Myanmar reports high numbers of out-of-school youth, with approximately 2.7 million children between the ages of 5 and 16 years old having either dropped out of school or never enrolled. On top of that, 3.5 million adults over the age of 15 are estimated to be illiterate. As a result, a large number of young people entering the workforce do not have the necessary skills to hold a steady job or achieve success in their employment. Despite these young people growing up in the age of technology, ICT and computer skills have been highlighted by companies in Myanmar as the skills that are most lacking among their current and prospective employees. These skills are also considered among the most crucial for young people to develop as Myanmar’s manufacturing and service sectors expand.
In response to these challenges, World Education implemented the Nokia Youth and Technology project in partnership with the Myanmar ICT for Development Organization (MIDO). The goal of the project was to develop a computer literacy training program that would support fully prepared, engaged and empowered young people, providing them with the skills needed to compete and succeed in their lives. With support from Nokia, World Education and MIDO developed and piloted a digital literacy curriculum for out-of-school youth in Yangon Region, utilizing an approach that promotes and supports meaningful personal development, critical thinking, capacity building, and mentoring. In the long term, this curriculum may be incorporated into the forthcoming National Youth Education Certificate (NYEC), which is being developed by the Department of Alternative Education (DAE) and aims to bring together numerous short-term, youth-focused training programs to form an integrated and practical national training course. The NYEC will provide out-of-school youth across the country with the knowledge and skills they need to access technical and vocational education and training (TVET), higher education, and employment opportunities.
The culminating event of the Nokia Youth and Technology project was a youth forum, held in Yangon on November 18, 2018. The forum connected young people and representatives from government and NGOs to discuss continuing education and job opportunities in the IT field, and provided opportunities for networking and resource sharing. U Tin Htwe, the current Director of the DAE, provided opening remarks and updated the group on the development of the NYEC program. A variety of local and international organizations presented about their current and upcoming vocational training opportunities, and through a panel discussion, the youth participants learned about the best ways to apply to these programs. One of the highlights of the event was a speech given by Dr. Khine Mye, the former Director General of the DAE, about current events regarding youth and ICT, including the advantages and disadvantages of smartphones and social media. The forum provided the youth participants with practical knowledge about opportunities that could help them advance their skills, as well as motivation to continue working towards their professional goals.