From what was my interest to learn about and teach about law in Myanmar, became a new- found love for the country, culture, people, and their determination to learn, develop and grow. It was a very humbling experience to be able to be part of this program. It helped me reopen my eyes to the notion that teaching is always a two-way stream, and that there is so much to learn from law and from people. I think coming into the program, I was more focused on the teaching aspect: what materials, subjects, content should be taught and how relevant or useful and applicable the information would be to them. But what I did not account for, the best part of the program, was that I had learnt so much too in the process. I learnt more about how culture and traditions also play a big role in the law in Myanmar. Also, I got to befriend many incredible people who live lives unimaginable to me, but still possess similar ambitions and ideals, if not more. It was inspiring to see that despite their less fortunate upbringing, they are so eager to learn and ask questions.
As a student, sometimes I feel hesitant to ask questions or answer for fear of being wrong. But when we established our class rules, one thing I think that we successfully did, was establish that there is no such thing as a right or wrong answer. I think this was important because personally, I wanted to hear what their opinions were and whether our culture differences could spark different ways of thinking. I thought that this program was a great platform for opinion and experience sharing too. It’s one thing to go to Yangon for a holiday, but it’s another experience entirely to be able to immerse oneself amongst students alike and learn about their education system and day-to-day life.
However, the content and syllabus itself during the program was a rough diamond. Whilst the trainings provided by the program were very useful in terms of preparing the volunteers for what kind of activities can be done with the students in Myanmar, I personally thought there was a bit too much freedom with regards to what could be taught to the students in Myanmar. Because there was so much freedom, it was difficult to decide what topics were relevant to teach, especially when there was not too much information about the students we would be teaching prior. Maybe something to improve could be getting these students who will be attending the program to write a few things they want to learn or know more about, so that when the volunteers arrive, the lessons could be more catered to what students are interested in, making the learning more meaningful. My groupmates and I tried doing this at the very beginning of our introduction so that we could try and cover topics that students were interested in too. This also increased our understanding and knowledge of issues present in Myanmar that we were not previously aware of.
In addition, with a stricter syllabus, volunteers would have a more widespread ability to discuss and create activities that are more focused on experiential learning to increase the enjoyment of the experience for Myanmar students. During my two weeks at Edulife School of Youth Development, I found that students were more receptive to activities and games which helped them understand the implications of what we were trying to teach them and its application in real life. I also received feedback from those students, saying the same. I think by having a stricter syllabus or teaching content, it would enable the volunteers to focus more on creating more stimulating activities to further engage the students in what we are trying to teach.
All in all, I am very grateful for this humbling experience, as it opened my eyes to how privileged I am to have information so accessible to me and has peaked my desire to want to help more youth like them: to give them a platform to knowledge and information, whilst realising the applicability of such knowledge and information in their current society and situation.
Constance Lowcock (2018 Volunteer at EduLife)