OK : HMEE Section Two (3)

Translation” of Section 2
History of University Engineering Education in Burma/Myanmar

Third installment
by U Ohn Khine (M 70)

Magazines and Periodicals published by the Faculty of Engineering (1946 to 1964)

Engineering students as well as teaching staff expressed their knowledge on Science and technical subjects and also their philosophies and narrative skills by writing technical articles, poems and short stories in the periodicals and magazines published by the faculty.

By going through these articles, one could clearly see the reflection of the activities of the students and staff of our Faculty of Engineering (later Institute of Technology). It was also one of the main source of information for this brief history of engineering education.

There were not many publications during the 1940 to 1964 period. Only five issues could be found. “Engineering Student Journal” was the first to be published in 1940-41 academic year. A proper magazine came out in 1951-52 academic year named “Rangoon University Engineering Students’ Union Annual Magazine”.

RUESU formed a magazine committee at the students’ annual mass meeting to be able to publish an annual magazine. Chief editor was Ko Maung Maung Aye (2nd year), secretary was Ko Ohn Ghine (2nd year). Teaching staffs were named as consultants. Mr. Cutter Pearl acted as consultant editor. See Appendix B for the list of magazine committee members.

RUESU took care of everything from financial matters up to the printing of the magazine. Motto of the magazine was “to shape knowledge with our hands”, and the main objective of publishing the magazine was to be able for the students to achieve the talent of expressing the significant features of the subject(s) that they regarded as interesting.

The magazine was bi-lingual (Burmese and English) and had 168 pages. It was printed at “Aung Meit Set” printing house.

The annual magazine came out in 1952-53 academic year also. Chief Editor was Ko Maung Maung Lay (3rd year), secretary was Ko Kyaw Win (2nd year), and consultant editor was Mr. C. Ping Lee [father of Dr. Win Aung (M 620]. A contest for short story, poem and article was included in this magazine. It was bi-lingual and had 138 pages. It was printed at “Setkyarwalar (Universe)” printing house on Inya Road. See Appendix B for a list of committee members and winners of the contest.

In the foreword of the 1956-57 annual magazine, it was stated thus: “It was a sad thing that the annual magazine could not be published for three years after 1952-53 academic year. We had tried our utmost to overcome whatever difficulties we faced and finally we could hand the magazine to you”. To overcome the shortage of capital, advertisements had to be included in the magazine.

Ko Myo Aung was chairman of the magazine committee and Ko Kyaw hoe was chief editor and publisher. The consultant editors were U Maung Maung Gyi (later professor of Burmese department) and U Ngwe Thein (later lecturer of Engineering Geology of Mining department) for Burmese and English sections respectively. The magazine was bi-lingual and had 108 pages. Photos of the newly opened Engineering College on Prome Road were included in the magazine.

There were no annual magazines after 1956-57 academic year. Only in 1960-61 academic year, the magazine could be published again. Publisher was Ko Ne Tun and editor in chief was Tetkatho Moe War (U Moe Aung, Electrical Engineering department). U Kyaw Tun (Lecturer, Electrical department), and U Aung Khin (Lecturer, Mechanical department) were consultant editors. See appendix B for a list of members.

The magazine was printed at Myo Nyunt Press House. It was a bi-lingual with 160 pages. It was the last magazine published with the name of “Rangoon University Engineering Students’ Union Annual Magazine”. After the publishing of 1960-61 annual magazine, there were no magazines up till 1965.

Engineering Education around the 1950 period

To get a clear picture of the engineering education at the faculty of engineering, Rangoon University, excerpts from an article written by Dr. Aung Gyi is included. Dr. Aung Gyi was an Inter Science and Engineering student from 1948 to 1952. He served as Rector of Rangoon Institute of Technology from 1971 to 1978. The following are excerpts from his article.

“I was an engineering student and then became one of the teaching staff at a later date. I matriculated in 1949 and entered the University of Rangoon and stayed in Ava Hall and took what we called in those days the Intermediate of Sciences (I. Sc.) courses. The courses were: English, Burmese, Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics (pure and applied maths). We needed to take these courses for two years in order to go to the engineering studies. I remember having a great time in the first year as we did not have to take the examination at the end of the first year for some unknown reason. But we had to take the examination at the end of the second year for all the subject matters that were taught to us for the whole two years. It was a tough examination at the end of the second year as we had to study a lot. We had physics and chemistry examination papers, two mathematics papers, English and Burmese papers, physics lab practical exam and chemistry lab practical exam within a period of 15 to 20 days in the hot month of March. Only about 60% of the students passed through the first time. The passing grade for each subject was 40%. Fortunately the University authorities in those days were understanding and kind enough to give the failed students what they called compartmental examination again in May/June for the failed subjects. Given a second chance like that, a lot of students passed the examination this time around. The Faculty of Engineering admitted the students, including the students who passed the ISc exam under the compartmental system, with a passing grade of at least 40% for each of I. Sc. subjects and the average grade for all the subjects combined of 50%.

