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“KSCU was established with the aim of providing educational opportunities for young people in Kachin State and neighbouring areas. This opportunity came from the situation after the military coup.” – Dr. Aung Ko Lin (Vice-Chancellor, Kachin State Comprehensive University (KSCU)

An interview with Vice-Chancellor of Kachin State Comprehensive University (KSCU)

September 27th, 2022

Kachin State Comprehensive University (KSCU) was established jointly with the National Unity Government (NUG) and university teachers who participated in the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) and the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) administration in the KIO-controlled area in Laiza. Dr. Aung Ko Lin, Vice Chancellor of KSCU, was interviewed to learn who are eligible to study at KSCU and to whom the school is open.

Q: First, please introduce your name and profession.

A: My name is Dr. Aung Ko Lin. I worked at the Department of Psychology, Myitkyina University. I’m a government employee and a CDM participant. Currently, I’m working as a vice chancellor at Kachin State Comprehensive University (KSCU).

Q: Please introduce KSCU to the public in detail.

A: KSCU is a comprehensive university in Kachin State. There are eight universities established at the previous union level in Kachin. KSCU offers arts and science, nursing science, computer science and agricultural science. We’re a comprehensive university. We plan to open an economics major for the people of Kachin in the future. We also want to establish a university for basic public health.

Q: How was KSCU established?

A: As I mentioned earlier, it consists of eight higher education institutions such as universities, colleges and training schools in Kachin State. The higher education councils came into existence during the revolution after February 1st, 2021. These higher education councils were established under the instruction of the NUG’s education ministry. The councils were established for various purposes, including standing by the public, supporting teachers and students who’d joined the CDM, and conducting educational activities in the meantime. Later, these groups were merged to form a collective university that represents a state and is stronger and more unified, rather than each group standing alone. The main members of KSCU include universities, colleges and vocational schools.

Q: How does the university communicate with the NUG?

A: After the establishment of NUG, its education ministry invited CDM teachers, student unions and students across the country to meet several times. The NUG’s education ministry also urged [educational institutions] to establish township education councils at the basic education level, such as the Myitkyina Township education council and the Waingmaw township education council, and to form university councils at the higher education level.

At their suggestion, education councils have also emerged in Kachin State. From the beginning, they’ve been working to support the public and to give educational lectures in the spirit of the revolutionary goal during the transition period. We cooperated with the NUG’s education ministry when we were working at the council level before KSCU was established. When we started to consolidate the councils to establish KSCU, we met with the NUG’s education ministry several times. There’s a draft federal democratic education policy published by the education ministry in 2021, which outlines the education policy of the federal union in the future. It covers both primary and higher education. The university [KSCU] was established based on the recommendations in the policy. As for our policy, we’re structured in accordance with the policy at the national level.

Although we structured the university according to the draft education policy, we’d to meet with them several times to clarify the interpretation of the policy. They made suggestions to us as needed. After we made some changes, the university finally arrived at a model that was consistent with future federal higher education policy as envisioned by NUG. Up to that point, we all made it together. In terms of working with the NUG’s education ministry, we work with them on policy coordination. Since the university was organised in accordance with its policy, the NUG is expected to fully recognise it. So it’s true that there’s cooperation between our university and the NUG.

Q: Some say that KSCU is a trilateral educational institution. Can you tell me who’s involved in that?

A: Yes, of course. In terms of policy, it’s in line with the policy set by NUG. But the actual implementation is with CDM teachers from different universities in Kachin State. This is a physical university in a liberated area. The revolutionary government provides us with accommodation and supports the daily needs of the teachers. We work in three areas: Implementation, Policy and Support.

Q. Who can attend this university?

A: Since the establishment of KSCU, one of its ten goals has been to provide higher educational opportunities for the people of Kachin State and neighbouring areas. We opened KSCU with the aim of providing higher educational opportunities to the people of Kachin State, northern Shan State and Sagaing Region. It’s open to the entire public. At the moment, there are two routes to KSCU for those who’ve passed the primary school examinations. The first is for those who’ve passed the matriculation examinations conducted by the Myanmar Board of Examinations, with the exception that those who’ve passed the matriculation examinations conducted by the terrorist military council in March 2022 won’t be admitted. If they want to study at our university, they’ll have to pass exams that will be supervised by the KIO’s education department. We’ll accept them based on their results.

