Home

Thabyay eLearning Platform, Myanmar

  • Date published:
    10 November 2021
© UNESCO

Programme summary

Programme Title Thabyay eLearning Platform (TeP)
Implementing Organization Thabyay Education Foundation (TEF)
Location Myanmar
Language of Instruction Combination of first and second languages (English, Burmese and Karen)
Date of Inception 2009; upgraded in 2018
Programme Partners Various community partners across Myanmar
Funding TEF and Bread for the World (for a pilot project called EPLI)
Annual Programme Costs USD 20,000
Annual Programme Cost per Learner USD 23
Annual cost of the digital tool USD 1,500
Digital tool(s) used Moodle, Educasia, mobile phones, tablets, YouTube, Zoom
Target population All
Learner age Above 14 years old age
Learner to instructor ratio 50:1
Target skill(s)
  • University preparation
  • English language courses
  • Literacy and work-related skills
  • Impact Over 3,000 students have successfully completed TeP online courses since 2009
    Programme website https://www.tepedu.org/

    Background

    The Thabyay eLearning Programme (TeP) was established in 2009 by the Thabyay Education Foundation (TEF), which was founded in Myanmar in 1996. TEF’s mission is to ‘empower communities and civil society in Myanmar through higher education and professional development’ (TEF, 2020).

    Myanmar is a country of 54 million people, about half aged 24 and younger (UNFPA, 2020). Students in Myanmar face many barriers to education, including low literacy rates. Education is compulsory from ages 5–9 only (UIS, 2020), leading to high drop-out rates between primary and secondary school. 69 per cent of the country’s population lives in rural areas that severely lack qualified teachers (UIS, 2020). Universities in Myanmar were closed for many years in the late 1980s and 1990s when the country was under militarized government control, which slowed the growth of higher education nationwide.

    Marginalized groups, such as the Rohingya, are not recognized as citizens by the government of Myanmar, and face laws that deny them equal access to education and other rights. Tens of thousands of Rohingya people have been forcibly displaced from Myanmar, and many remain internally displaced and ostracized within Myanmar (UNHCR, 2019).

    The World Bank estimates that roughly 30 per cent of the population has internet access and that there are over 60 million subscriptions to cellular phone services in Myanmar (World Bank, 2020). Internet penetration in Myanmar has expanded at a rapid pace in recent years. While under military rule in the early 2000s, less than 1 per cent of the population had access to the internet (World Bank, 2020). As the country experienced new leadership in 2011 and began to loosen censorship, the number of people using the internet, and Facebook in particular, skyrocketed (Asher, 2021).

    Myanmar’s history of political unrest has had grim consequences for the country’s progress with regard to education, technology and human rights. Today, the nation continues to face violence between protesting citizens and the military; the latter has restricted internet access and detained elected officials.

    TEF seeks to provide students with quality education and educational opportunities as a means of enabling them to have a positive impact on their community and society at large. TeP was launched by TEF to serve as a bridge to educational opportunities for Myanmar youth by linking them to a multitude of community partners, including faith-based and community-based organizations, public and private institutions, and ethnic organizations. TEF hopes to extend the educational opportunities on offer to refugees, migrants, internally displaced persons (IDPs), out-of-school youth, women and girls, and minorities. TeP is particularly keen to use information and communication technology (ICT) formats that are accessible to these physically and socially marginalized student groups in order to achieve the programme’s mission to ‘promote social justice, foster reconciliation, alleviate marginalization and support sustainable development in Myanmar/Burma’.

    Overview of the programme

    TeP was established in 2009 and received a significant technological upgrade as recently as 2018. TeP has used online learning as a foundation of its delivery for over a decade. For marginalized communities that are deprived of educational opportunities, TeP seeks to level the playing field by providing access to education via the internet.

    Students have a choice of TeP educational services, represented by two main programmes: EPOP (Exam Preparation Outreach Programme) and EPPD (eLearning Professional and Personal Development). In 2020, academic test preparation for IELTS and GRE was offered to students for the first time, and is set to become integral to TEF´s mission.

    TeP is envisioned as an intermediary that provides students with educational support so that they can continue their educational journeys into higher education or employment, thus making a positive contribution to society.

    The TeP learning management system (LMS) delivers educational services through a simple, user-friendly design that caters for students with limited digital skills and/or access to technology. LMS serves as a digital classroom in which the curriculum can be implemented and classwork can take place. In 2018, TeP LMS was upgraded to a version that supports students with a slow bandwidth connection.

