In the fall semester of 2023, Parami University launched an English for Further Studies program for students in marginalized areas who had to leave their university or who are looking for alternative routes and often face a gap in how to compete in university applications and scholarships.
EFS is an online, synchronous course for building academic writing and university application skills. The goal is twofold: strengthen applications and academic writing, all while using the four skills of English. The course is designed based on the students it serves. In 2021, when many students dropped out of government universities and were looking for alternative education, Parami collaborated with American English Myanmar to develop two popular courses: English for Study Abroad and English for Academic Purposes. These courses were based on feedback from Myanmar students. EFS combines the two courses, focusing on the most helpful parts to students.
“Over the past few months, I've had the opportunity to re-mix the curriculum for this course and pilot EFS with Karenni National Education Committee (KNEC) students. From building online classes to coordinating with schools and interviewing teachers, EFS has certainly kept me busy. We are preparing for the first cohort of around 80 students to join the online course,” said Mia Sasaki, a General Education faculty at Parami University.
The pilot program started in the fall semester of 2023 and benefited 14 students from the KNEC led by Mia Sasaki. She is responsible for designing, supporting, monitoring, evaluating, and coordinating EFS. She is also working with her colleague to research if and how courses like EFS support students in fragile education contexts.
Mia Sasaki talked about her experience teaching students at KNEC: “I had the honor of working with KNEC students over the past term. It was probably one of the most challenging online contexts: The power and connection were very unstable in the region, so the students really put forth an effort to join classes. At one point, the only data to be found was an hour's hike up a mountain! But--even with limited access--we found ways to make learning fun using games and other engaging activities.”
The EFS course has started in January 2024. Three community partners, Jamoi Foundation, Cherry Myay Academy, and ILAS Maijayang have students who will join the classes. Four teachers from the Open Society University Network have volunteered their time to teach the course. With teachers from across four different time zones and students meeting from three different states/divisions in Myanmar, this is quite a global course.
Mia Sasaki added, “I am a strong believer in bridging programs as a form of equity in education. I've met so many students who didn't have access to tuition or had to find educational pathways other than matriculation. I think in a place so richly diverse as Myanmar and with such a complex history, there's a need to bridge whatever gaps exist for students. While these sorts of programs are prevalent in places like Yangon and Mandalay (though often at a cost), my hope is that more of these courses can be freely accessed by students who need them wherever they live in Myanmar.