Gov’t pledges to remove racist poem from third-grade civics classes

Myanmar classroom via WikiCommons

You remember that terrible, horrible, no good, very racist poem in a third-grade textbook? The one we wrote about back in December that unabashedly stated they “hate mixed blood”? The Ministry of Education is removing the poem from their curriculum after meeting with civil society members on Tuesday, RFA Burmese is reporting.  

It marks a rare step from the education ministry, which admitted that they overlooked the poem in question, and said they welcomed suggestions from the civil society leaders who had brought the poem to their attention.

During the meeting, officials from the ministry acknowledged the poem had slipped under their radar during reforms, and that they would replace it with materials that promoted “peace and social stability,” according to RFA Burmese.

The issue was brought to the ministry’s attention late last year when more than 150 civil society organizations submitted an open letter, protesting what they called discriminatory language in public elementary school curriculum.

The letter, also addressed to State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and President U Win Myint, said the groups were “deeply troubled by discriminatory language in your curriculum that can be interpreted as divisive and oppressive against different ethnicities and religions.”

“It is an attempt to indoctrinate the innocent minds of children with discriminatory practices,” they wrote, before calling on the ministry to reassess its curriculum and include lessons promoting non-discrimination among religions, races and ethnicities.

But the poem in question is just the tip of the iceberg, according to a recent Frontier feature on discriminatory material in the country’s civics education curriculum.

Other poems similar to the “mixed blood” poem exist, and continue to be taught to children around the country, including a poem titled “Patriotic Sentiment,” which highlights the importance of “loving one’s race, serving the country, being obedient to elders, and following the five precepts of Buddhism.”

Attempts to contact the Ministry of Education for comment this morning were unsuccessful.

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