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Updates: National Education Law – Student Protests

The international community should call upon the Burma Government to refrain from using any kind of violence against the students and urge the government and the Parliament to take genuine steps towards meaningful dialogue.


On 16 March 2014, Burma Government, though their state run newspaper announced the new draft National Education Law. The students were the first to express their deep concerns regarding the announcement and the content of the draft Education Law.

The National Network for Education Reform (NNER)[1], a comprehensive coalition of those involved in issues surrounding education, held extensive consultation meetings in different states and regions across the country to collect proposals and suggestions from the people. They then submitted various papers and recommendations to the Parliament regarding the draft National Education Law; however, many of their key concerns were not addressed in the final, approved version of the National Education Law.

Ignoring the criticism by the people, the National Education Law was approved on 30 September 2014.

Students deem the Education Law to be undemocratic and overly centralized. They call for the decentralization and democratization of the Education Law with specific demands to recognize student unions as legal entities, to allocate standard budget that is inline with UNESCO’s principle and to remove the clause that bars students from taking part in political activities. As it stands today, the Education Law was already approved two months ago, therefore, is unlikely to be amended any time soon. Rather, once a law is signed into force by the President, the by-laws then need to be drafted and finalized within 90 days, unless the Parliament designates a different deadline. Therefore, negotiations must take place either before the deadline set by the students or before the by-laws are approved.

The Action Committee for Democratic Education (ACDE), comprising members of the All Burma Federation of Students’ Unions (ABFSU), the Confederation of University Student Unions, and University Student Union – Myay Latt are campaigning for the amendment or redrafting of the National Education Law. They held a four-day demonstration from 14 –17 November 2014 at various locations in Rangoon and other parts of Burma demanding a quadripartite meeting between ACDE, NNER, Burma Government and the Parliament. They vowed to hold a nationwide demonstration if there is no response from the Burma Government within 60 days.

The moratorium expired on 16 January 2014 without an official response. More than 100 people setting out from Mandalay to Rangoon on 20 January 2015, as students resumed the campaign to protest the National Education Law Others have joined the protesters from different regions of Burma and plan to link up during the 650 kilometer (404 mile), 15 day journey to Rangoon.

Following is the 11 point demand of the students as they appear in the statement released by ACDE on 24 January 2014.


Statement regarding the Need for Creation of National Education Policies and Laws for Realization of Democratic Education System
Action Committee for Democratic Education
Date 24 January 2015

Action Committee for Democratic Education (ACDE) is comprised of All Burma Federation of Student Unions and University Student Unions. The Committee was established and its members were elected during the nationwide student emergency conference convened on 12-13 November 2014. The emergency conference, attended by more than 500 students, strongly condemned the National Education Law approved by the parliaments and government and unanimously agreed to boycott it. The boycott students demanded that the government initiate negotiations with them regarding the approved National Education Law within 60 days and called for a quadripartite dialogue involving ACDE, National Network for Education Reform (NNER), parliament and the government. We believe the following matters urgently need to be addressed for creation of national education policies and laws that endure democratic education system. Therefore, we hereby announce that we will work to address matters surrounding the following issues by means of negotiations with relevant stakeholders.

  1. Inclusion of representatives of teachers and students in legislation process of education policies and laws, by-laws and other related laws,
  2. the right to freely establish and operate student and teacher unions and legal recognition for them,
  3. establishment of National Education Commission and University Coordination Committee mentioned in the approved National Education Law
  4. self-determination and self-management on educational affairs of individual state/regions and schools
  5. modifying current examination and university matriculation system
  6. modifying teaching methods to such that ensure freedom for thinking and self-studying of students
  7. inclusion of a provision in National Education Law that ensure freedom for the practice of ethnic languages and mother tongue based multi-lingual education for ethnic populations and tribes
  8. inclusive education for all children including children with disabilities
  9. resumption of enrollment for students previously expelled from schools due to the student uprisings
  10. allocation of 20 percent of national budget for education
  11. regulating of free compulsory education up to middle school level rather than primary level

Read here for more background information about student protests against National Education Law: “As 2014 Comes to an End, Students Hold Key to New Chapter in Burma Politics“, “In the Face of Government Intransigence, Burma’s Students March On


[1] NNER is comprised of those involved in political parties, civil society organizations such as the 88 Peace and Open Society, student unions, individual experts, ethnic education organizations, religious organizations and many more.

Event Timeline (Updated till 16 March)

Four Routes of Protest Marches

  1. Mandalay – Rangoon (Primary Protest March)
  2. Pakokku – Rangoon
  3. Irrawaddy – Rangoon
  4. Dawei/Mawlamyine – Rangoon

Four different protest marches of students kick off on different dates. Students from areas on the way join marchers for remaining journey as they approach Rangoon.

