Foundations of criticality: applications of traditional monastic pedagogy in Myanmar

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It is well documented in scholarship that standardized, non-secularised monastic examinations in Myanmar have resulted in an education system that focuses on rote learning. Through a multidisciplinary study of monastic education in Myanmar and modern educational theories, this article investigates how Burmese monks and nuns study Buddhist texts in formal monastic curricula and what pedagogical and learning approaches are applied in their study of Buddhist texts. I shall give particular attention to the process of acquiring expert knowledge through the use of mnemonic techniques. This article demonstrates that the textual expertise developed through memorisation and detailed study of both canonical and exegetical Buddhist texts in fact provides a basis for criticality, i.e. a practice encompassing analytical skills, logical thinking skills and the ability to think anew. In order to explore the Burmese pedagogical and learning approaches, I shall discuss the significance of scriptural learning within the socio-political climate of Myanmar and pedagogical philosophy of teaching monasteries and nunneries. Along the way, I shall point out, albeit only briefly, some differences between teaching and learning approaches used in Higher Education in the UK and those of monastic teaching institutions of Myanmar.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)401-427
Number of pages27
JournalContemporary Buddhism: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 12 Oct 2015


  • critical thinking
  • Higher education
  • monastic education
  • mnemonic device
  • liberal democracy


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