While trekking through mountains in northern Burma during torrential downpours or extreme heat, Htin* knows his job is hard, but he also knows the services he provides are essential to the rural villages he works with. Htin is a mobile teacher trainer for the Karen Teacher Working Group (KTWG), an organization working with schools and education programs in eastern and northern Burma to provide teacher training and community support to education. Htin has been a teacher since 2007 and has been involved with KTWG since 2012. “I had limited knowledge about teaching methodologies and local teaching resources. I always tried to find a way to get more training and to upgrade my teaching skills and knowledge,” said Htin. Through a connection, he was given the opportunity to attend a 10-month pre-service teacher training at the PLE-supported Teacher Preparation Center (TPC) in Mae Sot, Thailand, one of the many arms of KTWG. While at TPC, Htin, along with 60-80 teachers from diverse backgrounds, lived together and developed teaching methodology and classroom management skills as well as improving soft skills including leadership, management, and computer literacy. After graduation, many TPC students return to their communities to teach, but due to his previous teaching experience, Htin was given the opportunity to become a mobile teacher trainer (MTT). MTTs support local teachers in remote and often conflict-affected areas within Burma to improve their skills and the overall quality of education for Burmese students. Between 2012 and 2015, Htin has visited 92 schools, trained 182 teachers, and provided 746 parents and administrators with School Management Committee training and Parent and Teacher Association training.
KTWG has partnered with World Education (WE) under the Project for Local Empowerment (PLE) since 2012. WE provides KTWG with administrative and logistical support, operational costs, financial management support, and capacity building for increased organizational functionality. WE has also assisted KTWG in improving its services to teachers by providing technical advising on curriculum and teacher training quality and development as well as worked with KTWG to gradually assume greater responsibility and management of the TPC program (started with WE in 2011). Under PLE, WE assists the Eastern Burma Community Schools (EBCS) network, through which KTWG works with other ethnic education providers outside of Karen State, with a current PLE-focus on southern Shan state and Through PLE and WE support, KTWG and EBCS have trained over 2,590 MTTs, graduated over 260 teachers from TPC, and reached hundreds of thousands of students each year in Burma.
To ensure that students are receiving a quality education in eastern and northern Burma, KTWG and WE have collaboratively invested much time and effort in teacher training whether it is through summer vacation trainings, supporting the Karen Teacher Training College in Karen State, or providing workshops for MTTs to ensure their techniques and skills remain relevant. This also includes ensuring that the training, skills, and experience of KTWG teachers are recognized. Based on previous efforts and relationships, WE, with PLE support, successfully facilitated a partnership between Naresuan University (NU) in Thailand and KTWG, in which NU provided KTWG teachers with university-level training courses. Those that completed the coursework received a university-issued certificate which provides ethnic education teachers in Burma evidence of their professional skills and experience. Certification ensures that trainers like Htin can continue to do their work knowing that the training they provide will also be recognized and supported. “Mobile Teacher Trainers help to bridge communities,” believes Htin. When he is able to bring skills, knowledge, and experience back to remote communities and see the teachers improve because of his training, “It really helps motivate me to continue in my role to support my community, my organization, and EBCS projects.”
*Name has been changed for confidentiality.