Myanmar has been mired in chronic political, social and economic crises for many decades. Despite the recent political changes towards democracy, approximately 50% of the population of Myanmar continues to live in extreme poverty. The military regimes that ruled Myanmar from 1962 till 2010 neglected or actively dismantled the education system, which left the schools and universities unable to equip students with the skills needed to tackle the enormous challenges facing communities throughout the country.
Myanmar’s diverse scenic beauty offers beaches on the Bay of Bengal, lakes with floating gardens, snow-capped Himalayan Mountains, tropical forests, and vast farmlands. As country rich in history and Buddhist tradition, it has a wealth of ancient religious monuments, bustling cities and charming festivals. It is also filled with warm, friendly people from a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
About Phaung Daw Oo(PDO)Monastic Education High School
Venerable U Nayaka and his brother, Venerable U Zawtika, founded Phaung Daw Oo Monastic Education High School in 1993. Initially it started as a primary school with ten local volunteer teachers and over 300 students with the purpose of providing free education to poor children. Still today, PDO is predominantly for poor students who, for various reasons, are unable to attend government schools. Currently, the school is successfully running kindergarten to high school levels with over 6000 students and 280 teachers. The students are from both urban and rural poor families including orphans, abused, neglected, abandoned and poverty stricken children of different ethnicities from all around Myanmar. The school provides formal education accredited by the government with both boys and girls attending classes together without discrimination of religion, race or gender.
Phaung Daw Oo Pre-College Program (PDO-PCP)
The Phaung Daw Oo Pre-College Program provides in-house professional and personal development opportunities for committed PDO staff members. The mission of the program is to build the capacity of PDO staff and facilitate the growth of confident leaders who are committed to serving the PDO and wider Myanmar community. PDO-PCP students will build the academic skills necessary to perform their daily work and teaching duties with excellence. By the end of the program, PDO-PCP graduates will have the tools they need to pursue high quality tertiary education programs abroad.
The program’s curriculum focuses on critical thinking skills by teaching intensive courses in global citizenship, IELTS, community-based project building, and many more. Service-learning is emphasized throughout the curriculum and students are given ample opportunity to provide direct service to their communities. Service-learning combines the theory students learn in the classroom with a practical hands-on learning experience.
American University – Phaung Daw Oo
American University has a deep commitment to global engagement and public service, and the Service-Learning Initiative was conceived to develop a dialogue between these two institutions to begin a challenging inquiry into the nature of education and society. Since the first military coup in 1962, Myanmar has been increasingly removed from world culture and its educational system has greatly deteriorated. The release of Aung San Suu Kyi in 2010 and her election to parliament in 2011 suggest that new leader Thein Sein is willing to open up Myanmar society. This opening up, however, demands an educated populace in order to establish political and economic success. After years of stagnation, Myanmar must leap forward, and American University is in a position to help with this move. Similarly, the students and faculty of Phaung Daw Oo have much to share with Americans about the essential nature of education, the managing of scarce resources, and the emotional and spiritual benefits of community activism.
Responsibilities of the Service-Learning Fellow
Each summer American University sends a graduate student for one to three months to immerse themselves in the culture of PDO in order to teach a service-learning course to the Pre-College Program and learn about Myanmar culture. During this time, the Fellow lives in the dormitory on PDO campus, assists with community projects, and teaches other Pre-College courses, in addition to the service-learning course. Once the PCP students have finished their 9-month program, they are assigned a service-learning placement in a rural Myanmar community where they are tasked with developing community-based projects, teaching various classes, and assisting with administration duties. The service-learning course taught by the AU Graduate Fellow is intended to prepare the students for this experience by enabling them to interact with diverse ethnic groups, effectively execute needs’ assessments, develop project-based solutions, and empower the host community to sustain these projects after they leave. Once the AU Graduate Fellow has returned, he or she will be responsible for educating the American University community on the experience in Myanmar through an Alternative Break pre-trip training, outreach efforts for the new Service-Learning Fellow, submitting a research paper, and/or facilitating workshops.
The AU Service-Learning Fellow has a versatile, yet ever-changing position and must be able to adapt to the needs’ of the PDO-PCP community once they arrive on location. However, the one consistent responsibility will be resuming an ongoing dialogue with PDO on how the AU-PDO partnership can continue to develop and prosper.
The AU Fellow will collaborate with PDO to:
1. Teach and develop a service-learning course
2. Assist with the service-learning program development and site placement
3. Engage in community projects
4. Teach English courses such as, but not limited to: IELTS, Academic Reading and Writing, Global Citizenship, Conflict Transformation, Academic Capstone, Debate, Active Citizenship, etc.
The Service-Learning Fellow must have the following qualifications:
• A graduate student in good standing with American University
• 1-2 years of prior teaching experience
• Preference will be given to candidates with prior travel experience in Asia
• A strong sense of independence and self-motivation
• Demonstrated maturity, flexibility, creativity and innovation
• Experience writing curriculum and program design
• Experience with service-learning theory and community engagement work
• A professional able to work with minimal supervision