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The contributions of community learning centres (CLCs) to personal and community development in Myanmar


Community learning centres (CLCs) have been widely established in the Asia-Pacific region as locally managed institutions that offer non-formal educational opportunities and community development activities. Myanmar officially has more than 3,000 centres, which is one of the highest numbers in the region. This article examines the operation of CLCs and their contributions to personal and community development in Padaung, Myanmar. The author’s research is based on six weeks of fieldwork in Myanmar for data collection including semi-structured interviews, focus group discussions and informal conversations. Her findings suggest that CLCs can contribute to the improvement of both individuals’ quality of life and communities’ social capital, which facilitates mutually beneficial collective action. The findings also support the conclusion that CLCs can provide additional educational opportunities beyond the formal system, especially for adults and members of rural communities, e.g. farmers. However, due to constraints in terms of budget, implementing capacity and socio-economic factors, the outreach of CLC activities is still somewhat limited and has yet to reach its full potential.


Contribution des centres communautaires d’apprentissage (CCA) au développement individuel et communautaire au Myanmar – Les centres communautaires d’apprentissage sont largement implantés dans la région mondiale Asie-Pacifique. Il s’agit de structures gérées au niveau local qui proposent des opportunités éducatives non formelles ainsi que des activités de développement communautaire. Le Myanmar possède officiellement plus de 3000 de ces centres, l’un des chiffres les plus élevés dans la région. Le présent article examine le fonctionnement des CCA et leur contribution au développement individuel et communautaire à Padaung (Myanmar). L’étude de l’auteure repose sur un travail de terrain effectué pendant six semaines en vue d’une collecte de données consistant en interviews semi-structurées, discussions avec un groupe témoin et conversations informelles. Ses résultats suggèrent que les CCA peuvent contribuer à améliorer à la fois la qualité de vie des individus et le capital social des communautés, ce qui stimule une action collective mutuellement bénéfique. Les résultats confirment en outre la conclusion selon laquelle les CCA peuvent fournir des opportunités éducatives supplémentaires hors du système formel, notamment aux adultes et aux habitants des communautés rurales, par exemple les fermiers. Néanmoins, en raison des contraintes en termes de budget, de capacités de mise en œuvre et de facteurs socio-économiques, la portée des activités des CCA est toujours quelque peu limitée et doit encore réaliser son plein potentiel.

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  1. UNESCO’s Asia-Pacific Programme of Education for All (APPEAL) was launched in 1987. Its goal “is the promotion of literacy, primary and continuing education as interdependent components of basic education, and as a precondition of sustainable human development and poverty eradication” (UNESCO 2003, p. 18).

  2. The Bélem Framework for Action is the outcome document of the Sixth International Conference on Adult Education (CONFINTEA VI), one in a series of UNESCO International Conferences on Adult Education held every ten or twelve years since 1949 to improve and enlarge education and learning opportunities for adults, and to develop adult education as a profession (NILE and UIL 2016, p. 6)

  3. For the full list of countries, visit [accessed 11 May 2017].

  4. For a full list of ASEAN member countries, visit [accessed 8 May 2018].

  5. The terms Myanmar and Burma have both been used to refer to the same country. The former was adopted by the military government in 1988 and has since been accepted by the United Nations. The latter was mostly used by the political opposition (Steinberg 2010). This article uses the designation “Myanmar” to refer to the Republic of the Union of Myanmar without any political intention.

  6. Myanmar gained independence from British colonial rule in 1948. Inhabited by 130 ethnic groups (MoE 2014), who speak different languages and are of various religious faiths, the country has experienced many outbreaks of civil unrest, both before, during and after military appropriation of government in 1962. Though the British education system, a legacy from colonial times, had resulted in an educated population with a good proficiency in English in the mid-20th century, standards dropped rapidly under military rule, which was socialist and very strict and lasted until 2011. The newly elected civilian-led government has undertaken reforms in several sectors to improve the socio-economic situation in the country. In education, several international organisations have been assisting the reform process both financially and technically (Lall 2016).

  7. The Human Development Initiative (HDI) ran from 1993 to 2013. Focusing on livelihoods support, small village infrastructure, water and sanitation, and HIV/AIDS prevention, it aimed for grass-roots level impact in poor communities in a sustainable manner (UNDP 2012).

  8. The term second-chance education refers to opportunities offered to people who did not complete formal schooling during their childhood and youth.

  9. As a result of the restructuring of the education departments, part of MERB was merged with the Department of Human Resources and Educational Planning to become the Department of Research and Innovation (DRI); the other part was merged with the Department of Basic Education to become DAE (Personal communication with a DAE staff member in July 2016). A full list of the departments can be found on the MoE website: [accessed 8 May 2018].

  10. However, this kind of ideal scenario is rare. According to my interviews with MLRC, this guidance was not in place in all townships at the time of my research, since the Ministry does not have the capacity to supervise all CLCs and needs external support to do so.

  11. When I expressed my research interest in CLCs to a local contact in Myanmar, who was a DAE official, this person put me in contact with MLRC as she had heard about their CLCs project with SVA. The CLC project was fostering three CLCs in Padaung (all of which are included in this study) and was one of several projects co-supported by SVA and MLRC without any government assistance. At the time I concluded my fieldwork, SVA had no plan to continue their financial support from 2017 onwards, but the local residents were committed and confident in their ability to carry on the activities. My study was conducted independently from the project.

  12. In a nutshell, constructivism is concerned with how learners construct meaning from experience; relativism is concerned with an awareness of the influence of context on research findings; and subjectivism is concerned with an awareness that reality is always a perception rather than a universal truth.

  13. Purposeful sampling involves selecting participants who are likely to provide relevant information to a research project. Convenient sampling, in this case, involved selecting participants who were available and willing to participate in the data collection for this study. At the time of my field visit, these two methods were deemed most suitable for the purpose of focusing on particularly relevant information within a constrained period of time, albeit possibly limiting the range of perspectives I would be able to capture.

  14. The questions I prepared for the semi-structured interviews are included as annexes in Le (2017, pp. 102–109).

  15. As mentioned in the methodology, the semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions were carried out in Burmese and translated into English for the purposes of this study.

  16. For a detailed discussion of the stability issue of a social structure, see Coleman (1990).


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This article was written based on the findings of a master’s thesis prepared as a part of an Erasmus Master’s Programme by the Autonomous University of Barcelona, the University of Oslo, the University of Amsterdam and the University of Malta. Both the thesis and the article greatly benefited from the feedback given by Professor Lene Buchert from the University of Oslo. The author also would like to thank the two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.

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Correspondence to Ai Tam Pham Le.

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Le, A.T.P. The contributions of community learning centres (CLCs) to personal and community development in Myanmar. Int Rev Educ 64, 607–631 (2018).

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