By Dr Nu Nu Win
The Monastic Education Schools ( what we call Ba Ka Schools, which means the schools taught by monks (ဘုန္းေတာ္ၾကီးသင္ ပညာေရး ေက်ာင္းမ်ား ) had been playing , is still playing and will go on playing an important role in the Myanmar Education sector. Like in most of the countries all over the world, Myanmar Education started mostly at the monasteries in the villages all over the country.
During the time of the Bagan Dynasty , there were Pwe Kyaungs where not only monks , but also Princes and laymen were taught all 18 different subjects which we call “ Ahtaratha Saeshityat” (which the classical Indian scholars call “the Artha Shastra”). Starting from then on, Myanmar Education was taken care of by monks in the early periods.
According to our Myanmar tradition and culture, we have at least one monastery in every village what we call “Ywar Oo Kyaung” which means the monastery at the entrance of the village. All children from the villages both boys and girls have to attend these schools when they reach school-going age. At the monasteries, they were taught not only Myanmar literature and language , but also some Buddhist teachings together with Suttas ( such as Mingala Sutta, Yadana Sutta and so on). The strict discipline maintained at these monasteries was well-known.( No Child Psychology had come into the picture in those days).
But , according to our Myanmar Culture , all girls had to leave school when they come of age and had to stay at home to learn how household work to assist their mothers ( such as cooking , looking after young children, how to do house work and so on. ). At the same time, the boys have to take the role of novices and go on with their studies. After some months or years, they can decide to choose the life of a monk or become laymen to help their fathers with farm work or some other professions.
Times change , and when there were English Mission Schools during the British Colonial period, and as some boys go to attend these schools, the monasteries had to hire young men teachers , who can teach Science ( what they called Lawkadat Pyinnyar) and Mathematics . Still there were students who attended these Monastic Education Schools.
During the modern period, they are still going strong, as these schools are the places where children of poor people have been taken into refuge for their Education as parents could not afford to send their children to private or public schools. Also there were no schools for the village children in the remote areas.
Nowadays, we can find some orphans and children from remote and border areas where there is no peace and stability in dire need of education. Some parents have to send their children to the monasteries in towns. This is to prevent their children from being forced to become child soldiers or to work as porters.
But, today Monastic Education Schools have become more modernized with hired and volunteer teachers and are teaching the Courses prescribed by the Ministry of Education. So, even some of them have had great success in their Education and had become engineers, doctors, dentists and all other educated person with decent professions. All the Sayadawgyis( the Abbot monks) take care of them and give them very good guidance.
So, starting from the period before modern Western Education came into Myanmar Society and up till the present, the Monastic Education ( Ba Ka) Schools are still playing an important role in our country.
By Dr Nu Nu Win