In March, Myanmar (Burma) welcomed its second group of Peace Corps volunteers for a two-year English education project. The group of 16 volunteers arrived four days after the first batch concluded their assignment. The new volunteers will undergo a ten-week training on culture, language, and teaching skills before commencing their assignments as English Language teachers at basic education middle and high schools in the Yangon and Bago regions. Upon finishing their training, the volunteers will work in collaboration with local English teachers, focusing on teaching methodologies, lesson planning, classroom management, and assessment.
The Peace Corps program in Myanmar took shape in 2013, after receiving an official invitation from the government to commence operations. The next year, President Obama signed a bilateral agreement to the same effect, and in September 2016, the first group of Peace Corp volunteers arrived in Myanmar. The country became the 141st in the world to host Peace Corps programs. After an initial assessment of the country, education was selected to be the first project in Myanmar.
The inaugural Peace Corps program in Myanmar came as US engagement with the once isolated Southeast Asian country was beginning to make headway. The establishment of the program was a strong indication of growing ties and an enduring relationship between the two countries. Since the beginning of Myanmar’s reform process and opening in 2010, the US has been engaging with the newly reformed government. President Obama visited Myanmar in 2012 and 2014, further fostering relations and engagement between the two countries.
Myanmar Ambassador to the US Aung Lynn stressed the importance of inter-cultural relations in his welcoming speech to the new group of volunteers in Washington, DC. “You are representing the ordinary people of your country to the ordinary people of my country; that is why your mission is very important." Peace Corps country director Maura Fulton said that the program will continue to focus on English education for the next few years and hopes to expand into other sectors in the future.
Khun Nyan Min Htet is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington and an undergraduate student at Centre College.