Another route is for those who’ve passed the high school examinations conducted by the KIO’s education department. They can study directly at the university without having to take further examinations. They don’t have to attend university preparatory courses and can directly take the first year of their field of study. There are students whose education was interrupted due to the Covid 19 pandemic, the resurgence of war, or other reasons, or those who’ve already obtained a diploma in Mai Ja Yang are allowed to continue their studies from the third year if they wish to do so. This is because in the new system, they don’t start with a major subject in the first year, but are taught arts and science subjects, collectively called general education. Since they’ve already studied these subjects at their first universities, they no longer have to study them in the first year.

Q: Who teaches these subjects?

A: Although we say we’re a comprehensive university, we can currently only teach arts and science subjects. But we’re preparing to teach other subjects. Because we don’t have a science lab at the moment, we still have difficulty teaching some other subjects. For some vocational subjects, we need laboratories or workshops. To create these, we’ll have to wait for some time. As soon as the need is secured, we’ll offer the subjects.

Q: What about online and face-to-face teaching?

A: Myitkyina University Council established an online self-study course. We’ve encountered many difficulties in implementing the course. For those who’re new to online learning, there may be difficulties. Teachers also have difficulties and aren’t satisfied with their teaching. The students feel the same way. When the military council shut down the Internet in Sagaing Region, students from Danai, Mogaung, and Hpakant couldn’t participate due to Internet restrictions. Then, when mobile data charges were increased, even downtown residents had difficulty participating. As a result, people, including students, pointed out that we shouldn’t continue the education programme if it’s only aimed at providing education to upper-class people, which is out of reach for everyone. We learned from their criticism. Therefore, when we opened KSCU, we stopped relying on the Internet and kept only online courses in our backup plans. We do the rest of the work as usual, teaching and learning at a specific location with a specific schedule. That doesn’t necessarily mean we won’t teach online anymore, but we won’t replace on-site classes with online classes. It’s just a matter of improving the quality of teaching.

Q: What’s the goal of the university?

A: We started as a Kachin State University. It was to become like a state university of any state in the United States. They’ve plans and statistics about their human resources to carry out the activities in each state, such as how many medical or IT professionals will be trained in that state in the next five years and so on. The state universities have to make sure that the human resources are fully available for the state. What then is the goal of the Kachin Comprehensive University? It was established to directly provide the needed human resources for Kachin State in the future. It must become the main source of human resources for Kachin State. That’s the first goal. If we want to expand further, it must become a great university that the entire population of northern Myanmar can rely on. That’s the second goal. The third goal is to make it an ASEAN-level university. We plan to make it an international university by August 2023. Our goal is to become an international university.

Q: Do you have any contacts with foreign universities at the moment?

A: We don’t have any communication with foreign universities yet. At the moment we’re cooperating with the NUG. The NUG has diplomatic relations with the international community, but not in education or business. When they’ve established such relations, we’ll also benefit. Since the government is still negotiating with them on a diplomatic level, this won’t be possible yet.

Q: When was KSCU established and at what level is it now?

A: KSCU was established on May 31st, 2022 and opened on September 12th, 2022. It’s been open for over a week now. We held the opening and classes on the same day. Classes at KSCU have already started.

Q: How many students have enrolled in the university?

A: There are students who’ve withdrawn the application forms but haven’t been sent back yet. Some of them are employees and may still be waiting for approval. And those who’ve moved in from remote areas have to make arrangements for their accomodation. So far, about 100 people have withdrawn their applications.

Q: What else would you like to say about KSCU?

A: KSCU was established with the aim of providing educational opportunities for young people in Kachin State and neighbouring areas. This opportunity came from the situation after the military coup. We’d to wait more than ten years to get such an opportunity. We don’t want to miss this opportunity. We want to rebuild our state in the northern region of Myanmar and make it dependent not on natural resources but on human resources. KSCU is open to young people to find deeper and long-term useful knowledge that’s more valuable than money. I want to encourage people to use it and improve their lives.

Sent by KIC.

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