In order to achieve a goal, you must believe that the time and effort input is worth the outcome. From our experience in Myanmar, ambition is generally not valued as it threatens the social bond and group dynamic.
People go abroad to work but they often perform low paying labour which involves long hours and cramped conditions; they are not able to experience the country and the value of working and living abroad in any meaningful way. Going abroad is by the by, it is the earning of money which is the outcome. Self-study is not necessary because everyone chants together, and your destiny is pre-determined and fixed in the social order. Having been abroad to work doesn’t seem to add any value to your career prospects in the domestic economy and from what I can tell, people with more money have nicer things but they still don’t buy into the work / homelife distinction. It’s very blurry with the weather dictating when crops are planted, the village elder’s advice is sought at any hour of the day and a ritual performed at the temple might need to happen at 3 am in accordance with the Buddhist astrology traditions despite the supposed inconvenience that an outsider would see.
It seems to me as though the family pressure and the lack of long-term career goals and defined job roles contributes to the lack of motivation and the lack of motivation brings about the family pressure and ill-defined job roles where people leave their companies on a whim and neglect to undertake tasks while they are at work. We do have this in the western world of course. Families will have many generations of people who dislike school, are supported by benefits and don’t find any ways to improve their lot. However, it seems in Myanmar that this is the norm whereas in some other places it is a minority. Many people work their way to promotion in companies, take tests and achieve certification which is tangible proof of attainment. There is usually a specified path and while not all people achieve success in the same cookie cutter fashion, there are certain hoops through which everyone must jump. We have specified job roles within our companies and for most people, work is work and home life is a separate entity.
The lack of definition in home and work means a slackened attitude to cancelling class or to authority as the teacher is a friend and your cousin in many cases. I think that the drive to succeed at work is something which is lacking in Myanmar. People want wealth and they want objects which indicate wealth, but there is a gap in associating doing well at a job consistently and being rewarded with wealth. Wealth seems to be viewed as a reward for being an intrinsically successful person rather than working hard and doing well in a career. There is a lack of seriousness around professions, with most people having tried their hand at teaching, at fundraising for an NGO, at office work, working in a bank etc. People rarely tell us that they are a doctor; instead they studied medicine and then completed the above list of work.
NEH Director of Studies and Teacher Trainer
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