Burmese group visits schools

October 3, 2018 GMT

As students worked in classrooms Tuesday at Bunche Montessori Early Childhood Center, Principal Tamara Mullins welcomed visitors eager to learn.

The group of five men included representatives from the Myanmar Ministry of Education, who visited Bunche and two other Fort Wayne Community schools for ideas to take home.

Fort Wayne, which has a large Burmese population, was just one stop for the delegation. Washington, D.C., and Indianapolis were other cities included on the itinerary, which focused on post-secondary education institutions, according to the school district.

“We’re thrilled that you’ve come to visit Bunche,” Mullins said, presenting the Burmese Delegation for Education with gift bags filled with information about the school.

Mullins, along with other FWCS representatives, led the visitors to some classrooms so they could better understand the Montessori concept.

With plentiful space to work in and qualified teachers to learn from, the classrooms the delegation visited contrasted with the educational environment that visitor Andrew Laitha experienced as a student: a sparsely furnished room equipped with a chalkboard and chalk. Textbooks were limited, he said, as were properly trained teachers.

Laitha represented the delegation’s U.S. sponsoring organization, the Burmese American Community Institute.

Delegates took photographs at Bunche and interacted with students as the youngsters colored at tables and did learning exercises on the floor.

They peppered Mullins with questions. They were especially intrigued about the multi-age classrooms and classroom materials, the principal said, adding that she encouraged them to contact her if they wanted more information.

After Bunche, the delegation visited the Bill C. Anthis Center and New Tech Academy at Wayne High School. The school district wanted to highlight unique programs knowing they sought ideas for education, said Julie Scheurich, curriculum coordinator for English-language learners and world languages.

The visit could establish the foundation of a relationship between the district and Myanmar schools, Scheurich said.

By visiting the United States, the delegates are learning from a country with a top educational system boasting highly ranked universities, said Elaisa Vahnie, executive director of the Burmese American Community Institute.

Kyaw Soe, an interpreter for FWCS, said the benefits that delegates could glean from the experience were “priceless.”

While the school tours might inspire change in Myanmar, Laitha cautioned it likely won’t be immediate.

“It will take time,” he said.