Despite a traditionally high rate of literacy and importance of learning in Myanmar, its educational system is in a state of underdevelopment and uncertainty. Although enrollment in primary schools is very high, the completion rate lags behind. Reports indicate that only one third of all primary school children finish the first five years. Many students drop out due to poverty, lack of support, and poor health. While school attendance is high in urban areas and among male students, village schools in a vastly rural-agrarian country are handicapped by poor attendance, especially among the female students.
Myanmar's educational system has been suffering from a proportionately declining budget. While there has been a sizable increase in the number of schools, colleges, universities, and teachers during the last five years, the percentage of total education expenditure declined from 4.65 percent in 1995 to 2.52 percent in 1999. While the total budget rose from approximately 7,000 to l,000 million kyats (approximately 6.5 kyats equal US$1.00), the proportionate decline implies that the present military rule does not give high priority to education, even though it does declare its commitment to EF2000 Education For All by Year 2000.
For several years Myanmar has also been actively participating in many world agencies such as UNDP (United Nations Development Project), UNESCO (United Nations Economic, Social, and Cultural Organization), and UNICEF (United Nations Children's Emergency Fund). Even in this area of support by NGOs (nongovernmental organizations), as in the above allocation by the Government' Ministry of Education budget, there is a slight proportionate decline. While the UNDP allocation of $3.9 million for primary education in Myanmar rose to $5.9 million in four years (1994-1998), it fell from 14 percent to 12 percent, proportionately.
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