Myanmar’s “E-Libraries” Bring Students Up to Speed After Military Rule


Some Thursday ASEAN links:

Two universities in Myanmar have opened “e-libraries” containing hundreds of thousands of digital books and periodicals in a move to help students catch up with their peers around the world. After years of isolation under strict military rule, students at the University of Yangon and University of Mandalay will now have uncensored access to a wide range of learning materials.

“Universities had been seen as centers of resistance to military rule and heavily restricted – Yangon’s university had been one of the most prestigious in South East Asia, but had been caught in a cycle of protests, repression and shutdowns,” wrote BBC. “But as part of Myanmar’s reforms in recent years, universities have been given greater freedoms, and young students have now returned to rejuvenate neglected campuses.”

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In the current phase, students must access computer terminals located in physical libraries. However, both universities plan to expand access to students’ dormitory rooms via their personal laptops in the near future.

The first wave of new students to enter the once highly regarded universities are said to be the “brightest and best” in Myanmar and eager to “learn and speak English.” They have big shoes to fill after a generation without a graduating class.

The e-libraries were provided through the joint efforts of Electronic Information for Libraries and The Open Society Foundations.

Over in Singapore, xenophobia threatens to derail the government’s ambitious immigration program.

With foreigners accounting for 40 percent of the city-state’s population, conflicts are frequent. Early this year, riots in the Little India district – frequented by South Asian immigrants – sparked outrage among the native population and pleas from the government to not assume that all foreign workers are troublemakers.

Is reducing the flow of foreign labor the way to avoid a future crisis?

“The obvious solution for the Singaporean government, which has at its fingertips many levers of social, economic and political power, would be to drastically decrease the number of foreign workers,” wrote East Asia Forum’s Michael D. Barr. “But here there is a problem: its development model relies on the exploitation of these foreign workers. This is precisely why former Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng increased the foreign worker intake in the first place.

“The government is desperately trying to modify its development model to reduce reliance on foreign workers – for example increasing the level of prefabrication in construction processes – but there is no sign that it is willing to seek out a radically new development model that will solve the problem.”

Finally, after months of anti-government protests in Thailand, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra may face dismissal at the hands of the courts.

A group of senators have filed suit with the Thailand Constitutional Court demanding the prime minister’s removal. She has 15 days to present her defense.

“With attendance at the rallies dwindling, Yingluck’s opponents have stepped up their legal moves, accusing her family of abusing their political dominance for personal gain,” reported Channel NewsAsia. “[She] has been charged by the National Anti-Corruption Commission with neglect of duty in connection with a flagship rice subsidy scheme that critics say fostered rampant corruption. If indicted on those charges, Yingluck would be suspended from office and face an impeachment vote in the upper house of parliament that could lead to a five-year ban from politics.”

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