I was quite fortunate to have good teachers in my I. Sc. days. I remember that Saya U Than Tin gave good lectures in physics. Saya U Thein Nyunt was good as well in teaching us chemistry. Needless to say the experiments that I had to do in physics and chemistry labs were interesting as they were all new to me. The maths teachers I remember were Professor U Aung Hla, Sayagyi U Kar, Sayagyi U Ba Toke, two Indian lecturers with the same last name Chowdhury, I forgot their first names. One Chowdhury was bald headed and the other had a lot of hair. They were teaching, I think, under contract with the Rangoon University. These very good teachers, I had to say, gave me a good foundation in mathematics. The English teachers were very good too. They were Saya U Kan Gyi and Sayama E. Kan Gyi. The only Burmese teacher I remember was Saya U Hla Maung who could make a boring topic into an interesting lecture. I owe a lot of gratitude to these wonderful teachers.

I joined the first year engineering class in 1951-52 academic year, having satisfied the entrance requirements of the Faculty of Engineering mentioned above. The academic year, I think, was from June to February with about one month break in October. So far as I know there was a “new course engineering” at the Faculty of Engineering right after the World War II. I do not know what the entrance requirement for this new course was.

I stayed in Prome Hall like most of the other engineering students in those days, as it was situated close to the B.O.C. College of Engineering building where we had classrooms, laboratories and workshop for our engineering courses. A few engineering students however stayed in Tagaung Hall which was in the same Prome road campus of the Rangoon University as Prome Hall. Both of these hostels were timber buildings and they could easily get burnt down, but I was happy to see that they are still standing there when I last visited Yangon in 2010. These two Halls gave accommodations to all engineering students, even to some students from Rangoon at that time, as there were vacancies and as the total engineering student population was not that big. If my guess is correct, I think there were about 350 to 400 students for 4 years of all engineering disciplines, out of which there were about 75 first year engineering students. The system in place at that time was in such a way that the students had to take common courses in the first two years and branched out into different disciplines of choice, starting from 3rd year.

I remember that as first year engineering students, we still had to take mathematics classes from 7:00 am to 9:00 am at the main campus where we had taken the I. Sc. courses. I remember getting up early in the morning in Prome Hall, and taking a walk along the road what we called as “Padaukpin Lane” or “Thaton Lane”, and through Thaton Hall and Ava Hall, for the mathematics classes at the main campus. All of us then rushed back to B.O.C. College of Engineering from the main campus after 9:00 am to take the engineering classes, which included lectures, practical laboratory work, workshop practice, and drawing classes, starting from 10:00 am. We normally finished our classes around 4:00 pm. The total contact hours of learning for engineering students were about 30 hours per week. If my memory is correct, it was difficult to get an engineering degree in 6 years after matriculation. Somewhere along the way some of us failed for one reason or the other, and had to repeat a class. The passing grade for each subject, which included workshop training at the engineering faculty was 40% and the average passing grade for all the subjects combined was 50%. When I passed my 1st year engineering in April/May 1952, I noticed that about 15% of my classmates were left behind to repeat the 1st year engineering.

I do not remember all of my teachers at that time. I can only recall that Saya U Num Kok was in charge of 1st year engineering drawing, Saya Jaidka taught us “building materials and construction”. Saya Ketrapal gave lectures and practical laboratory training in “ heat engines”. Sayagyi U Kyaw Tun and/or Saya C. Ping Lee taught us “electrotechnology” in the classroom and in the laboratory. In addition to the lectures, laboratory work and drawing, all of us had to take workshop trainings in carpentry, blacksmith, welding and in machine shop. The medium of teaching was English. We were also encouraged to take some practical training with some engineering organization during the summer vacation. I am not quite sure, but I think Ko Chit was an assistant at the blacksmith shop, and U Ba Sein was an assistant in the electrical lab. I think Mr. P Davies was the workshop superintendent. The classrooms, laboratory facilities, the workshop facilities that I attended were good and adequate. The library I visited some time was full of engineering books, magazines and journals. I could imagine that with its qualified teaching staff and good teaching facilities, the Faculty of Engineering was producing the qualified engineers needed by the country at that time.

I do not know what the total number of teachers we had at the Faculty of Engineering at that time. I could guess that the student/teacher ratio was about 20:1 from the number teachers and from the number of students I had seen. I noticed that there were few Burmese nationals teaching staff at the Faculty, and most of the teachers were from India and UK. It seems that right after the World War II, there was shortage of qualified teaching staff from Burma at higher education/University level as a whole. Sayagyi Professor U Ba Hli was Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, and I believe he received his post graduate degree from a British University. He was quite far-sighted and tried to broaden and improve the engineering education by having some kind of twinning arrangements with not only a British University but also with Massachusetts Institute of Technology USA (M.I.T.). I remember as a student hat there was a visiting Professor called Professor Horwood from M.I.T. at the Faculty, and I think he gave us lectures on sanitary engineering. Sayagyi U Ba Hli must have planned to increase the number of engineering disciplines that were given at the Faculty from civil, mechanical and electrical engineering to other disciplines as well, such as Mining, Chemical, Metallurgy, Textile engineering and Architecture. I understood that this plan came into fruition in 1954/55. He must have also planned to send the Burmese nationals to UK, USA, and other countries for further training so that they could be appointed as qualified teaching staff at the Faculty at a later date. I therefore take this opportunity to put on record that a big credit is due to the late Sayagyi U Ba Hli for his contribution to the improvement of engineering education in Myanmar.

