The International School market in Myanmar is expanding as International education providers enter the market, betting on a positive outcome for this year’s election. By Piers Llyod
In the past decade the amount of International schools has risen from one or two shady institutions to the world’s leading International schools looking to set up on all corners of Yangon, Myanmar’s commercial capital.
The growth reflects the influx of international trade to Myanmar in response to a wave of economic and political reforms that have helped bring an end to most international sanctions.
Foreign investment has not only begun to reshape the city as cranes swing across the skyline, but also created increased demand from expat and Myanmar families who want to educate their children to an international standard.
Decades of isolation have crippled Myanmar’s education system. State schools and universities crumble with neglect and a lack of funding, meaning that parents with high aspirations for their children have to turn to private education.
And as more and more foreigners come to live and work in the country, the private education sector has responded to meet demand.
Until recently the residents in one of the new affluent housing developments in the neighbourhood of Hlaing Thayar, west Yangon, had only one option outside of the state education system.
It was a school called ‘Early Years Centre’, which claimed to offer international standard education but in fact fell far short of standards usually associated with the industry.
Now, the site of that school has been taken over by Pun Hlaing International School, which uses the English National Curriculum and is managed by Dulwich College International, a large international education provider advised by Dulwich College in London.
“An increase in quality International Schools is a key indicator that a city is open for business with the international community”, said Derek Llewellyn, Headmaster of Pun Hlaing International School.
“In 15 years the change to an area like Hlaing Thayar has been tremendous, and the development will continue at this pace now that there is provision for the next generation of expat and Myanmar children.”
Dulwich College International, which already has a network of international schools across Asia, is constructing another purpose-built International School in a different housing development to the South-East of the city.
The arrival of these International Schools is generally welcomed by the local population, but there is a worry that some of the more prestigious schools have little engagement with the local community.
“It is very important International Schools offer Myanmar language, culture and history classes”, said one International School parent, who was otherwise happy with the growing number of options for quality education.
In the past year, competing International School providers to set up in the city include The British Schools Foundation, adding to its roster of 10+ schools worldwide, and EtonHouse International Education Group, a provider and franchisor of private schools based out of Singapore.
Not everyone is confident about the future of Myanmar. From 2014, Harrow International Management services managed a school in Yangon through the long-established Harrow School in Bangkok. They ceased operations and quietly withdrew from Myanmar this year, amicably severing ties with their local partner.
The providers that have chosen to continue operations in the city will compete with a selection of independent International schools, ranging in facilities and cost, and the quality of education they provide. One thing the majority do have in common though; they were not operating in the city over 10 years ago.