- Retired Rector Dr Aung Aung Min
What is Research?
One of the characteristics of research is to find new ways and means for betterment of humankind after making systematic investigation into and study of the past. Logical thinking is a part of research. Buddha’s teachings also point out the logical thinking. The point is that logical and systematic search for new and useful information is the essence of research. The first and foremost objective of every research is to increase the stock of knowledge and the second is to present the cause and effect. These objectives cannot be separated from one another. Education is the main vessel of a country so do research centers in universities and colleges. Only academic affairs cannot bring achievement, but harmonization between academic affairs and research leads to excellence.
Research Works Became Obsolescent
Before Myanmar gaining her independence under British colonial rule, there was a research association in the country called Burma Research Society. It was founded by J S Furnivall who valued Myanmar’s education, and Myanmar scholars. Research papers published in the Journal of Burma Research Society were great because the research works focused on numerous fields from various points of view. It was a pride of Myanmar and scholars in the international community had to refer to it.
Unfortunately, it was abolished in 1962 under Revolutionary Council under the pretext of the society being founded by foreigners. This led to ending of the publication of the journal and research works also came to a halt. But in 1966, faculties in university led the publication of Pyannya Padethar journal published by the Directorate of University Education. It was published in both arts and science disciplines. The journal brought the research work to some extent. It was also came to a halt due to misunderstanding on Sayargyi Min Thu Wun who led the university translation and publication department. Thenceforth, the department was relegated.
Research Paper Reading Sessions Prohibited
Things went from bad to worse in the education sector. Myanmar Research Congress Paper Reading Sessions were held yearly since 1966 in the university campus. The author of this article was encouraged by the sounds of these research paper reading sessions. Linguistic and cultural papers were also read in the session in addition to science and arts papers. But this was suspended in 1980 and Myanmar research paper reading session came to an end. Disappearance of research platforms in universities and colleges is the great loss for the country.
Quantitative or Qualitative Research?
During the successive governments over 50 years of period, the future of the education sector dimmed and the research platform disappeared. Under the education ministry, there emerged hundreds of universities and colleges in states and divisions which focused mainly on academic teaching. The saying that goes “The monastery is great but with people on empty stomachs” became true as the universities and colleges are not up to the international standard. If you make universities count across Myanmar, you will find just one research center in Yangon University. This center depends mainly on a very limited fund resulting in delaying in progress. More needs to be done for meeting international standard. Effective and efficient research works cannot be carried out due to various needs such as unstandardized labs although there were laboratories, lack of equipment, power outage, lack of skilled lab assistants, lack of fulltime research, teachers are lack of interest in research and so on.
The oldest universities in the country like Yangon and Mandalay universities produced doctorates and master degree holder who have done their research works mainly focusing on a very simple and easy subjects. Some research works differ only in specimen but the theme and approach are the same. When we were students at the master classes in 1970s, our professors were mostly doctorate degree holders who got their degree at universities abroad. They were experienced and learned persons. The number of candidate students is too small that we could do different research works. We had to spend at least four to five years on our qualifying exam and thesis. After 1988, the quality of education became low and Master degrees were conferred on those who did not write their thesis and also there emerged doctorate degree holders who have done their papers just in six months or a year. Therefore it is not strange to see that many are doctorate degree holders. Some research papers are the same as they choose the same subject leading to quantity but lack of quality. Such titular research works create no good research platforms. Other reasons why teachers are not interested in research works are that they are loaded with teaching and other duties, weakness in providing cash and kind to research fields and just focusing on promotion.
What is Good Research Environment?
Universities need a good teaching and research environment. First, freedom of education is a must meaning freedom of thought, freedom of expression and freedom of act or freedom of choice. Philosopher Bertrand Russel said that development of knowledge depends on freedom of thought. There are many needs for emergence of good research environment. To fulfil these needs we need to take at least a decade.
As far as I am concerned, every university is equipped with labs of international standard with full equipment, IT and computer departments, e-library filled with books, papers and references, enough funds for short- and long-term research works. They also need research societies and clubs for the respective subjects, 24-hour- power-supply, cooperation among universities in the country in research works, cooperation with universities abroad, win-win cooperation with domestic business companies, creating opportunities of further studies for faculty members and students, annual paper reading sessions and workshops on research, publishing research journals and handsome awards for excellent researcher and teachers. If these happened there will be a good research environment in the country.
Guidance on Research
At the education development implementation symposium, the State Counsellor requested the scholars to do research on matters which are in conformity with the country. She pointed out the needs of materials for doing research and also said the involvement of private business sector for the material needs. Regarding research work in developed countries, she said, tycoons contribute much to research. She exhorted them to get such contributions. She concluded saying that laying foundation of struggling for better future of the country is crucial for the higher education. Her suggestion is worthy of note.
For Research Development
Due to closed door policy since 1962, Yangon and other universities were isolated from other global universities and institutions. But now, it is encouraged to see that under the democratic government, MoUs have been signed between the government and international research institutions and universities to enhance research cooperation. Excellent teachers should be sent abroad for further studies. They should also be sent to attend research conferences, workshops and trainings. Post-graduate students should also be sent abroad as scholars to do research work. Undergrad Students Exchange Programmes should be implemented among ASEAN countries.
The most important thing is teachers and students in every university should be crazy about research. A researcher needs perseverance, tenacity, and real sense of commitments to the job. Applied research which can meet the requirements of businessmen will surely attract them who will make investment in research work. Cooperation between the government and the private sector is essential for research development. We cannot solely rely on government. We need to follow the example of universities which become autonomous universities in the world. The government should encourage universities to do research independently and become autonomous ones.
Creating good research environment in the country will surely bring about applied research work benefitting the nation and its citizens. This will surely produce excellent researchers. Only when research works in universities develop, will the national interest be promoted.
Translated By Wallace