Khon Soepain, who is in charge of producing teaching materials and curriculum for the Kayan Young Generation Group, which is operating the ethnic Kayan education system, said that some volunteer-run schools in the Kayan region are experimenting with the mother tongue-based multi-lingual education (MTB-MLE) system.
The Kayan are an ethnic group concentrated in northwest Karenni State and eastern Naypyitaw Region. They speak a distinct language.
“From 2019 to the present, we call it a period of trial teaching. There are about 200 teachers in total. For these teachers we have been able to use the MTB-MLE teaching materials. We have been able to visit about 100 village schools in the Kayan region to test the curriculum,” Khon Soepain said.
It has taken four years for schools in the Kayan region to adopt the multilingual MTB-MLE education system, and now the curriculum for the kindergarten class has been drawn up, as well as preparation for Grades 1 and 2.
In the current academic year, under the education program implemented by the Kayan youth group, 24 volunteer-run schools opened jointly with local villages are teaching kindergarten classes as well as Grade 1 and 2 classes with the new curriculum materials.
The MTB-MLE education system being developed by the Kayan youth group systematically transitions from mother tongue teaching to another language such as Burmese, Khon Soepain said.
“We are teaching ethnic children in school classrooms using the language they know well in their homes. But this is not all. We can say that we are teaching the mother tongue only if the teachers speak the same language as the children they are teaching. Another thing is that when we say multi-lingual education, it is because the children get good knowledge of their own language and, once they do, we can introduce other languages. It’s an education system that teaches in a proper and systematic way,” Khon Soepain said.
When designing teaching materials and curriculum for this new MTB-MLE education system, the educators drew on traditional stories of the Kayan people, Kayan language content, proverbs, and references to Kayan foods.
Khon Soepain said he is working with the Central Committee of Kayan Literature and Culture to develop such curricula, and that this MTB-MLE education system will help the Kayan people in the future federal education system under the National Unity Government.
The mother tongue-based multi-lingual education (MTB-MLE) system is being implemented for five ethnicities including the Kayan and Kayah ethnic groups in Karenni State, as well as the Mon, Shan, and Karen in their respective states.