Enrolment in state-run universities down ‘70%’ since coup

The military takeover in Myanmar in 2021 has dramatically disrupted education systems, leaving many university students and prospective students with little choice but to put a hold on their studies, raising concerns from educators about the future of the country’s learners.

According to a survey, about 1 million students were enrolled in state-run universities before the military takeover. Now, it is estimated that number has dropped by more than 70%.

Many students who boycotted the regime’s education system are engaged in online alternative education while others have dropped out to work, and others are simply idle.

In the 2019-2020 academic year, about 910,000 students sat what was Myanmar’s last matriculation exam before the coup. That figure dropped by 80% this 2022-23 academic year, with only 160,000 students sitting the exam.

Public universities are still open and holding face-to-face classes. However, due to a fall in enrolments, the junta last year lowered entrance requirements for medical universities – using the highest total scores in three matriculation subjects – English, biology and chemistry – and eliminating poorer subject results. Previously, medical school entry required combined high scores in all six matriculation subjects.

This resulted in soaring numbers of candidates for the country’s five medical universities. A non-Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) teacher at the University of Medicine 2 in Yangon, who requested anonymity, described classrooms as “crowded”.

Students have dropped out of their studies for a range of reasons. Some, like Hnin Aye Wai, are actively boycotting the junta-run education system.

Hnin Aye Wai was a second-year student at the Medical Institute in Yangon when a junior student was shot dead during a protest against the coup in March, 2021. The tragic incident prompted her to boycott the junta-run education system. When the university resumed classes in May 2022, she decided not to go back and is preparing to study abroad.

“I do not regret my decision. Others have suffered more than me. My sacrifice is just trifling,” she said.

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