    Programme objectives

    TEF and TeP define their programme objectives as follows:

    • Improvement of higher education
    • Creation of far-reaching transformations
    • Alleviation of marginalization
    • Sustainable development
    • Professional development
    • Knowledge creation
    • Innovative learning skills

    Learners

    From 2009 to 2020, TEF served over 3,000 students in Myanmar. Every year, more than 1,000 people apply to participate in its programmes. To date, about 45 per cent of TEF students have won a place at university.

    TEF’s various programmes serve a range of learner groups, such as migrants, IDPs, refugees, out-of-school youth, women and girls, and minority groups. EPOP targets university-level students who want to study abroad. Each cohort is made up of approximately 500 learners, 155 of whom are from refugee, migrant and IDP areas, among them the Thai-Myanmar and Myanmar-Bangladesh border areas (Maesot), the Ranong border area (Cox’s Bazar), Kachin (Mai ja yan, near the Chinese border), Karen, Kayah, and the Northern Shan State. EPPD learners comprise all kinds of online users of any age.

    Students study for free (via scholarships) or at low cost. The enrolment fee for an EPOP Academic English class is USD 19; a self-study EPPD course costs USD 4 (TeP Application Form). TEF has different English proficiency requirements, from low literacy level to pre-university level, depending on which courses the students are interested in taking.

    Learner enrolment

    The enrolment process differs according to programme. For a self-paced course like EPPD, students can register throughout the year, with about 100 students active at any given time. Registration is open to all.

    EPOP classes follow a biannual registration schedule; students can sign up in February and August. Students fill out a Google form in English comprising questions about their personal contacts, educational background, and which course they are interested in. Applicants are also required to provide a reference (TeP Application Form). Students are directed to the programme’s Facebook page for further information. They subsequently take a free intermediate-level placement test to ensure that they have sufficient proficiency in English. Suitably qualified learners are then allocated to the appropriate course.

    Learner assessment

    TEF and TeP track learning outcomes through classwork (such as tests and quizzes) and student surveys. Students take a programme outcome survey after completing their coursework. The programme also follows up with alumni via annual quality-of-life surveys asking students whether they are working and/or attending higher education.

    No. Survey questions Strongly agree-strongly disagree
    Rating from 5 to 1
    1 The course objectives were very clear to me.
    2 The course materials were at the correct level for me: not too high and not too low.  
    3 I gained a great deal of useful knowledge from the course.  
    4 The books and materials used in the course had explanations and activities that helped me improve.  
    5 The amount of reading and homework was appropriate.  
    6 The student portal has helpful instructions and is easy to use.  
    7 I rarely had problems using the student portal because of a bad connection.  
    8 The student portal is a useful tool that helps me with my self-study.  
    9 I have the computer and internet skills required to use the student portal effectively.  
    10 I am not used to studying on the internet, so I don’t like the student portal.  
    11 I was able to get clear answers to questions addressed to the EPOP administration.  
    12 I could find information that I needed to study in the EPOP programme easily and effectively.  
    13 The administration was available to answer my questions.  
    14 The administration was able to answer my questions in a timely manner.  
    15 The administration was able to provide me with what I needed to study with EPOP.  

    Table 1: The programme outcome survey

    Teaching and learning approaches

    The key aspects of the programme curriculum are as follows:

    • Elementary to advanced English proficiency
    • Academic preparation for university entrance tests (i.e. TOEFL, IELTS, GRE)
    • Professional and personal development content

    The TEF curriculum uses open resources that are freely available on the internet, while others are published by Educasia, Thabyay’s publishing arm. Curriculum development decisions are made based on the education development requirements of young people from marginalized areas. To determine relevant curriculum content, TEF consults with ‘curriculum experts and current teachers’. TEF identifies the need to review and revise textbooks as an area for improvement.

    TEF describes its teaching methodologies as ‘independent teaching, self-directed teaching, coaching on writing skills’. It also provides examples of materials used in the learning/teaching process, such as Academic English 1 – Learning Materials.

    TeP organizes two main online programmes, each of which offers several online courses and diagnostic tests. In 2020, TeP created online courses for IELTS and GRE test preparation under the aegis of its academic preparation programme.

    EPOP, which prepares students in Myanmar for higher education, is considered to be TeP’s flagship programme. It offers courses in academic English and TOEFL preparation at three different skill levels, each lasting 20 weeks. Students have access to tutors who assess their writing assignments.

    EPPD offers students self-study courses to boost their personal and professional development. Students can use EPPD at low cost or free of charge in order to improve their basic or intermediate English skills over a three to six-month period. Students are admitted on a rolling basis. Upon completion of a course, students are provided with a ‘workbook of resources’ that remains available to them for future use. EPPD also offers literacy-related courses, such as elementary-level English courses in both Burmese and Karen. EPPD learners can also improve their work-related literacy by completing modules on career planning, CV writing, job hunting and interview preparation in English.