After attending the 2nd year engineering class from June 1952 to September 1952, I went straight to MIT on a state scholarship to continue my studies. Saya U Min Wun and I went together to MIT and joined the academic session, starting from September 1952. We met Dr. Freddie Ba Hli at MIT, who was already studying for his Ph.D in electronics or electrical engineering. He was one of the nicest and helpful persons that I have ever met in my life. He gave us briefings and guidance so that we were able to assimilate into the American education system and American way of life without any difficulty. He also helped with our home works when we had some difficulties in the beginning. I am forever grateful to him for his kind help. I am sure U Min Wun feels the same. Saya U Khin Aung Kyi, Saya U Sein Hlaing, U Percy Lao, U Win Htein, U Kyaw Min, Robin Aw, U Kyaw Thein, U Aung Kywe, U Aung Myint and U Sein Hla came to MIT for further studies at a later date. U Percy Lao later became Rangoon City Engineer (water and sanitation). U Win Htein who is an architect became a Rangoon City Building Engineer. The late U Kyaw Min became a free lance architect (and also taught part-time at the architecture department for some time). All these three professionals taught some time at RIT. I do not know what happened to Robin Aw. The late U Kyaw Thein was an engineer at the Construction Corporation and later became a lecturer at the Civil Engineering department at RIT. U Aung Kywe was a Director (water and sanitation) at the Construction Corporation. U Aung Myint became the Chief Architect at the Construction Corporation. U Sein Hla was an engineer at the Construction Corporation and later became the Registrar at RIT under Rector U Yone Moe. Later more batches of Burmese students came to MIT when I was no longer there. I am describing all these things to point out the fact that the standard of engineering education in Burma at that time was quite good. None of us had to go through the entrance examination to get into MIT. They trusted our grades and our education standard. Maybe the visiting Professor Horwood from MIT was quite impressed with the Faculty of Engineering and put a good word for us to the MIT admission authorities.

Now I would like to touch upon the extra-curricular activities of the students from 1949 to 1952 when I was one of the University students in Rangoon. As mentioned in the beginning, all the extra-curricular activities were in sports; in artistic and literary related activities; in activities of various students’ associations, societies and clubs according to their respective aims. Good and adequate facilities were available for these activities at the Rangoon University campus, except for swimming. But Inya Lake was available for the students for swimming and rowing. There were competitions in sports such as soccer, tennis, table tennis, badminton, basket ball, volley ball, track and field, swimming, rowing, boxing, weight-lifting, and body building (Mr. University). There was University soccer team which was quite good and competing nationally at Aung San stadium. There were annual dinners of various hostels with anyeints and concerts participated by outside professional artists. There were separate annual concerts, stage shows and anyeints by the talented students also. There were students’ magazines published every year with articles and poems by the students.

I will not go into details of all the various students’ associations, societies and clubs, as there were so many of them. But I would like to mention briefly about the hostel life, that I had experienced at that time. Every hostel had what we called social and reading club. There was an adequate room reserved for this club at the ground floor of the hostel. In general, newspapers, popular magazines, a chess board, a carom board and a table tennis were provided so that the hostel students could read, play chess, play carom board, and play table tennis and socialize to get to know each other well. Even without the social and reading club, all the hostel students ended up knowing each other well sooner or later, as they met each other almost everyday at the hostel and at the dining hall. The hostel students were in general well behaved. I hardly saw the Warden or Hall Tutors at Ava Hall and Prome Hall, as there were very few student problems which needed attention of the Warden or Hall Tutors.

Based upon my experience, I feel that these extra-curricular activities and hostel life gave the opportunities to the students to broaden the knowledge of the different parts of Myanmar; and they also created a better understanding of the different culture, food, habit, dresses, dialects etc. of the country. Most of the students developed life-long friendships through these activities which contributed to well-beings of these students throughout their lives. Sports activities also taught the students about hard work, cooperation, team work, competition, winning and losing. The extra activities also triggered, developed, and enhanced the hidden talents of some of the students. These activities therefore formed part of the University education of the students, in addition to the education that they received from the classrooms. Another benefit of these activities was the bonding and a better understanding, which developed between the students and the teachers who were involved in these activities”.

Editor’s notes:
With the support of Sayagyi U Ba Than and Saya U Thaw Kaung, Chief Librarian of the Rangoon University Central Library, Saya U Soe Paing compiled materials. Most articles and correspondences from the early periods were in English. Based on Saya U Soe Paing’s work, the editorial team headed by Saya U Aung Hla Tun, former Editor-in-chief of RIT Annual Magazines and also a National Literary Award winner, wrote the book in Myanmar/Burmese.
U Ohn Khine and I prepared the companion CD for the book. It included photos (too many to be incorporated into the book), bio of Sayas and sayamas, articles for the SPZPs, and excerpts from my Updates.

Categories: History

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