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ASU to aid in rebuilding higher education in Myanmar

November 20, 2012

Arizona State University is participating in a strategic initiative to develop partnerships with universities in Myanmar.

As part of the Institute of International Education’s 2012 Myanmar initiative of the International Academic Partnership Program, the university will assist in rebuilding higher education in the country.

ASU was selected by the Institute of International Education’s Center for International Partnerships in Higher Education based on a successful application that outlined a strong ability to develop linkages with institutions in Myanmar and an interest in providing capacity-building services in areas such as research and faculty instruction.

Participating U.S. universities will assist with the revitalization of local institutions of higher education and help Myanmar counterparts upgrade their current pedagogical approaches and update their curriculum as part of a broader domestic government effort to stimulate more rapid and sustained economic growth.

“Our participation in the Institute of International Education’s Myanmar program highlights our larger efforts to deepen and expand our global engagement,” said ASU Executive Vice President and Provost Elizabeth D. Phillips. “We believe this represents an exciting chance to bring together several of our strategic goals, including expanding international research, growing our international student body, and expanding our global footprint in a country where there is a good match between our interests and academic expertise and Myanmar's needs for meaningful cross-border collaboration and cooperation.”  

During the next six months, the initiative will take a multi-pronged approach aimed at helping to build partnerships with institutions in Myanmar, while also helping the country rebuild higher education.

“ASU's participation in this important initiative comes at an extremely critical moment in Myanmar's political and economic evolution and opening up to the world," said Denis Simon, vice provost for International Strategic Initiatives at ASU. "Interestingly, President Obama is currently embarking on a formal presidential visit to Myanmar.”

The initiative will include a delegation of U.S. university faculty and top administrators who will travel to Myanmar in February 2013. The delegation will hold public workshops at universities in Yangon and Mandalay on topics such as accreditation, quality assurance, faculty development, student learning, internationalization and academic partnering among other topics.

Following the workshops, closed “listening” sessions will be held, open only to Myanmar university representatives who will talk with the U.S. delegation about their specific needs and priorities. The findings of the delegation will be highlighted in a report on higher education needs in Myanmar.

In a recent address at the Asia Society during the United Nations General Assembly, Myanmar President U Thein Sein discussed the critical role of civil society in maintaining a democratic and harmonious society, and cited more U.S.-Myanmar collaboration as a vehicle for much-needed human capacity development. President Thein Sein pledged in his inauguration speech last year to improve education and seek foreign expertise to lift standards to international levels. The government has increased the country’s education budget from $340 million to $740 million this year, and has begun to implement wide-ranging reforms, according to the Institute of International Education.

According to the Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange, 796 Myanmar students studied in the United States in the 2010-2011 academic year – a 14.5-percent increase from the previous year. Fewer than 100 U.S. students studied abroad in Myanmar in 2009-2010. According to the Institute of International Education, numbers are expected to increase as the country continues to open up to the world.