    TEF’s new academic preparation programme prepares students for the IELTS or GRE tests, which are often used for admittance to foreign universities or graduate schools. Using TeP LMS and the Zoom virtual communication platform, the programme provides flexibility for students to work at their own pace while managing their time efficiently. Students have access to videos, assignments and practice tests. Moreover, students can interact with instructors by conducting discussions or submitting feedback on TeP LMS, and participate in live interaction via Zoom Q&A sessions.

    Figure 1: The overall structure of TEF. (Source: Thabyay Education Foundation)

    Recruitment and training of facilitators

    The TeP programme works with various community partners across Myanmar, including faith-based organizations, monastic schools, community-based learning centres, private and public institutions, ethnic education organizations and government institutions/ministries. TEF organizes outreach trips to partners in order to share programme information and, in the case of the Thai-Myanmar border, to conduct teacher training.

    TEF employs instructors from both Myanmar and other countries. All are highly educated, holding multiple degrees. TEF trains all of its facilitators. It acknowledges the need to hire more teachers.

    The learner-to-facilitator ratio can be as high as 50:1. Volunteers are paid USD 3,000 annually for grading and tutoring. There is no data available on teacher salaries, but three administrative facilitators are paid USD 130,000 in total annually.

    Technology: Infrastructure, management and use

    ICT is an integral part of TEF’s educational delivery. A technological upgrade in 2018 enabled even students with low-speed internet connections to access TeP online courses. The system is designed with mobile and tablet users in mind. It is intended to be user-friendly and easy to use for those with limited digital literacy. In sum, the programme does its best to reach as many learners as possible.

    TeP uses the Moodle Learning Management System as a delivery platform. LMS is accessible via a range of devices, such as mobile phones, tablets and PCs. Moodle acts as an online blackboard and filing cabinet for courses. Students use it to access YouTube videos and course materials (Work Skills Self-Study Series: Part 1). Educational support is provided for students new to Moodle or to online learning in general. TeP LMS comes equipped with essential plugins. It features teaching and learning materials such as tutorial videos, discussion forums, learning textbooks and self-assessed quizzes.

    Placement tests are used, for example, for courses on academic English. The academic preparation programme uses the virtual meeting platform, Zoom. Facebook groups are created to enable student discussions. A number of writing courses provide YouTube videos for students. Live tutors are also available for some courses. Through LMS, TEF’s self-paced courses offer self-assessed quizzes.

    Figure 2: The programme webpage (Source: Thabyay Education Foundation)

    Programme impact and challenges

    Impact and achievements

    TEF is a large organization and has a broad outreach. Its website states that ‘Thabyay’s programmes are designed to support students and key community and civil society workers. We help people to acquire the skills, knowledge, networks and assistance to foster self-directed, sustainable development in their communities and in wider society’ (TEF, 2020). The foundation strives to stabilize society through education (a mission that can prove difficult to document using tangible data).

    TEF monitors its own educational progress. At the end of each course, students are asked to complete a user satisfaction survey that provides data on user friendliness, the student experience, workload, content, technical challenges and administrative responsiveness. TEF also sends annual surveys to alumni to obtain data on their education and employment status. These two data resources could and should emerge in reporting as being key to the programme’s success.

    Following the technological upgrade of LMS in 2018, TeP was able to reach a much larger number of marginalized students who were previously unable to access TeP’s educational services due to technological limitations. It would be helpful to assemble data on the geographical location of the students who use TeP’s digital education services.

      Benefits to participants Benefits to facilitators Benefits to community
    General Access to higher education opportunities Ability to expand/create more innovative and effective online education systems Ability to provide quality education across networks
    Specific Free or low-cost online learning opportunities
    Improved proficiency in academic English
    Improved professional development skills
    Acquisition of skills needed to create online courses
    Free or low-cost online learning opportunities
    Acquisition of skills needed to operate teaching and learning systems via an online platform
    Far-reaching transformation and alleviation of marginalization

    Table 2: Summary of general and specific benefits to TeP participants, facilitators and the community

    The following flowchart from the TEF website illustrates the programme’s impact, achievements and outreach (TEF, 2020).

    Figure 3: The impact, achievement and outreach of the TEF programme(Source: Thabyay Education Foundation)

    The programme reports the following educational outcomes:

    • Between 2009 and 2020, 3,000 students successfully completed TeP online courses.
    • About 45 per cent of these students got into university.
    • Over 1,000 candidates apply to TeP courses each year.
    • TeP learner numbers have increased over time due to the accessibility and flexibility of TeP online courses.
    • The EPOP programme achieved a completion rate of 53 per cent.

