Kong Janoi, IMNA : The University of Foreign Languages in Yangon [Rangoon] (YUFL) plans to launch a new Thai language degree program during the 2010-2011 academic year.
An official from the University’s new Thai Language department told IMNA that implementing a new Thai language program is part of an expansion project for the university. She declined to give further comment.
Former UFL students who are currently pursuing further studies in Bangkok feel that increasing their proficiency in the Thai language will be beneficial for their future careers; many pointed to the thousands of Burmese students currently studying in Thailand and the millions of Burmese migrant workers who are employed in the country.
A UFL alumni, who is currently studying in Thailand, says the inclusion of Thai in the University’s curriculum provides a great opportunity to young people in Burma.
“Thailand is our neighboring country and its economy is growing. This is the University of Foreign Language so they [ the University] need to implement the courses that will attract students,” she said.
Another former student currently enrolled at a Thai University said the UFL is one of Burma’s most selective universities, after the University of Medicine; UFL programs are highly sought after by students who hope to find international employment.
Many, like the students interviewed above, applaud the addition of a Thai language program to universities in Burma as a step towards empowering Burma and Burmese citizens’ economic negotiations with Thailand. Others do not greet the news with complete optimism.
Dr Sean Turnell, associate professor in economics at Macquarie University in Sydney, and Burma economic expert, cautioned IMNA that audiences must consider the larger nature of economic relations between the two countries, and take care not to overplay the actual power that proficient Thai will give Burma or Burmese citizens:
“In and of itself, this decision to teach Thai is a good thing. Burma will, and must, always have a close economic relationship with Thailand, and such teaching should only help Burma get the most out of this relationship.”
“However, there is a problem at the degree of imbalance in the economic relationship between the two countries at the moment, which is probably the source of why some might be uncomfortable at news like this. Put simply, Burma is little more than a quarry and source of unfinished raw materials for Thailand and other countries…”
The three-year bachelor degree programs at Burma’s two universities of foreign languages, located in Rangoon and Mandalay respectively, already offer English, French, Chinese, German, Japanese, Korean and Russian language courses. Thai will only at present be offered at the Rangoon-based site. This week’s edition of Burma’s Weekly-Eleven journal reported that entrance depends on university entrance exam scores, with top students earning places in the ultra-competitive English program. The journal also reported that admission to the new Thai program may demand high marks as well.