Myanmar, which is known as the Golden Land, had been under Military regime for many years. In March 2011, former SPDC Prime Minister, U Thein Sein became president. Since then the country has started their movement of reformation by meeting the major opposition leader, Daw Aung Sann Su Kyi. The international community has recognized the progress in the country by easing the sanctions on the country as most have seen as opportunity.
As for general economic condition, Myanmar was left behind the other Asian countries after many years of stagnation in economy. Myanmar which is strategically located at the heart of Asia, near the Asia’s biggest markets, India and China, compared to those of others Asian countries like Thailand, China, Indonesia, India, Vietnam, Philippines, it has the lowest per capital GDP.
According to Economist Intelligence Unit; The Conference Board Total Economy Database; McKinsey Global Institute analysis, Myanmar’s per capita GDP in 2010 is said to be 0.8 ($ thousand) while the neighboring country, Thailand is said to be 4.8 ($ thousand). The major cause of this low GDP is labor productivity. Myanmar is a country that has about the same population as Thailand but its lack of remarkable improvement in labor productivity has led to low GDP. According to McKinsey Global Institute (June 2013), a worker in Myanmar adds only $1,500 of economic value in year of work which is 70% less than other Asian countries.
Nowadays, 35% of the global population belong the consuming class of people with incomes of more than $10 a day who can spend money on discretionary goods and services as well as basic necessities. (McKinsey Institute, June 2013) This 35% in general is 2.5 billion people and 40% of this which is one billion lives in Asia, while only 4% of this one billion is Myanmar. (McKinsey Institute, June 2013)
The current economical situation may be a bad news for international education providers of greater value services. However, Myanmar people’s willingness to gain international education standard has been growing since long ago. Parents are willing to invest in their children’s international education. They take education as investment and this seems to be a real risky investment for some Myanmar families because it can end up with debts for the other family members. Therefore, the children, themselves are very hard working and always look forwards to their further self-improvement. The families who take risk might think that something that doesn’t break them will make them grow stronger. Based on what I have known from talking to fellow Myanmar citizens, compared to Myanmar students who are studying abroad at Primary or Secondary levels of education, tertiary level students form a much larger percentage.
Currently, President Thein Sein has introduced National Comprehensive Development Plan (NCDP), 20-year plan for reformation. However, in order to achieve this long term goal, the country in turn, has short term ones like FESR (Framework for Economic and Social Reform) which outlines priorities up to 2015. One of the goals of this includes achieving average GDP growth of 7.7%. So, this should be the good news for all the globalization companies including international education providers who have interest on Myanmar market.
According to the survey conducted by British Council Exams Services in March 2008, out of the 1,285 candidates who sat for the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) from April to December 2007, 37.2 per cent of them were Singapore bound while 33.2 per cent headed for Australia and New Zealand (British Council, 2008). “At the end of the upper secondary level (grade 11), students sit for the matriculation examination to enter the tertiary level” (British Council, 2008). The education system is based on the UK’s system the British colonized Myanmar for about one century.
Today, most of the Myanmar students are studying business related subjects. Compared to those of the elder generation, many young generations of Myanmar choose to do business as their professional career in the hope that their country might develop as others. This is because of the developing state of Myanmar’s Economy seen with their eyes. In old times, most of the parents in Myanmar want their children to be doctors as the only choice to show that their children are hard-working. From what I am aware, most of the students studied engineering related subjects in abroad. In recent years however, another field, Business related subjects, has been chosen as a preferred course. Parents start to accept the business related subjects as career-defining subjects in the hope that there will be much more opportunities in the country after reformation of open market economy.