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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Myanmar Students Seeking Higher Education in the United States: Illuminating Meaning in Stories of Lived Experience
by Harcourt, Charles, M.A., Prescott College, 2018, 150; 10816594
Abstract (Summary)

This research aimed to understand, explore, and find meaning in the participants’ experiences with the phenomenon of overcoming adversity to pursue higher education. The structure and methodology employed in this qualitative research endeavor were guided by hermeneutic phenomenology. Data collection was conducted over the course of five weeks with partner organizations in the cities of Yangon and Mandalay in Myanmar. Interviews were conducted with Myanmar students who were in the process of seeking higher education in the U.S. Observation and informal interviews with professional staff were also important data collection methods that were used to build an understanding of the situational context for the participants’ experiences. The analysis procedure followed a phenomenological reduction procedure and sought to illuminate the essence of the phenomenon by producing narrative descriptions of the participants’ experiences, as well as identifying and reflecting upon shared experiences among the participant group.

The topic of this research had particularly timely importance because Myanmar’s government and society were going through a period of significant transition, moving from decades of military rule to a parliamentary republic. This research examined ways in which this change and other situational factors impacted students’ abilities to access higher education abroad. This study also addressed a gap in the existing research, specifically the need for qualitative research concerning Myanmar students’ experiences in education and access to higher education abroad. The research approached this need by collecting and sharing the voices of individuals who had direct, personal experience with the changes and challenges in the education system and access to higher education in Myanmar.

The findings of this study indicated that Myanmar students experienced systemic adversity and individual challenges that negatively impacted their access to opportunities for higher education abroad. For the participants, these challenges began at the primary education level and followed them through the college application and enrollment process. For many of the students, the instructional methods and curriculum content they experienced in local primary and secondary schools was inadequate and left them ill-prepared for higher education abroad. For the participants in this study, their educational aspirations led them to seek additional advising and support to help them reach their goals in higher education. Despite finding help from advisors and educators, it was clear that these students were struggling in a flawed system, which included many barriers that impeded students’ access to higher education abroad. For most of the students, their families were unable to pay the full cost of tuition for college in the U.S., so they needed to apply for scholarships or to colleges that provide need-based assistance to international students. The international reaction to violence in their home country and the election of U.S. President Trump added to the students’ feelings of anxiety in an already complicated process. Despite the individual challenges and systemic adversity that they faced, the student participants maintained a sense of hope for themselves and their country. They believed that they would each be able to continue to overcome the difficulties they faced and be able to achieve their dreams of studying at a U.S. college or university. They also knew that if they could better their own lives with higher education, then they would be in a position to have a greater positive impact on the lives of others and the situation in their home country of Myanmar.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Affolter, Emily, Sharp, Lloyd
Commitee: Chandler, Janet
School: Prescott College
Department: Education
School Location: United States -- Arizona
Source: MAI 57/05M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: International Relations, Higher education
Keywords: Burma, Hermeneutic phenomenology, Myanmar, Student recruitment
Publication Number: 10816594
ISBN: 978-0-355-95816-4
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