State Counsellor holds round table literature talk with youths in Mandalay

State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and youths hold the literature talk at the Mandalay University yesterday. Photo: MNA
State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and youths hold the literature talk at the Mandalay University yesterday. Photo: MNA

State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi held a round table literature talk with youths in Mandalay University convocation hall yesterday morning.
The round table literature talk was attended by Union Ministers Lt-Gen Ye Aung, Dr. Pe Myint, Thura U Aung Ko, Dr. Myint Htwe and Dr. Myo Thein Gyi, Mandalay Region Chief Minister Dr. Zaw Myint Maung, Region Hluttaw Speaker U Aung Kyaw Oo, Region Chief Judge, Deputy Ministers U Min Thu, Maj-Gen Aung Thu and U Win Maw Tun, region ministers, departmental heads, students from universities and colleges and youths from youth organisations.
At the round table literature talk, State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said, “Holding literature talk is the value of literature. Why people love literature? Why people who love literature love it? We want to know the benefit to ourselves as well as others from loving literature. We also want to speak about how engrossing in literature give us happiness.”
As we have quite a number of people, we can allow a person only 3 minutes. 3 minutes is very short but this is a good training for all. We can differentiate between the main and minor things that we want to say. Say the most important thing you want to say in this 3 minute. Although giving only 3 minute might not be satisfactory, all need to understand sharing time (and giving opportunities for others to say).
There is also another practical requirement in limiting the time. Of course it would be fun to talk the whole day but this would be a bit difficult. So we limit the time so that everyone will have the chance to say something.
Earlier during our democracy movement, I think it was in Myaungmya, where I limit the time to speak and one said it is his /her democratic right to talk as long as he/she want. I ask what about the right of others to talk? If you talk for an hour, no one would be able to say anything more. In matter involving many, we need to look at the majority too.
I don’t know what the students participating in this round table talk had prepared. I want to know their love toward literature. Why they love literature. Loving literature in fact is to love books. Without books, there wouldn’t be literature. What benefit do you gain from it? I’m not talking about physical benefits but more on mental benefits. What sort of satisfaction is obtained?
I want to know how we can make boys more interested in education, school education and university education. Girls listen to what they are told and when asked to learn by heart, they learn it. So they get more marks in examination. I’m worried for the boys.
The number of boy not finishing high school is rising.
This is not good for our country. If they don’t want to get a university education, at least get a vocational education. In fact I want to encourage this more. It might be a bit harsh to encourage vocational education in a university environment. But I’m encouraging vocational education because of our country’s requirements as well as the entire world’s requirement. This is the current trend.
University education has practical use as well as not having practical use. For example, I’m very much interested in history. But we should not produce many history teachers only. Even history teachers wouldn’t be able to answer the question of how history could support your livelihood. As such I want to encourage vocational training schools that are practically required for our country economically, socially and politically.
At the same time, I want to upgrade the university education. Research in university education is very weak in this country. I want to encourage in this side. I want equal numbers of men and women in universities. But now there are more women than men.
I would at least be relieved if more men are then attending vocational training. But this is not the case and I’m worried for youngsters who drop out of schools. Where do they end up? In the teashop or did they move on to liquor houses? I don’t want them lost in this way as this would be a loss for our country too. They also lose their livelihoods too.
So, within the allotted three minutes, I want all to say these things without holding back.

P6Maung Kaung Myat Htat, Second Year (Korea) Mandalay Foreign Language University
I like to read since I was young and through story books and cartoon, I took up the habit of reading. Later, with the support of mother, I participated in essay and poem writing contests and become an avid reader.
I read Sayagyi Mya Than Tint’s book “Crossing over mountain of swords and sea of fires.” That book was a good book that changed by thoughts. It shows the strength and determination of youth, values of teenagers and problems between elders and teenagers, how those problems are solved. From reading such books, I come to love literature she said.

Ma Khin Yadana Tun, Fourth Year (Electronic) Mandalay Institute of Technology
I like novels better than technical books. I read since I was young. I enjoy reading books about a time, a system and human natures.
Ma Cho Cho Nyein Tha, Third Year, Mandalay University of Medical Technology
I read since I was young. I used to read in preparation to participate in essay writing and debate competitions. After matriculation, I obtain the thought of the requirement to read books. The first book I read was Saya Chit Oo Nyo book based on Ramayana. After reading that book, I saw the different view point put up by Saya Chit Oo Nyo on the old epic Ramayana. When I was 18 years old, I read Ju’s books and obtained the mental strengths a girl should have. I want to study whether it is better to think with your brain or your heart.
Ma Janet, Second Year honors (International Relations) Yadanabon University
I start reading only after grade ten when a library was opened in my school. Later, I read political books.

