Burma: Mon Language Axed from State Schools in Thaton
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Tue Nov 11 14:06:54 UTC 2008
Mon Language Axed from State Schools in Thaton
By LAWI WENG Monday, November 10, 2008
State-run schools in Thaton District in Mon State will no longer
conduct Mon language classes, according to the Mon National Education
The decision will directly affect some 3,000 primary and secondary
school students at 30 schools in Thaton District. A senior member of
the Mon National Education Department, which is under the control of
the New Mon State Party (NMSP), told The Irrawaddy on Monday: "Most
students were not interested in attending classes when they had to
attend outside the regular school times. That was why we decided to
stop running this curriculum."
The Mon language curriculum—which was taught to Mon students between 7
and 8 a.m. On school days—was ceased in June due to a lack of
participants, said the official. "The reason students did not attend
the classes was because the schools' authorities introduced
extracurricular tuition, making the students too busy to attend other
classes," the source said. "We asked the school authorities many times
to allow us to run our Mon curriculum," she said. "However, they said
that the decision was passed down from higher authorities."
Mi Hong Sar, a teacher in Thanbyuzayaut Township near the Mon capital
Moulmein, said that many Mon teachers were worried that other schools
would be ordered to cut Mon classes. According to statistics from the
Mon National Education Department, there are currently 157 schools
teaching in Mon language in Mon State, while 114 schools offer a mixed
curriculum of Burmese and Mon-language lessons. Since the NMSP signed
a ceasefire agreement with the Burmese junta in 1995, an informal
understanding between all parties has allowed for Mon language to be
taught in state-run schools in Mon State, said the source at the Mon
National Education Department.
In 2002, Mon classes became an integral part of school curricula in
Mon State, a move seen by many Mon people as a benefit of the
ceasefire agreement. However, relations soured in 2003 when the NMSP
attended a national constitutional convention held by the regime, but
left after a proposal to federalize Burma was rejected. Later the
party simply sent observers to the convention. The NMSP released a
statement rejecting the junta's referendum in early March 2008, citing
fears that the process would strengthen the regime by giving it the
veneer of democracy without resulting in any actual changes.
In April, The Irrawaddy reported that Mon cultural activities were
being banned or deliberately assimilated by Burmese and Thai policies.
In Burma, the name of the Mon National Museum was changed to the
"National Museum," and members of the Mon Literature and Culture
Association were replaced by junta associates. In February, organizers
of Mon National Day in Thailand were told not to play Mon songs or
encourage traditional Mon dancing at the one-day festival. Officials
also urged the Thai public not to support the event. Nai Santhorn, the
chairman of the Mon Unity League, told The Irrawaddy on Monday he
believed the Burmese authorities were not genuine. "What they say and
what they do are different things," he said. "They parade ethnic
people on TV saying they are promoting ethnic culture and literature.
Indeed, what they are doing is dominating our literature and culture."
"The language policy applied by successive [Burmese] military regimes
has been to 'Burmanize' at the expense of the language and culture of
indigenous nationalities," said Dr Thein Lwin, a Burmese education
scholar. Derived from ancient Indian Brahmin script, Mon is one of the
oldest and most influential languages in the region, its alphabet
forming the foundation for Burmese, Thai, Khmer and Laotian scripts.
However, there are now estimated to be less than 750,000 Mon speakers
in Thailand and Burma.
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