    Over the past decade, a considerable number of students have graduated from the programme; almost half were admitted to university to continue their education. More than a thousand people apply for the online courses annually. Enrolment numbers have seen a steady increase over time, which the programme attributes to the flexibility and convenience of TeP online courses. Furthermore, as the EPOP programme report, its completion rate is higher than the highest global completion rate, 53 per cent (Jordan, 2015).

    Testimonials

    There are many success stories associated with the EPOP programme, including those of students Myinzu Minn and Zwe Myot Chan Moung. Both attribute the development of their language skills to the EPOP programme and believe that attending these courses enabled them to achieve a high TOEFL ITP score.

    Figure 4: Testimonies from EPOP learners(Source: Thabyay Education Foundation)

    Challenges

    TEF lists the keys to its success as follows:

    • Effective communication
    • Partnerships and networking
    • Quality of instruction
    • Volunteer engagement
    • Financing

    TEF seeks to maintain good relationships among partners and to recruit new programme outlets. It maintains a focus on students throughout the learning process to ensure learner satisfaction. It has a healthy population of volunteers and sees value in recruiting more.

    A consistent rise in enrolment rates will result in increased funding and attractiveness to funding partners. TEF recognizes that offering quality online instruction is a key factor in attracting new enrolment. Upgrading LMS was also an important step, as it made courses available to a wider audience. While TEF acknowledges that the upgrade process was not easy, it sees it as a source of future and long-term success.

    Stakeholders and partnerships

    TEF funds the TeP as a non-profit organization. It secures independent funding from individuals, family foundations and institutional donors. TEF works with partners for many of its programmes, which emphasize community leadership and civic issues as well as academic achievement. TEF has links to university partners across Asia who work with the foundation to provide scholarships to students who finish the programme and progress to university.

    TEF provides educational services, including professional development, to local government and private sector actors. TeP also makes its curricula available to partners, and EPOP has been replicated by other institutions across Asia. Clearly, the programme’s success has enabled TEF to partner with and share its practices with other providers.

    TEF actively seeks new partners and contacts within its communities, recognizing that doing so increases the overall strength of the programme.

    Future plans

    TEF is considering expanding its TeP programme by partnering with the public school system. TEF hopes to enter into partnerships with local schools in rural areas in order to extend tertiary enrolment opportunities to even more students in Myanmar.

    References

    Asher, S. 2014. Myanmar coup: How Facebook became the ‘digital tea shop’. [online] BBC News. Available at: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-55929654 [Accessed 15 Feb 2021].

    Jordan, K. 2015. Massive open online course completion rates revisited: Assessment, length and attrition. [pdf] International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning. Available at: https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1067937.pdf [Accessed 15 Feb 2021].

    TEF (Thabyay Education Foundation). N.d. News and Events. [online] Available at: https://http://www.thabyay.org [Accessed 12 November 2020].

    TEF. 2020. TeP Application. [online] Available at: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSf-TF1LKel_bTjvvL12CahZp9wj5qltYTSHQRGRhClPlIdAUw/viewform [Accessed 12 November 2020].

    UIS (UNESCO Institute for Statistics). N.d. Myanmar Demographic and Socio-Economic Data. [online] Available at: http://data.uis.unesco.org/# [Accessed 12 November 2020].

    UIS. 2020. Myanmar Education and Literacy General Information. [online] Available at: http://uis.unesco.org/en/country/mm [Accessed 12 November 2020].

    UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund). Myanmar Country Indicators. [online] Available at: https://www.unfpa.org/data/world-population-dashboard [Accessed 12 November 2020].

    UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees). 2019. Rohingya emergency. [online] Available at: https://www.unhcr.org/en-us/rohingya-emergency.html [Accessed 15 Feb 2021].

    World Bank. 2020. Individuals using the Internet. [online] Available at: https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/IT.NET.USER.ZS?locations=MM [Accessed 15 Feb 2021].

    World Bank. 2020. Mobile Cellular Subscriptions. [online] Available at: https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/IT.CEL.SETS?locations=MM [Accessed 12 November 2020].

    YouTube. 2020. Steve Gomersall Yensta. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBFV6ML2aFy0FW044uLOSAQ/playlists [Accessed 12 November 2020].

    Contact

    Ms Ei Kalayar Kyaw

    No.9 Kan Road | 10 Quarter | Hlaing Township

    Yangon | Myanmar

    tel: +95 979 549 8152

    Email:

    For citation please use

    Last update: 10 November 2021. Thabyay eLearning Platform, Myanmar. UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning. (Accessed on: 5 December 2021, 13:01 CET)

    PDF in Arabic

    Related Documents