Maung Nyein Ko Lwin, Apprentice doctor, Dental University
I think novels are more preferable to be read than political books. Through novels, we feel how others felt. Writing essays is also good for youngsters as it develops their creativity.

Maung Soe Pyae, Third Year honors (International Relations) Yadanabon University
I like reading because it changes my whole life. I’m from a small village in Pakokku District. The village had a small library with cartoons and novels. It was not full of books but there were enough to read. My father passed away in 2008 and I read more after this. The book that I like was Saya Mya Than Tint’s book (same book mentioned by Maung Kaung Myat Htat). Whenever I encounter difficulties, I read that book again and go forward in my life. Sayagyi wrote that book based on his experience and I obtain much thought on how to go forward in my life and I came to like reading books more and more.

Maung Sai Pant Naw Sai, Second Year, Mandalay Computer University
Much knowledge and skills are obtained from reading books. Books also provide motivation to carry on with life. I read informative books. Much skills and knowledge are required in a country and those can be obtained from books.
I’m also interested in poems and had written some. Nowadays schools are asking students to memorize poems. I think this will not help in getting the real taste of a poem.

Ma Su Myat Wadi Aung, Fourth Year (English) Mandalay Foreign Language University
I read novels more. Reading Ma Sandar’s book “life dream” completely changed my thought. I read about the loneliness of a father after his daughter went abroad and felt it myself. Only novels can bring about these feelings. I understand the loneliness of the elderlies and this changed my life. I started to value and appreciate people beside me. My thoughts and views were changed by a novel.
Ma Hsaung Mon Mon Ko, electronic engineer, Mandalay Institute of Technology
Mother bought me cartoons since I was young and I got the habit of reading. I really like books and I always have a book with me. Whenever I’m free, I read a book. When I become older, I read biographies. I learn about many people from their biographies and learn lessons from them. I think reading nourishes your heart as well as exercises your brain.

Ma Nandar La Min Aye, computer science engineer, Myanmar Information Technology University
When young during high school time, many boys were bright and did well in school works. But when they are in university they change. It looks like their parents lost control. Majority of the boys, 8 out of 10, spend their times in gaming shops. They play games without eating and sleeping and missed out in the university education.
Their high thoughts and brightness were lost. If they spend more time in libraries, it would be better for them. I think gaming shops should be taxed highly to control this.

Ma Pa Pa Lin, Third Year Pharmaceutical Science, Pharmaceutical University
A person dies if his heart stop or his brain is dead. To prolong life, novels are to be read for the heart and informative books are to be read for the brain. If rule of law control and reduce crime, novels make a people never to do evil. For a country to be peaceful, novels play an important role.

P7Ma Pan Su Pyae Ein, specialize in political science, Mandalay University
Sayagyi Paragu’s ‘Vesali’ wrote about religion. Vesali was a democratic country where people govern themselves. As the governance system of Vesali was very good, a stronger nation was never able to subdue it. I read and remember vividly about this good political system.

Ma Phyo Phyo Thandar Lwin, Master second year (music) national culture and arts university
I obtain the habit of reading by reading cartoons and bedside stories before sleeping. Reading makes the reader’s mind to become peaceful. If everyone read and their minds are peaceful, peace would be within reach.
Maung Lin Htat Lwin, Final Part 2, University of Medicine
I didn’t start reading after I learn to read. But I read when I wanted to know something or feel something. As our family say something, we want to know about it more and start reading about it.

Maung Win Thiha, Third Year, Nursing University
I’m a student from a village in Magway Region. Because it was a village, books were scarce. But I read every novels that were within my reach. At nine and ten standards I start reading poems. From then on, I’m reading poems avidly. I want to discuss about including so called “modern” poems in the poem lessons and books. I don’t mean to exclude traditional poems. I want present students to have present views as well.

Maung Thant Zin, English Major, Mandalay University
From reading a short story by Saya Tet Toe, I learnt about viewing matters from all angles and sides. Much thought need to be put after reading a book in order to truly understand its value and worth.

