Since I was about 5 years old, I was sent to primary school as every parent did to every child. Every student in Myanmar has to study the same six subjects: Myanmar, English, Mathematics, Geography, History and Science, before starting High School. High school students choose one of 2 tracks upon entering high school: science or arts. All high school students take Myanmar, English, and Mathematics. However, Science-specialized students also take 3 additional subjects: Chemistry, Physics and Biology as part of their coursework, while arts-specialized students take Geography, History and Economics.
In 2009 to 2011, right after the Nargis Cyclone in 2008, there was only one high school, which was actually not a government recognized school at that time; in the village named Chaung Wa which is about one hour walk far away from my village. As it wasn’t a government recognized school, the village committee had to recruit the freelance teachers from nearby cities to teach the students in that high school. Therefore, there were only two choices of choosing subjects for students; whether to choose Biology or Economics along with Myanmar, English, Mathematics, Chemistry and Physics. There were only five teachers recruited by village committee in that high school, but none of them could teach Biology. So everyone had to pick Economy except one student who picked Biology because his sister could teach him Biology at home.
As the education system is to learn everything by heart and is focused on passing the exam, neither subjects nor teachers could help me realize and understand what I wanted to study next in university. Luckily I was one of only six students who passed the high school exam although there were about 70 students in total. Choosing the major subject in University is relatively based on the marks that students got in the high school exam. I couldn’t even memorize what major subjects I put in priority list when I applied for the university. But it was certain that I didn’t have plenty of choice. That, in my opinion, is one of the biggest problems for the young people in Myanmar; not knowing what to do or study. Most of everyone has to follow the system which makes everyone’s hearts disable.
I was totally unfamiliar with picking up the classes before I came to IPC. Students in IPC have to develop their own schedule by picking up classes they would like to take throughout the whole first eight weeks of the Term. They can then alter their schedules halfway through and pick new classes for the rest 10 weeks of the Term. Every student must reach a minimum of 28 lessons a week. Students can pick and choose between a wide range of classes like arts, sports, self-development, political science, gender studies, etc. Students might be interested in academic learning and therefore they can pick the classes like Development Management, Political Philosophy, Conflict Resolution, Global Challenges, Environmental Studies, Gender and Sexuality, “International Relations, Politics and Organizations” and etc. If they are interested in music, there are classes for them like Band Playing, Choir and 100 Years Music Revolution. There are still more interesting classes to me such as Movie Making, Photography, Mind the Heart, World Storytelling etc. There are several classes left to mention and you can go explore here https://ipc.dk/frontpage/global-studies/classes/ .
At the beginning of the Autumn Term 2018, on the 20th August 2018, there was a class fair conducted by the teachers in the big hall. There were total eight stalls in the big hall and two teachers at each stall with their own prepared documents about their classes. There was another one stall in the class room 3 for Choir and Danish classes. Students in their own contact groups had to go around the stalls and listen to the teachers explaining what they are going to teach in the class. Some students questioned to teachers about their concerns to classes. I was really stressed out after listening to the teachers. All the classes seemed intriguing to me as teachers elucidated them passionately. (After a few weeks, I realized that teachers at IPC are really passionate about their subjects, who have inspired me to think of my life career).
It was the biggest challenge for students which ones to eliminate because they cannot pick every class they want. The classes they want to pick could be in the same time. For instance, if they want to pick Global Challenges and Photography, they have to eliminate one of them because they are run in the same time. The school provides a web link to students in order to choose classes and develop a schedule themselves. Students can put three priority classes which are important to them, and add other additional classes that they want to be in. Teachers then have to make adjustment between limited minimum and maximum number of students in each class. If there are students less than the minimum numbers that should be in a class, then this class cannot run for this term. It is unfortunate but is necessary to ensure efficient teaching.
I have already made a lot of stressful decisions to come to IPC. Furthermore, I still had to make challenging decisions at IPC. I didn’t have a clue about most of classes before the class fair. It was really challenging, but on the other hand, it helped me a lot in decision making skill. It helped me to find my interests and to figure out what might be important to me. It taught me to take responsibility for the decisions I make.
There are no exams, no fixed curriculum and no mandatory classes in International People’s College, except morning fellowships. This is the system in which I was totally unfamiliar with before, is carried out in IPC. It shocked me indeed, but on top of that, it helped me be decisive and find myself. I would say that IPC is a place where you can pursue your passions and aspirations.