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Curricular Decentralisation as an Antidote to “Burmanisation” ?


Couverture livre


We are pleased to announce the publication of Nicolas Salem-Gervais’ chapter “Curricular Decentralisation as an Antidote to ‘Burmanisation’? Including Ethnic Minorities’ Histories in Myanmar’s Government Schools (2011–2020)”, published in Negotiating Ethnic Diversity and National Identity in History Education edited by Helen Mu Hung Ting and Luigi Cajani, Palgrave Macmillan.

Read the chapter.

In Myanmar, successive governments used schooling, textbooks and history curricula for nation building, promoting a concept of national identity relying increasingly on heroes, golden eras and national enemies—tightly linked to the historical perspective of the Burman ethnic majority. In an ethnically diverse country, this narrative had limited success in terms of fostering nation building and was seen as evidence of “Burmanisation”. Meanwhile in the borderlands, several “ethnic” armed groups developed parallel education systems to build their own nations, often using similar methods. In the wake of the 2011 political transition, a new national curriculum was being produced with the substantial involvement of international and foreign institutions, although the available textbooks do not seem to be a complete departure from the narratives taught under the previous military regime. After discussing the difficulties in producing and teaching a new and more inclusive discourse on the nation’s history, we describe the opportunities and challenges in the context of decentralisation before 2021. The production of the local history sections of these curricula, which started in 2017, while an undeniable complement and counterpoint to the national curriculum, also at times created debate between local ethnic stakeholders.

Keywords: National curriculum ; Decentralisation ; Local curriculum ; History textbook narratives ; Ethnic identities ; National reconciliation

A finalised draft of this chapter was initially submitted in October 2020 before democratisation and decentralisation came to a halt following the military coup of 1 February 2021. This and the enduring COVID-19 (coronavirus disease) crisis, when all schools remained closed for the entire 2020–2021 school year, have drastically altered the reality of education in Myanmar. Yet the deep-rooted and decades-old issues discussed in this chapter remain. While the process of academic production does not allow for my constant updating or rewriting, the concluding section has been lightly rewritten in view of the dissonance between the changed situation with some of the expressions which presumed continuity. I believe that the findings and conclusions of this chapter remain valid and of interest to readers, including their comparative perspective. Illustrations from the textbooks in the initial draft have been removed to avoid potential copyright issues.
This chapter is dedicated to Mael Raynaud (1976–2022), who at the time of submission was head of research at Urbanize : Policy Institute for Urban and Regional Planning. We worked on several projects supported by Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung. More specifically, he co-authored and delivered a presentation based on an early version of the present paper at the conference which led to this volume in Kuala Lumpur, February 2020.

2 June 2023