Ma Pa Pa Lin, First Year Pharmaceutical Science, Pharmaceutical University
A poem in six standard pushed me to read. Saya Chit Oo Nyo book on Ramayana completely changed my views. Saya Pe Myint’s sentence in a book to try the best again despite failing many time bring forth in me strengths.

Maung Aung Khant Zaw, computer engineer, Mandalay Institute of Technology
I feel that the author passed on his/her feelings to the reader in a novel. Writers fill the gap between the time when a subject was written and when it was read by a reader. It is for this that there should be history. Poem is very effective in presenting a subject. “Modern” poem should be taught in schools.

Maung Aung Myin Thu, Mandalay Degree College
I want to discuss why boys are weak compared to girls nowadays. It is because boys are wasting time on games. Another thing is parents forcing their sons and daughters on rote learning instead of supporting their offspring in what they are interested in or are good at.

Maung Aung Myint Myat, electrical engineer, Mandalay Institute of Technology
Youngsters nowadays watching cartoons from Youtube shows parents are not giving enough time for their children. When we were young, we spend times on books so reading was not strange for us. Another thing is not to force youngsters into competition or to learn a subject without their wishes. This doesn’t encourage reading. In our institute, there are more than 3,000 students and the library is only 50 by 35 ft. So instead of cramming into it, most waste time on games.

