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Myanmar, Students Agree on Education Reforms

Phyo Phyo Aung, a representative of student protesters, speaks during a meeting with representatives of the Myanmar government and the National Network for Education Reform in Yangon, Feb. 11, 2015.

Myanmar has agreed to the demands of student activists who are marching across the country to protest a pending education reform bill.

At a meeting between activists and officials Wednesday in Yangon, the participants agreed on all 11 points pushed by the students, including official recognition of the student union, an inclusive education for disabled persons and mandatory education for students through the middle school level.

Hla Htun, a presidential minister who represented the government in the talks, said the agreement was good for Myanmar, also known as Burma.

“We got 100 percent achievement from this meeting," he said. "This is because the discussion was based on all of our desire for the country's development. We also reviewed previous situations to take as a lesson."

More than 1,000 students are marching across the country toward Yangon to protest the education law, which would centralize control of universities in Myanmar.

Student representative Zeya Hlaing said protesters would continue their march for the time being.

“We will continue the boycott," Zeya Hlaing said. The first step of our process is successful today with the acceptance of our 11 demands. The second step is also partly successful as the government said they will submit the draft to the parliament on February 16. But we have to wait and see how the parliament takes action on this and whether it is approved or not.”

Despite the continued protests, Thein Lwin of National Network for Education Reform said the agreement was a win for the entire country.

“In order to achieve the kind of democratic education system everyone — including the students, teachers, and parents — wants, in order for us to be able to pass on the quality education to the students and young people through a democratic education system, this is the successful foundation," Thein Lwin said. "If our children are filled with educated minds, each individual and our country will develop."

Parliament member Thein Swe, who also attended the talks Wednesday, said participants would meet again Saturday to discuss amendments to the controversial education reform bill.

"We have plans to amend the national education bill passed by the parliament, in accordance to the will of the people, so that the education law will be at its best,” he said.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Burmese service.

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