Nayaka is a Buddhist monk living in Myanmar. He was deeply concerned that his country would never be able to sustain democracy because a large section of the population lacked access to basic education. So in 1993 he set up a monastic school to educate poor children, monks and nuns regardless of race, gender, ethnicity and religion, thus breaking the tradition that monastic schools normally serve only monks and male students.
Nayaka aims to reform religious education to produce well qualified teachers and educated students who can become leaders. At the same time he is a leading advocate for change from traditional rote memorization teaching to a child-centred approach, not just in monastic schools but across the entire education system. His goal is to provide well-trained teachers who will bring his approach especially to poor rural areas and the many conflict zones of Myanmar.
With support from international donors, he has built Phaung Daw Oo school in Mandalay which has an enrolment of over 8,000 students as well as a network of cooperating monastic schools across the country which are serving several thousand more students. The schools are staffed with young teachers trained in modern child-centred methods that encourage active learning and critical thinking, and a special focus is put on health and hygiene. In addition to standard academic and Buddhist studies, students are given the opportunity to learn English and develop professional skills in carpentry, tailoring, IT, culinary arts and journalism.
Nayaka’s work has been acknowledged by several awards, including the Order of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar President’s State Excellence Award in 2013. In 2003 he was invited by the US Department of State to consult on Education in Burma. In 2008 he also was invited to consult at the United Nations in New York.
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