State Counsellor’s response to the students’ discussions
There are many famous people in the world that had said their lives change after reading a book. Many famous writers’ writings affect the world crossing beyond their culture and their country’s border.
“Lingadipa lover” (Chit Oo Nyo’s book) gave a different view of someone considered as a villain in the Ramayana story. Reading such book widen your view and scope. This is what books show.
Science usually has a single answer. From a scientific point of view, it is thought that there is only a single answer. But I say this repeatedly. There is no single answer in both social and politics. There can be two to three answers.
In life, we have to choose a road and that road is chosen because we think it is the best. And after choosing it, we have to walk along it to reach our destination or success. But if there is no success and think the road is wrong, we must have the courage to change our direction. This is where novels provide the support.
A good novel tells more about politics than a political book. Politics is about people, relation and their mindsets. Without understanding people and their relationships, we could not be successful in politics. Politics is based on people. If a country’s politic is not based on its people, it wouldn’t be good for the country. That is why in politics, we need to read always. That is why I say read a novel. Reading novels makes you understand people’s relations and feelings. Another thing is it teaches you to write better.
The more you read good writings, the better you can write. You wouldn’t be able to write well by studying a mathematic book. I hope the era of memorizing an essay and re-writing is over. Essays should be written on your own. In order to do this, you need to read more. One told of his/her interest in reading only after passing grade ten. This is because there aren’t enough libraries for children in our country. You go to a book shop only when you can buy it.
But everyone can go to a library. Everyone can lend a book there. If there are such libraries, many will acquire the habit of reading good books since they are young.
That is why Daw Khin Kyi Foundation is working together with Ministry of Information to instill in youngster the reading habit. Even in a single family where all had equal opportunities to read, some read and some didn’t. This is something that couldn’t be forced. Some are interested in novels. Some are not interested and they wouldn’t read it even if their parents entice or force them to. But opportunities should be created. And this is where government and public sector should support. Only then can there be more libraries.
Writing an essay by memorizing it should never happen. An essay is your thought and ideas. Teachers themselves need to change here. They themselves grew up in a rote learning culture so they ask their students to do the same.
Teachers themselves need to put in the effort. But we shouldn’t blame them too. An education system includes both teachers and students. Teachers were once students and when they were students, the do learning by-heart, than they consider students to be good if they learn things by-heart. If not, they consider the students to be disobedient or a rebel.
That is why the education system needs to be changed. To change or reform it is quite difficult and it couldn’t be done overnight. The quality of the teachers needs to be raised. The mindset of the student needs to be raised. So too are the parents. For our thoughts to be better, teachers need to be good. System need to be good. Teachers and parents need to support it. When we start doing these changes, it is interesting to find that parents are not as eager or prefer the new system compared to the children (students). Students like it because there is less pressure on them. So parents need to participate enthusiastically in this change. Parents also should not consider it as an honor for their children to achieve high marks. Think more about an education that is beneficial and of value to their children. That is why reading is to be encouraged. Help the children so that they can obtain good books. Teachers can also help in this.
Essay writing should be done on your own. Asking to write an essay throughout a student life is for the teacher to gauge the student’s progress. Not to compete for the scores. Examinations are also the same. We are establishing our education system in this way. Students, parents and teachers all need to participate.
Ju’s books are more about relation between man and woman. Love should not create understanding. It is the other way round. Understanding comes first followed by love. It is impossible to love without understanding. How can you love someone without understanding about that someone?
In the same way, when we strive for peace, we speak first about understanding and respect. If there is understanding and love, there’ll be love. Without the first two, love wouldn’t be for long.
Mya Than Tint translate a lot of books. This is very important for our country. Sarpay Beikman (translation society) was founded by Prime Minister U Nu who earlier established the Nagani (Red Dragon) Book Club during the fight for independence. Nagani Book Club encouraged translation of books because this brings new and fresh ideas over people reading their own books written by their own people. I also would like to encourage this in the same way.
Book reading should be balanced. It shouldn’t be novels only or non-fictions only. In the digital age, there can be a slight reduction in reading because internet search could bring whatever you want to know quickly and directly instead of reading many books before the digital age.
We don’t want to say fiction or non-fiction is better. But for this roundtable talk, we emphasize more on fiction. This is the arrangement I made with Saya U Pe Myint.
I don’t think it is totally wrong to memorize a poem. If we really like a poem, we just remember it. For example, we memorize a lot of poems and we forgot a lot. But we simply don’t forget the poems that we like.
That is why we want to encourage poems. A single poem can sometime provide thoughts and lessons provided by a huge book. However, we must have the ability to seek out and read such poems.
Novels are sometime outlets. Novels written during the socialist era show a glimpse of life under socialism. At that time, writing isn’t free like now and censorship is very strict and tight. Still the writers of that time were able to reflect the social, economic and political situation.
Biographies include both a story of a person as well as his/her thoughts and views. Similar to biographies are history based novels. Some base on history accurately while some base on it lightly. Reading these give you some idea about history. Biography also tells not only about the person written about but also the person who wrote it. Much can be learnt from biographies.
Youngsters were attracted to games like alcoholics are addicted to liquors. Developed countries are considering this to be an addiction and treating it as such but it would be difficult for our country to do the same.
We thought a lot about how to handle gaming. Gaming is also some sort of business. We could not go against new fads and business easily. We shouldn’t prohibit a business without giving much thought about it.
Will higher taxation prevent gaming? Will it encourage more reading? We have to think through. Many are in the game stores because they never read. Those who read also don’t care about going to the game stores. So our government is discussing a lot about this.
As time and situation changes, so will the challenges change too. We all need to pitch in and play our respective parts.
In order to promote cooperation, we also need to encourage doing things together. More team playing, reciting poems in groups or playing music and singing songs together in a group need to be supported.
It is not good that our youngsters are spending all their time, going to school, attending tuitions and learning lessons with guides. They shouldn’t spend 24 hours a day on school lessons only. They should have opportunities and time to do things of interest for them too.
When people become cultured, they create music. Music and culture is connected. Culture is also connected to peace. Music tames a people’s mind.
We want to encourage group activities and team work for students through reading circles, students union and student groups starting from the time when they are young. Team work can be more effective than the work of a single person. There can be disagreement in a team or a group but it is resolved through discussion. That is why we want to encourage such group activities.
I agree with the fact that poems we are teaching in schools are not complete. Time will change and move on and so will poems too and reflect the time and changes of the time. Knowing poems throughout the history will make us know our history. From knowing our history and past we can make our present and future better.
Literature gave new thoughts and ideas. A person should not hold on to a single answer and instead seek out new answers that support other views. Novels gave us lesson in this.
Books are not widely or cheaply available in rural areas. That is why Daw Khin Kyi Foundation is conducting mobile library.
We are working with Minister for Information Saya U Pe Myint to expand libraries. Dr. Myo Thein Gyi is also working toward increasing libraries in schools and to have more complete books.
If students are not well acquainted with books when they are in school, they wouldn’t go sit and seek out knowledge in the college library.
Books need to be nearby the people in abundance. There should be libraries and bookshops. Every house must have a book shelf. There are many homes that do not have a single book shelf. Some don’t even think a bookshelf is something that is needed in a house. They thought books are something that you see in a school or to put in a school bag only.
We need to change this and make people more acquainted with books and literature. This is something that the government could do it alone. We need help from the private sector. And private sector should help too. Donate libraries. Donate books. I’d like to request this said the State Counsellor.
Afterwards, State Counsellor took commemorative group photo with students and youths who participated in the round table literature talk. — Myanmar News Agency

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