Aung Kyaw Swar: passionate educator, environmentalist and development practitioner
I passionately believe that education is the crucial area to nurture someone. Understanding on education varies from academic knowledge to the art of living life. I believe good education produces responsible citizens who can enhance peace and harmony within their own community by respecting others’ cultures, religions, identities, and natural environment while conserving and promoting his/her own.
EDUCATION AND VISION
Education is not only about one’s ability, but one’s mindset and skillset to live and enjoy a meaningful life. The responsibility of educating citizens, aside from the Government’s duty, is equally in the hands of teachers, students, and parents. In our school, both parents and teachers have different beliefs and mindsets about education, even in teaching methodology, based on their previous experiences that may be in contradiction to the direction we want to go. Some take the organization’s vision and mission very seriously while others do not.
My role is to minimize this gap and to convince them to believe in our vision and mission and participate together to achieve common goals. We want our students to be responsible, empathetic, self-aware, and respectful citizens knowing what they want and what they don’t want, what they are interested in and what they are not interested in. In addition, we want our students to know what they value of their own traditions and cultures and later on we promote academic excellence.
EDUCATION FOR CHANGE
As an educator, I am constantly motivated by my students. They – the kids of my own and from the community – are the main drivers behind this initiative, Inle Heritage Private School, because they will become the leaders of community or our Nation in the future. We have a great responsibility and that is why we invest in teachers’ capacity building including subject skills, pedagogy, child psychology as well as critical thinking to be in line with 21st century education goals. Only when teachers are good and qualified with the right mindset, we will achieve what our aim. Our students are indicators of what we do.
Our short-term priority is students’ behavioral change. This includes ways of communication with equal respect to teachers and friends, and responsible uses of public goods as if they are their own. We spend effort training our students to be mindful in their language to prevent body shaming, bullying, and other harmful practices. We also focus on building confidence in the students and inspiring them to respect the environment by learning how to reduce and properly discard waste. We put academic excellence in the second position after the behavior. By looking at their behavior, listening to the good feedback from parents and others, this makes us satisfied at our work.
ON DEBOER FELLOWSHIP
DeBoer Fellowship is one of the most meaningful events I encountered in my life. I share its vision – “a prosperous Myanmar led by competent, compassionate and ethical leaders.” Inspired by the DeBoer Fellowship, I continue to “Go Do Good” by training the teachers and students to become good fellow citizens and future DeBoer Fellows.
Knowing where the organization wants to go, knowing what you can or cannot do and knowing how to equip yourselves for achieving your goals are the three pillars of success for any young organization. Despite of the high aims of our school, we have very limited human and financial resources. Even with these limitations, we try to focus on these three areas and adapt as necessary when we encounter sudden changes or adjustments. We still have a long way to go, but we are determined to succeed.
CRISIS AND OPPORTUNITY
Regardless of whether we work in a big organization or a small one, we all encounter the moments of crisis. The only difference in crises is the variation of complexity and degree of seriousness. What matters is how we face these moments of crisis and how we manage to overcome them. We shall not forget that with crisis, opportunity comes.
Mindfulness plays an important role in dealing with crisis situations. This includes having an awareness of the nature of crisis, understanding the situation, analyzing well, and planning for the consequences to have minimal harmful effects. I believe there is always an opportunity in any situation, whether for an individual or an organization as a whole.
Due to the COVID-19 crisis, we had to close our school. However, we used that as an opportunity to work with our teachers and provide them with refresher training, something that we were not able to do during a normal school operation period. At the same time, we learned together what COVID-19 has been teaching us – changes in lifestyles, precautions we should take now and in the future in case of another pandemic like this.
Learning can take place in any situation. When facing a crisis, the one who learns from it will get stronger and wiser. But, those who do not learn from a crisis will tend to fail. We learn in life consciously or subconsciously. If mindfulness takes the lead in what we do, then we are already bound for success.
Aung Kyaw Swar is a ’14 DeBoer Fellow. He is the Director of Inle Heritage Private School and co-founder of Inle Heritage Foundation. He is active in the areas of environmental conservation, tourism business and rule of law and the sustainable development of Inle region. In addition to being a school director, he operates A Little Eco Lodge, A Little Tree House restaurant and A Little Loom Weaving businesses. Aung Kyaw Swar earned his Master’s in Environmental Engineering and Management from the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) in Thailand in 2006.
About DeBoer Fellowship
The DeBoer Fellowship develops change leaders across all sectors of Myanmar society. Through a multi-year training class and additional public programs, the DeBoer Fellowship serves Myanmar by helping to grow competent, compassionate, and ethical leaders. For more information about DeBoer Fellowship or to apply for the Fellowship, please visit: www.deboerfellowship.org.