sábado, 27 de julio de 2013

martes, 9 de julio de 2013

Myanmar (Birmania) - Una experiencia única

Aquí comparto con vosotros un blog que escribí ayer para mis compañeros del British Council. Está en inglés, pero espero que os guste:

There are moments or events in life, at a personal or at a professional level, which you could define as life-changing. Or at the very least, moments so truly unique and special that could be simply labelled as “once in a lifetime”.

My visit to Burma last week was one of these moments.

I was fortunate enough to join Kevin Mackenzie (the British Council Country Director in Myanmar) and his fantastic team there, together with our Director of Education & Society, Jo Beall, and with Sheena Macdonald, HR Business Partner for the E&S SBU. We attended a two-day Policy Dialogue which, quite appropriately, was titled “Empowering Higher Education – A Vision for Myanmar’s Universities”.

Education is one of Burma’s (Myanmar) main priorities for development, with the system and its education institutions –and ultimately, its people - suffering from years (decades) of isolation and neglect. In recent months, three large-scale initiatives have opened the debate on the future of Higher Education in the country, a debate which is not an easy one, not only because of the long and complex historical baggage but also because of the political sensitivities – past, present and future – and the huge challenges that lie ahead. In other words, the journey for reform is going to be a difficult one, but the willingness and desire to drive this reform, from all involved, is incredibly exciting and encouraging.

The Comprehensive Education Sector Review has completed its initial assessment and is now embarking on the detailed review. Two parliamentary committees, chaired by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, have begun redrafting the legislation for Higher Education and planning the revitalisation of Yangon University. And the National Network for Education Reform has carried out its own consultation and is making specific policy recommendations.

On top of that, last May, a delegation representing both parliamentary committees visited the UK for a ten-day study tour of Universities in Scotland and London. The tour culminated in a policy dialogue in London which explored the challenges for the reform to become a reality.

So, the “Empowering Higher Education” Dialogue in Myanmar last week was a follow up to a number of big initiatives and you could say that, in many ways, it was a ground breaking and historical event. Not only the education reform process in Burma is in itself history in the making, with education being at the heart of rebuilding the nation. But also, this was the first time that representatives from all the different stakeholders groups involved in or with a vested interest in the process were gathered together under one roof, sharing their views, concerns, expectations. From representatives from the Ministry of Education, led by the Deputy Union Minister, to Daw Suu herself (who gave inspiring opening remarks and chaired three of the panel sessions), members of the National Network for Education Reform (very much led by the opposition), representatives from student associations (whose voices have been silenced for decades), different ethnic groups, rectors and academics, and even (and slightly shocking to the outside eye) military staff from the Ministry of Defence (a Ministry responsible for a number of Universities).

As we opened the floor for comments and questions for one of the plenary sessions, a gentleman from the audience started his comments by saying “I am 74 years old and have been wanting to say this for so many years, but never until now had had the chance…”. Powerful words which reminded me of the importance of this event in particular, and, more widely, of platforms for open and frank dialogue such as this. I felt humbled, and at the same time, very proud and honoured to be a part of it. How amazing that the British Council, in partnership with ADB, AusAid and UNESCO, was at the centre of it and the main driving force to make it happen. Talk about Cultural Relations work at its best!

It was a truly special week in Burma and an amazing experience which I will certainly treasure. I believe Jo Beall will also share her experience of her recent travels with you soon. 

I actually cannot believe I will be changing the view from the 6th Floor of the British Council in Spring Gardens (London) and moving to Rangoon with the family in September to continue the work in Education that Kevin and the team have so brilliantly started. I do feel extremely fortunate.

It was a special week where we met many interesting and inspiring people, not the least, The Lady herself. Daw Suu, like the people of Burma we met and talked to, filled our minds and hearts with awe and hope. Hope for the future and hope for positive and much needed change. Challenging? Yes, very much. Exciting? Most definitely!