  • 16 Mar 2014 – Draft National Education Law (NEL) First Draft announced on State Newspaper
  • 10 Sep 2014 – NEL approved
  • 14 Nov 2014 – Student representatives from across the country launched 4-day long demonstration in Rangoon calling for quadripartite dialogue involving students, National Network for Education Reform (NNER) for reform of NEL
  • 17 Nov 2014 – Students announces 60-day interval for the government and parliament to respond to their call for dialogue
  • 16 Jan 2015 – Deadline day for the government to respond to students’ call for dialogue
  • 20 Jan 2015 – Students resumed protests against education law at a larger scale in Mandalay, Pakokku and Dawei demanding for dialogue, Mandalay – Rangoon primary protest march begins
  • 1 Feb 2015 – Preliminary meeting between students, NNER, government and parliaments takes place in Rangoon University: students put forward 9-point preconditions for actual dialogue, 7 of the 9 preconditions were agreed. Next meeting scheduled for 3 Feb 2015. Read the joint statement of the dialogue in Burmese here.
  • 3 Feb 2015 – Representatives of students and NNER arrive Naypyidaw for dialogue. However, President Thein Sein cancels of the meeting and announces that dialogue would resume after 12 February 2015 without specifying the exact date.
  • 3 Feb 2015 – Irrawaddy – Rangoon march begins
  • 8 Feb 2015 – Dawei – Rangoon march begins
  • 11 Feb 2015 – Quadripartite dialogue resumes. Parties reach agreement on 2 remaining preconditions and “principally” agree on 11-point demands by students. Next meeting scheduled for 14 Feb 2015. Read the joint statement in Burmese here.
  • 13 Feb 2015 – Protest students announce that they would stop marches only when a new education law, drafted by parties of ongoing quadripartite dialogue is approved by the parliament. Read the statement in Burmese here.
  • 13 Feb 2015 – Government call on students to terminate protest marches and warn that they will not allow student marchers to enter Rangoon Region.
  • 14 Feb 2015 – Dialogue parties meet for a third time in Yangon Region parliament hall.
  • 15 Feb 2015 – Dialogue parties finalize the draft law amending the National Education Law.
  • 16 Feb 2015 – Irrawaddy – Rangoon march suspended. Marchers claim they would resume the boycott at a larger scale “should the results are against the commitment made during quadripartite dialogue”. Read their statement in Burmese here.
  • 18 Feb 2015 – Draft of Law Amending National Education Law released. Read the full draft law in Burmese here.
  • 19 Feb 2015 – Students suspend all protest marches to observe parliament’s response to Draft Law Amending National Education Law
  • 28 Feb 2015 – Deadline day of suspension of protest marches.
  • 2 Mar 2015 – Primary protest march resumes in Latpadan, Bago. Student marchers blocked and trapped by several hundreds of riot polices.
  • 3 Mar 2015 – One student girl beaten by police. Protest students at Latpadan go on hunger strike. Students, youth and civil society members hold solidarity protests in Rangoon, Mandalay and other parts of the country condemning the use of force against protest march in Latpadan and call for non-violence.
  • 5 Mar 2015 – 9 student representatives make a presence at “Hearing Session” of with Bill Committee of the Parliament but return home without participation in session. Students show up to acknowledge the hearing however refuse to participate in protest of authorities’ blockage of fellow student marchers in Latpadan.
  • 5 Mar 2015Solidarity protest at Sule is violently dispersed. Several students and civil society solidarity protesters including members of 88 Generation Peace and Open Society detained for a day. The use of “Swan Arr Shin” during the crackdown sparks public outcry. [“Swan Arr Shin” are notorious violent vigilante groups known for their violent acts in major historical events of Burma’s democracy movement such as Depayin Massacre in 2003, Saffron Revolution in 2007, as well as many other smaller incidents]
  • 6 – 9 Mar 2015 – various protests take place in Rangoon, Latpadan, Mandalay and other areas of the country, condemning violent crackdown at Sule, Rangoon on March 5. More arrests.
  • 10 Mar 2015Violent crackdown on primary protest march in Letpadan. Protesters beaten, government announces arrests of 127 people. 
  • 12 Mar 2015 – 4 student leaders arrested in Rangoon while others are in hiding as authority continue persecution of leading members of student unions.
  • 16 Mar 2015 – 9 of the 15 members of ACDE attend parliamentary hearing on amendment of National Education Law.

Agreements Between Dialogue Parties

Agreement between Govt Student and Parliament Burstd joint statement 3IMG_10758482867287

IMG_10762624460622IMG_10765672406499 IMG_10768641159916



Other Statements Related to Campaign for National Education Law Reform

  • 13 Jan 2015: Statement (1/2015) – By Action Committee for Non-violence and Justice [English], [Burmese]
  • 18 Jan 2015: Statement on Violence against Students – By Karen New Land Party (KNLP) and Union of Karenni State Youth [Burmese] *image
  • 22 Jan 2015: Position Statement on Student Boycotts for Amendment of National Education Law – Democratic Party for New Society (DPNS) [Burmese] *image
  • 23 Jan 2015: Statement of Civil society Organization on Students’ Actions Against National Education Law Following the Overdue 60-Day Deadline for Negotiation – By by 63 Civil Society Organizations [English], [Burmese]
  • 24 Jan 2015: Statement Regarding the Need for Creation of National Education Policies and Laws for Realization of Democratic Education System – By Action Committee for Democratic Education [English]
  • 25 Jan 2015: Statement of 88 Generation Students (Exile) – By 88 Generation Students (Exile) [Burmese] *image
  • 26 Jan 2015: Statement on Students’ Protest against National Education Law – By 88 Peace and Open Society [Burmese] *image
  • 27 Jan 2015: Statement on Student’s Peaceful Protest for National Education Law Reform – By Burmese Women’s Union [Burmese]
  • 27 Jan 2015: Endorsement for Long Distance Protest March by Student Unions against National Education Law [Burmese page 1, page 2] *image
  • 27 Jan 2015: Position Statement on Student Protest Marches against National Education Law – By All Burma Students’ Democratic Front [Burmese] *image
  • 30 Jan 2015: Statement 1/2015 by Protest March Led by All Burma Federation of Student Unions [Burmese] *image
  • 17 Feb 2015: Open letter to President Thein by Generation Wave [English, Burmese]
  • 11 Mar 2015: Statement of NNER on violent crackdown on student protesters in Letpadan on 10 March. [Burmese] *image


[Photo Credit: Action Committee for Democratic Education, The Irrawaddy, Office of NLD Chairperson]