning of Karen indigenous pedagogy. The nature of this research relies on ethnographic methodology which is effective in obtaining culturally specific information about the values, opinions, behaviors, and social contexts of particular populations. From June to August, 2019, the researcher employed data collection methods of participant observation, semi-structed focus group discussions and in-dept interviews with staffs, students and parents of the KECD operated Hto Lwe Wah Karen Public High School and Junior College in Brigade Two, Taungoo District, Eastern Myanmar, as well KNU personnel. In total, 42 respondents participated across five focus group discussions and 11 individual interviews, five of which were conducted as life history narratives. To this end, I triangulated the data collection methods enabling convergence and comparing of the data which enhanced trustworthiness of findings. And, a thematic data analysis was utilized. All interviews and filed notes were transcribed into English and coded using QDA Minor software program. From the coding, seven clear themes emerged from the coding – 1) Karen education and its nexus with nationalism, 2) the struggle for education, 3) fulfillment of indigenous people’s right to education, 4) right to Mother Tongue Language Education – a means to prevent cultural genocide, 5) education value under the KNU/KECD, 6) the practice of rights and development of democratic institution in the classroom and, 7) Karen education as transformative tool that enfranchises humanization.
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