Minmahaw has earned a very high reputation for, among other things, producing ‘good speakers of English’. Our opinion, shared by experienced teachers, is that Minmahaw probably doesn’t produce better ‘English’ but does encourage and support student’s high levels of confidence and well developed skills in ‘thinking.’
Engaging students through activities, group work, oral presentations, etc. is the underpinning classroom management strategy. Have fun when learning! This is new, exciting and highly motivational to students from repressive backgrounds.
The Minmahaw English program has only 5 – 10% focus on structure/formalities although it is integrated on a student/class needs basis throughout all subjects.
During 2012 a Summer School Program was established – many students use it as a preparation for the Minmahaw School Entrance Exam. Students also attend from other border/migrant schools to experience a program based on a ‘contemporary/international/western’ delivery model – an approach that is not common in Burmese or Migrant Border schools. Others attend to experience an English Immersion approach to help them with future studies.
The current summer of 2016, Minmahaw received in excess of 200 applications from Migrant Schools, Migrant Border Organisations and individuals from both sides of the border for what was 70 places to be offered.
Summer School is a 10 – 12 week program between mid March and late May. The exact dates are determined to meet the overall structure of schools in the area (Approximately 20 of those attending Summer School come straight from Myanmar with very little English (some literally only a few words). This group were the only ones living in the Minmahaw Dormitories, which helped lighten the financial impact on the school this summer. All others are ‘day students’ during Summer School.
The Academic Year begins in June and ends mid March and is based on 3 Terms. (2016/17 dates attached). The 2016/17 Academic Year will cater for 52 students.
Lessons start at 8.00 am and the day finishes at 3.50 pm. There is Night Study from 7.00 pm until 9.30 pm – 5 nights a week, Sunday through Thursday. Night study is compulsory for students – optional for teachers and is considered part of the school day.
Students study English, a Vocational Studies, Social Studies or General Studies, Maths, and General Science. The emphasis in the latter 2 subjects is to ‘understand’ rather than facts and formulae. The number of hours in each depends upon which ‘stream’ the student is in, and the availability of teachers.
In 2016/17 all students will also attend lessons in Burma Issues (taught in Burmese), Computing (Word, Excel), Fine Arts and Public Health and First Aid. All lessons are based on 1 hour and 20 minutes. Through the Youth Connect Organisation students in the Teacher Education Program will have a Life Skills Program taught.
Underpinning all subjects is that all teaching reflects ‘International best practice style’. I refer to it as ‘contemporary /experiential education ‘and along with English, our main aim is to develop thinking skills and confidence – ‘Minmahaw will teach you how to learn.’
Most of our students do not speak Thai, and so have one lesson a week in conversational Thai.
The curriculum, (more a Course of Study based around texts) is set at the level after the Burmese Compulsory School Age.
The reality for Minmahaw School is that the majority of our volunteers do not have any teacher training and are short term; hence the courses are based around a text.