Ed300 Research Proposal

Posted on

Research Question:

How has the Burmese schooling experience, education system, and its goals been transformed or affected by British colonization from the 18th to 19th century?


Schooling in Burma has changed significantly from its initial form and goals since the colonial era. Old ideas about education derived from monastic orders merged with the new ideas brought to Burma by the British who colonized the country from the early 1800’s to mid 1900’s. To weaken the two most powerful traditional institutions in Burma, the British abolished the monarchy and separated the church—which in this case was the Theravada Buddhist order– and state by setting up secular schools to replace the monastic schools where Burmese children usually received their education. To further their own political and economic goals and mitigate the collision of values held by the Buddhist natives with values held by the ruling British people, modern values and western education was promoted in these secular schools. The goal of these schools was to produce an educated Burmese class trained to be local administrators and implement colonial projects. While there were some benefits to the education system imposed upon the Burmese, such as increased access to education for women, there were drawbacks like a loss of cultural heritage and traditional ways that was replaced by more modern, scientific teachings conducive to empire-building colonial projects.

In the early 1900s, an group called the Young Men’s Buddhist Association (YMBA) emerged and began to mobilize the public and organize a Burmese nationalist movement, education being a major focus of their struggle. The struggle for a national identity began as tensions rose between those advocating for traditional Buddhist knowledge and those advocating for modern, colonial knowledge. Under U Nu’s rule, education became both compulsory and free but there were many challenges to establishing a functioning education system as Burma transitioned to self-rule after so many decades of colonial rule.The invasion of the Japanese also further complicated this process as they tried to further impose their ideas about education on the Burmese. The national schools movement grew as a reaction to these foreign influences in Burma, led by nationalists who wanted to try to “Burmanize” schools. What remains today is a broken, neglected education system seized by the military government.

When thinking about education reform in Burma, one cannot fully understand the current form of schooling and the goals of education that exists in modern day Burma without understanding its historical origins. For this reason, I feel that it is justified for me to do research about what events and ideas have helped shaped the education system in Burma as it is today.


 To gather background information and sources, I met with a librarian who helped me search for relevant sources on the Trinity Library database. I also looked at the sources cited by these articles to find additional sources that could be of help. I used goolge scholar as well as other search sites that helped me find journals that focused on Asia, such as the Journal of Asian studies. I accessed the old English newspapers (The Times from London) to find out more about colonial education. I have also found some books in the library on the history of Burma that contains information about education and how it has changed through time. There are also some books I found using Google scholar that are about colonialism and education in Burma but I have not been able to access them and am considering purchasing or renting them.

Although I have read through  the secondary sources, I have yet to thoroughly go through the primary sources from the time. I am working with a librarian this week to find more primary and secondary sources that are relevant to my research project both in the main library collection and in the Watkinson.

Cady, John F. A History of Modern Burma. Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 1958. Print.

Cheesman, N. (2003). School, State and Sangha in Burma. Comparative Education, 39(1), 45-63. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/3099630

Chie Ikeya. Refiguring Women, Colonialism, and Modernity in Burma. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2011. Project MUSE. Web. 6 Apr. 2014. <http://muse.jhu.edu/>.

Furnivall, J. S. Colonial Policy and Practice; a Comparative Study of Burma and Netherlands India. New York: New York UP, 1956. Print.

Harris, Ian Charles. “Colonial Knowledge and Buddhist Education in Burma.” Buddhism, Power and Political Order. London: Routledge, 2007. 52-70. Print.

Harvey, Godfrey E. British Rule in Burma: 1824-1942. New York: M S Pr., 1974. Print.

King, Alonzo. Memoir of George Dana Boardman: Late Missionary to Burmah, Containing Much Intelligence Relative to the Burman Mission. Boston: Lincoln, Edmands &, 1834. Print.

Lwin, Thein. “Education in Burma (1945-2000).” Thinking Classroom (2000): n. pag. Web. 4 Apr. 2014. <http://www.thinkingclassroom.org/Education%20Papers/1.%20Education%20in%20Burma%20%281945-2000%29,%202000.pdf>.

Malcolm, Howard. Travels in South-eastern Asia: Embracing Hindustan, Malaya, Siam and China; with Notices of Numerous Missionary Stations, and a Full Account of the Burman Empire. Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, n.d. Print.

Whitehead, Clive. “Education in British Colonial Dependencies, 1919‐39: A Re‐appraisal.”Comparative Education 17.1 (1981): 71-80. Print.


One thought on “Ed300 Research Proposal”

  1. Ada, this is an outstanding Ed 300 research proposal, which clearly identifies a researchable question and goes beyond the requirements by sketching out a rough narrative and the early stages of a thesis statement. As you reflect on what you wrote above, consider the possibility that your research question may have two parts, not just one. In other words, you seem to be asking something more like this: How did British colonization transform Burmese education and identity, and how did nationalists turn to schooling to respond to foreign influences during the mid-19th to early 20th centuries?

Comments are closed.