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February 27, 2018

An Upcoming Future that is DMHC in Yangon University

Hazy as it was, everything seemed stunningly attractive and quiet save some occasional horns on the roads. Trees in the campus were splashed in the beams of the pale sun. It was still early and the sun was barely rising. The surrounding seemed to have the subdued quiet of the daybreak. The trees indeed formed leafy canopy above the campus. Traffic was usually light on the road, a score of yards away from the university at this time of the day. Heavy rainfall in the previous night washed away all the dead or dry leaves towards the gutters. Thus, shinning even in the faint sun were the leaves and the tarred road snaking around the halls in the campus.
Small groups of middle-aged people were scurrying towards the Vesali Hall. However, upon arrival at the portico of the Vesali Hall, their hurried steps were tamed by the sight of gray-haired man plodding with a walking stick. He looked pale and weak but cheerfully influential. Chatters ceased and intermittent conversations abruptly quieted, they just followed the lead of the old man in a respectful manner. Another quarter of an hour found them seated in the benches and the old man on the stage at a table with a white projector on the left. A momentary silence hung over the classroom.  The old man sat up straight and broke the ice tapping the microphone. He started to lecture in a quite low tone.
Yes, it is Dr Khin Maung Nyunt. The setting is Vesali Hall at Yangon University and the lecture time (7:00 AM to 9:00 AM). The term “DMHC” stands for Diploma in Myanmar History and Culture. It is a post-graduate diploma course launched in June 2015. It reportedly aims at imparting rudimentary knowledge on Myanmar History and Culture on the students and the History enthusiasts. In retrospect, applicants from various walks of life ranging from reporters to indigenous researchers were jostling for enrolment in the course. The number of seats, at first, was limited to not more than 80 students, a sizeable student-teacher ratio for Myanmar. The news of the impending diploma course was already hot off in the academic community as it would be led by Dr Khin Maung Nyunt and Dr Kyaw Win, two leading historians and scholars in Myanmar.
Dr Khin Maung Nyunt focuses on Myanmar Visual Arts and Performance Arts. He always delivers fascinating lecture on these subjects embedded with occasional jokes cracked when he finds the situations fit to a “T”.  Consequently, no student wants to miss his interesting lectures. He tends to activate his lectures by singing in tune of the old songs.
Dr Kyaw Win lectures on Buddhist Art and Architecture which is foreign to many of the students. His illustrated lectures usually make the students flabbergasted with very informative PowerPoint presentations. The comprehensive data and pictures he shows on the screen during his lectures are so rare and almost inaccessible to many history enthusiasts that cameras always twinkle with flashes in the classroom as the students are documenting those rare pictures.
The remaining subjects range from Foreign Relations in the ancient periods to New Look into the Pre-Bagan Period: Pyu, Mon and Rakhine histories and cultures. Invaluable lectures on these subjects are extended to the students by Professor and Head of History Department, Yangon University and a retired Professor and active historian. Sometimes, scholars are invited as guest speakers to share their knowledge on the subjects. In short, all the lectures are well organized and informative. The classroom is also air-conditioned, clean and well lit. Therefore, it can be said that the DMHC Course is fully facilitated both Man Power and Resources.
As the atmosphere is friendly and convivial, the DMHC society turns over a close-knit one. The students occasionally engage themselves in social activities. For example, the DMHC students and teachers collectively went to Bago Division to render their generous donations to the victims of the Flood-hit area that is Pyinmagone Village in Minhla, Moenyo District on 8th August 2015.
In fact, it is quite a long time passed since History as a university subject was very popular. Its popularity waned since the score-based majoring system was initiated into the university entrance. Every far-sighted and well-read person knows that there is no subject which is not as good as another in education. All are instrumental on the same footing throughout the educational process. Unfortunately, the popularity of a particular subject is also related to its job opportunities after graduation.
History serves as the umbrella term for all the other subjects although it is as essential as they are. Both in the pre-war and post-war period, products of Yangon University as historians had emerged as intellectual giants and received international recognition. Now, the year 2015 has seen the revival of the upcoming future of “History” as a discipline.
In fact, history matters to everyone. In reply to a question “Why do we have to learn history?, Dr. Than Tun, a prominent Myanmar Historian, has one said “so that we might not err again.” Yes, “To err is human; to forgive divine.” His answer is recorded as the shortest and best one ever. Over the past, history has been taught all over the world for the purpose of promoting nationalism, certainty and accuracy of the past. These had been the generally accepted or adopted approach to the teaching/learning of “History”. However, in the course of time, the world has dramatically changed and so have the international curriculum (here, in the context of “history”).
Nowadays, the international academicians, curriculum developers, syllabus-designers and historians, start to turn their attention to the source-based approach. That means, in the teaching/learning process for the discipline of “History”, they start to emphasize empathy, open-mindedness and critical thinking about the past and even the contemporary. History books can convey a variety of perspectives that would stir up perplexity in the readers.  What is worse, these books could possibly come up with presupposition and personal bias to a considerable extent as the famous Myanmar historian Dr. Htin Aung (1909-1978) had once said in the introduction of his book “A History of Burma” that there is a Burmese Folktale that tells of a magic mirror in which a person sees what he wishes to see. History is such a mirror; and a historian, however much he attempts to be objective and detached, often finds that he cannot overcome his human frailties of prejudice and preference. Therefore, it is very important for the future scholars and historians to be able to logically and objectively deduce and interpret the data and facts available in the history books. To be able to do so, a future historian is required of employing an analytical approach to history which is often accompanied by the comparative study. In short, to be able to evaluate bias in the history books, a reader needs to already acquire a considerably intimate knowledge on history. Then only can one understand the discrepancies among facts, bias, generalizations, presuppositions and overgeneralizations. Thereby, one can decide how much more or less one can rely on the theories of a particular author. It is simply because an author is biased does not mean the information he includes is false. At such stage, one can possibly hit upon a penetrating idea on a variety of diverse perspectives different authors on the same subject could have developed. Therefore, it is noticed that these steps are prerequisites for any future historian.
Fortunately, the learned teachers in DMHC are now sharing their encyclopedic knowledge on history with the students. As a result, the students can attain a vast knowledge on the subject under discussion at one sitting as the lectures are stuffed with a myriad of least-known facts. So, it can be assumed that the DMHC course serves as a stepping stone for anyone who wants to engage in the field of history or culture or both. It is undeniable that the somewhat-orthodox approaches in the educational sector have already left us with a widening generation gap since the age of intellectual giants has died away. To narrow down the gap, establishment of post-graduate diploma courses are indispensible as these courses can equip the students with the rudiments of the disciplines so that they can shine in any of their future pursuits. Therefore, suffice it to say, DMHC is such a filler to bridge the generation gap in the discipline of “History” and it is definitely worth being labeled as an upcoming future.


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