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Myanmar's Higher Education Reform: A Pathway to Democracy?
Individual Paper Presenter(s)
University of Wisconsin-Madison, United States
In this global moment, the rise of totalitarian and fascist styles of governments have sounded alarms to the demise of democracy. As concerns of democracy intensify, education’s role in creating the democratically minded citizen also intensifies. This presentation examines how traveling democratic educational discourses and practices traverse through higher education reform in Myanmar. Specifically, I examine how the increased involvement of development “experts”, the diffusion of best-teaching practices, and the proliferation of Western-affiliated, for-profit universities converge with social, economic, and political realities in Myanmar. While Myanmar’s education reform is envisioned as critical for democratic transformation, the idea of democracy, itself, is transformed into a commodity; a commodity bought by students and academics through the accumulation of tertiary diplomas and training certificates and sold by the global rationales for improving fragile contexts. This presentation exemplifies how the commodification of democracy creates pedagogical practices and curricula development that result in exclusionary understandings of belonging or anti-democratic interpretations. As one of the first empirical studies to consider the rationale and effects of democracy building through higher education reforms in Myanmar, this presentation raises broader questions about the viability and impacts of global education development trends that position higher education reform as a panacea for fledgling democracies.