Dreams University: Empowering the Future of Myanmar’s Rakhine State

Dreams University: Empowering the Future of Myanmar’s Rakhine State

by Genevieve Ding

Myanmar is a country well positioned for rapid growth and development given its abundant natural resources, young labour force, and strategic position as the nexus of China, India, and South East Asia, in the world’s fastest growing region. By investing in human capital and knowledge infrastructure networks, it has high potential to leverage its rich endowments for growth that is socially inclusive, economically resilient, and environmentally sustainable.

“For decades, Burma has suffered from a poor education system and, once the pride of South East Asia, we have now fallen behind all our neighbours. We want to change the situation to give our people pride in themselves and, to do that, we need to strengthen our education system. We need to produce vigorous young people who are capable of meeting the challenges that our country will have to face in the future.”–Aung San Suu Kyi, 2013

According to the Asian Development Bank, human capital development is fundamental to Myanmar’s transition towards a knowledge-based economy, and tertiary and vocational education will play a key role in accelerating the country’s socioeconomic transformation. The potential of investing in education in Myanmar goes beyond economic recovery. UNICEF believes that equitable and effective educational opportunities contribute to peacebuilding and is a catalyst for social mobility and community cohesion.

To empower the people of Myanmar to achieve their dreams of a better future, the Asia Philanthropy Circle is developing an integrated and inclusive higher education model in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, in collaboration with the government of Myanmar, non-government organisations, and the private sector. The innovative education model­––named Dreams University to reflect its investment in the dreams of the next generation­–– is an inclusive, hybrid, and multi-location university that combines high quality tertiary education and vocational training to  develop skilled graduates with leadership capabilities to take on responsible careers and contribute towards strengthening community development and inclusiveness in Myanmar.

As a source of intellectual, social, and economic vibrancy, education institutions create shared spaces of intercultural and interclass interaction that encourage innovation and incubate new ideas for socioeconomic transformation. It is the belief of Dreams University that initiatives that invest in human capacity and livelihood development has the power to bring the community together, to envision and work towards a shared future. Therefore, the aspiration of Dreams University is to be a higher institution of academic excellence that enables students from Rakhine State and Myanmar to access inclusive and quality education opportunities that integrate academic learning with vocational training and skills application.

Dreams university will feature a central campus in Rakhine State and numerous field campuses throughout Myanmar. To offer an individualised education experience, it will offer varying levels of degrees and certificates upon completion of tiered academic and vocational training modules. Students will also have the option to gain hands-on working experience through industry and field placements to prepare them for immediate employment or further learning upon completion of education.

To reflect its commitment to community ownership, Dreams University’s programmes will be co-designed with community stakeholders to represent the vision of the people of Myanmar and actualise their aspirations for themselves and their country. In particular, Dreams University will work with the government of Myanmar, local industry leaders, and internationally-recognised academic institutions to develop academic and vocational programmes that upskill the workforce to build the capacity of Myanmar’s core industries. The university has engaged with civil society organisations that are strongly embedded in local communities and actively involved in livelihood development programs to harness existing local resources and expertise into an integrated eco-system of support for students.

Ultimately, Dreams University seeks to strengthen the capacity of the young people in Myanmar to catalyse change in their communities and act as key bridges across ethnic, income, and age groups. Towards this goal, the university’s teaching pedagogy will be guided by values of ethical leadership. Specifically, its curriculum will encourage students to clarify their personal values and transform those values into action through coursework, student-driven projects, industry-based initiatives, and community service. 

By nurturing values of ethical leadership, social inclusion and appreciation of diversity through the local cultural understanding of the people of Myanmar, Dreams University strives to be the pride of Myanmar that incubates strategic and transformative ideas to catalyst sustainable socioeconomic growth for Myanmar.