Civic Education was a famous subject in formal education in Myanmar until 1950s. After the military had taken over the regime, the subject of Civic Education was removed and shut down the practical press of civic duties and rights of the citizens. The citizens were losing down the morality, civic duties, rights of the citizens and as well as the knowledge of the citizens, time by time, although the military regime stated “To uplift of the moral and morality of the entire nation.” in their Four social objectives.
Yet, after five decades from that time, the new generation has not even heard of Civic Education in their whole lives. From 2010s, a group of citizens had initiated the activities for Civic Education to come up among the citizens. The achievement of those activities was that the government started to engage and have been considering for the Civic Education subject.
One of the UEC’s key duties is to provide voter education. However, the UEC was the first to acknowledge that voter education is a major undertaking and is currently inadequate. IFES and other international NGOs working in close cooperation with the UEC, as well as CSOs, expressed in interviews their concern about the UEC’s and their own ability to fully educate voters in time for the 2015 elections.
Although the literacy rate in Myanmar is very high (approximately 93%, according to the CIA World Factbook), knowledge of the political process is wanting, both among the general public and the political parties themselves. Moreover, interaction between the UEC and CSOs, and between the UEC and the media, is relatively new and underdeveloped. Another obstacle to effective voter education is that most media is offered solely in Burmese, as are most government forms, rules, and lists. The UEC commented that it has plans to translate some, but not all, registration and adjustment forms into minority languages. Laws clearly states that Burmese is the country’s official language, so efforts to translate materials are not mandated by law and are undertaken at the UEC’s discretion. Although precise numbers are not available, it is estimated that as much as 35 percent of the country’s population does not speak Burmese.
A survey on voter education in ethnic regions by a group of filmmakers shows the result that about 80 percent of the voters in those areas don’t know much about the voter education or the election. So this shows that more voter education campaigns are needed especially in ethnic regions. The filmmaker group called MustartSeed Myanmar, therefore, produced a documentary with a thousand copies to give away to distributors including the UEC, while also make the documentary available online for wider public coverage.
There are many CSOs that conduct voter education activities both nationwide, and at local level such as:
New Myanmar Foundation (NMF) had been providing civic and voter education since 2010.
Institute for Political and Civic Engagement in Burma (Myanmar) (iPACE) provides education and training courses to build the capacity of local democracy, labor, and civil society activists in Burma. Through courses such as civic education, human rights, voter education, and English for special purposes, as well as activities which support networking and consensus building among Burma’s socio-political actors, iPACE increases the knowledge and practical application of fundamental democratic principles and promotes citizen engagement to inform more representative, accountable governance.
People’s Alliance for Credible Elections (PACE) was set up in 2013 with the initiation of three local nongovernment organizations namely 1) Loka Ahlin Social Development Network 2) Pandita Development Institute and 3) Yangon School of Political Science. The fundamental purpose of forming PACE is to engage the elections scheduled in 2015 in the short term and to establish a formal election focused organization which will be able to engage the whole electoral process in Myanmar in the long term. One of PACE’s areas of work is civic education and public outreach.
Civic and Voter Education, New Myanmar Foundation, http://en.newmyanmarfoundation.org/civic-and-voter-education/.
Institute for Political and Civic Engagement in Burma, World Learning, http://www.worldlearning.org/what-we-do/institute-for-political-and-civic-engagement-in-burma/.
Elections and Political Transition in Myanmar, Princeton University, 2015
People’s Alliance for Credible Elections (PACE)
PDF : Voter Education (KEM: 2014)
PDF : Democracy in School (KEM: 2014)
PDF : Elections and Election Monitoring (KEM: 2014)
VDO : Voter education video (part 1) (Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom: 2015)
VDO : Voter education video (part 2) (Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom: 2015)
VDO : Voter education video (part 3) (Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom: 2015)
VDO : Voter education video (part 4) (Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom: 2015)
LINK : Voter Education Concerts for Persons with Disabilities (IFES: 2015)
LINK : Civic education video (New Myanmar Foundation: 2015)
LINK : Encouraging Everyone to Vote (Election Access: 2015) – In support of the 2015 elections in Myanmar, the Union Election Commission (UEC) and the Myanmar Independent Living Initiative (MILI) developed a logo for a voter education campaign. Using a logo for a campaign allows voter education materials to be identified as part of a broader campaign and helps emphasize the importance of election accessibilitiy. The logo was used on several voter education materials, including brochures and for voter education concert held in Myanmar.
PDF : Voting guideline brochure (UEC and MILI: 2015)
PDF : Voter education brochure (UEC and MILI: 2015)
LINK : Supporting the right to vote banner (UEC: 2015)
LINK : Citizens and voter registration banner (UEC: 2015)
LINK : Encouraging citizens to register to vote banner (UEC: 2015)
LINK : Women and political participation batter (Myanmar Affairs: 2015)
LINK : Registering to vote banner (2015)