Sunday, 11 August 2013

Undergrads return to Yangon University

Undergrads return to Yangon University

By Ei Thae Thae Naing   |   Sunday, 04 August 2013

Three hundred high-achieving students will later this year become the first undergraduates to attend Yangon University's main campus since bachelor courses were suspended almost two decades ago.

A police officer secures the front entrance of Yangon University's Convocation Hall on November 16, 2012, ahead of an address from US President Barack Obama during his historic visit to Yangon. Photo: AFPA police officer secures the front entrance of Yangon University's Convocation Hall on November 16, 2012, ahead of an address from US President Barack Obama during his historic visit to Yangon. Photo: AFP

Another 300 undergraduates will be offered places at Mandalay University, according to the 2013 university entrance guide published by the Department of Higher Education (Lower Myanmar), which was officially released on August 1.

Students will be admitted to four-year arts, science and combined arts-science degree programs across 20 majors at both universities, with 15 students allowed into each major course.

U Kyaw Naing, the pro-rector at Yangon University, told The Myanmar Times on July 27 that the courses were still being designed as the academic year does not begin until December.

"I'm happy to say that these universities are re-opening [to undergraduates] and we will admit 15 outstanding students for each major. We can't say exactly what the structure and teaching method of the courses will be because we are still planning the syllabus and course for the next academic year," he said.

The arts majors offered include Myanmar, English, geography, history, philosophy, psychology and oriental studies, while the science majors of physics, mathematics, chemistry, zoology and botany will also be offered. Students will also be accepted into the combined majors, such as international relations.

While the exact minimum entrance score will depend on the number of applications received, it is likely to range from 430 to 500 out of 600 marks, with English the hardest to enter. This is significantly higher than at Dagon University, which was established in 1993 after the government shut down undergraduate courses at Yangon University. Dagon University accepts students with a minimum mark of 50 out of 100 in English into its English major program, while some arts and science subjects can be undertaken with a score as low as 240.

U Kyaw Naing said the courses could feature lectures by foreign professors in coordination with Myanmar teachers, adding that the Ministry of Education has reached agreements with Thailand's Thepsatri Rajabhat University; Hankok University of Foreign Studies and Korea Foundation for Advanced Studies from South Korea; and Johns Hopkins University from the United States.

"We are planning that foreign professors [from these universities] will conduct seminars once or twice a week so that [students] can get exposure to international teaching methods," U Kyaw Naing said.

Students could also be sent abroad for further study, while foreign institutions have also expressed interest in sending students to Yangon, he said.

U Myo Thant, a part-time assistant professor in the Myanmar language department at Yangon University, said the minimum entrance scores for the undergraduate subjects will be competitive. He also said the university has plans to establish scholarship programs to support needy students.

He said the universities should have been re-opened to undergraduates "a long time ago" and would help to rebuild the damaged reputation of Myanmar's tertiary sector.

"We can't change all universities across the whole country immediately," he said. "Undergraduates at Yangon University and Mandalay University will be the country's most outstanding students."

Both teachers and students indicated last week the Yangon University undergraduate programs would attract significant interest from matriculating students.

"Many students will apply to Yangon and Mandalay universities because they were popular when we were young," said a private tutor from Tarmwe township. "But I think more students want to attend science than arts."

One 16-year-old student currently in her final year of high school at Basic Education High School 1 Dagon said the changes would encourage her to study harder.

"I will try so hard this year so I can attend Yangon University ... I have always wanted to attend since I saw the university campus in movies and read about it in novels," she said.

Ma Kabyar Min, a student from Aunglan in Magwe Region who received five distinctions in her exams this year, said she hopes to study at Mandalay University in December but is unsure whether her score of 481 would be high enough.

"I want to attend physics but the entrance mark is set at 490," she said. "I will apply anyway and see what happens."


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