CPME Education Fair and Seminar – 8-9 December, Mandalay, Myanmar

The CPME (Coalition for the Promotion of Monastic Education) programme is a collaborative effort that began in 2008? and has since trained 60 monastic schools in holistic, and ecological approaches to child-centred education, ultimately reaching 300 monks, nuns and teachers who are providing education for around 20,000 children. Since its beginning, this programme is part of a larger effort to rebuild the skills, attitudes and practices vital to the functioning of an open, participatory and creative society.

Sharing experiences from across the region on alternative education

With Myanmar?s political reforms providing more space for civil society actions, it has become increasingly possible to begin acting more publicly, utilising space to share lessons learnt from this programme within Myanmar and across the region.? It is also an opportunity to advocate a scaling up of the approaches piloted in this programme, in order for alternative educational methods to begin to influence policy and pedagogical thinking.

With this pretext, an Education Fair and Seminar was organised and held at Paung Daw Oo monastic school, bringing together educational reformers from Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Myanmar, with local NGO representatives, CPME-trained teachers, government officials, donor organisations , and key Abbots from surrounding monasteries in Mandalay.

Our organisational founder, Ajarn Sulak Sivaraksa, participated as an inspirational keynote speaker, on his first ever public appearance in Myanmar. An opening platform gave opportunity for the sharing of experiences from? educational reformers from regional countries, and a smaller platform provided opportunities for dialogue and deeper discussion on topics of educational reform, the future of monastic schools in Myanmar, education for happiness, and ending violence against children. The second day gave space for representatives from 37 CPME schools to share the changes they have been making in their curriculums, pedagogy, management structures, and how their schools are integrating the wider community into their activities

Small group sharing on Education for Happiness

and approaches. This was a great opportunity to draw understanding and identify issues facing monastic schools, within the broader context of alternative education in the region.

The general public were also given the opportunity to learn what the CPME schools have been doing, through the Fair and exhibition, where each schools was given space to exhibit and share experience of the changes that they have been making in their schools. This also included exhibiting products that some of the schools have developed, to provide an income? generation stream (monastic schools rely solely on donation), and provide skills for the students for their future livelihoods.

This is the first public event that the CPME programme has been able to undertake. With a building of solidarity among those who participated, and the touching of issues on a broad scale for the first time, this event will provide an important channel for the programme to begin to work on educational advocacy, both in Myanmar, and across the region. It is now planned as an annual event, whereby we envisage a continuing elaboration of issues, and collaborative plans for action that will support not only the CPME schools, but wider alternative educational providers in Myanmar and the region.

Monks from CPME schools share experiences and reforms in their monastic schools

Ajarn Sulak with Abbots of Paung Daw Oo monastic school, a core partner of the CPME programme

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