Adventist School in Myanmar Expands Reach, Offers Holistic Education to Diverse Communities

Southern Asia-Pacific Division

Adventist School in Myanmar Expands Reach, Offers Holistic Education to Diverse Communities

Yangon Adventist Seminary continues its near-50-year commitment to not only providing quality education but also promoting community service and character development

Myanmar | Edward Rodriguez

Amid a mostly non-Christian environment, a glimmer of hope appears in Myanmar as a Seventh-day Adventist school sets out on a path to share Jesus’ love with the community. This school’s small beginnings have grown into a powerful force in society, sharing the Gospel of truth and faith. Its dedication to Christian education and principles has provided opportunities for families to accept Jesus and see the difference He can make in their children's lives. As an example of how education can cultivate love and hope in the face of adversity, this school shines a light on a country where such things may be hard to come by.

The Myanmar Union Mission has owned and operated the Yangon Adventist Seminary (YAS), a Christian institution, since 1975. This institution serves as a testament to Myanmar's ongoing commitment to education. Situated in Bahan Township, Yangon, the school's roots trace back to the 1950s, when it was known as Miss Gifford School, named after Miss Lockie Gifford, a dedicated missionary teacher from the United States.

At present, the school serves a student body of nearly 1,200, with over 80 percent of them coming from Buddhist backgrounds. Parents who have chosen to enroll their children in the institution often liken it to a second home for them. They view YAS as a nurturing environment conducive to holistic learning. These parents value not only the academic development fostered here but also the emphasis placed on character building and cultivating meaningful relationships with others.

“I wanted my children to learn more about God, and I was planning to send them to Sunday school to study the Bible, but I heard that YAS offers moral subjects where they can learn more about Christ. That’s why I chose YAS as the best school for my children,” said Ciin Suan Piang, a father of students at YAS. “Moreover, I had heard feedback while enrolling my children in the school that the YAS teachers’ quality and performance are really high. As a church worker, I had looked for a school that offered Bible subjects, was good at teaching, and had affordable fees. It was surely a path shown by God to enroll my children in YAS, and I never regretted it.”

Sonia Shine, the current principal of YAS, emphasizes that the school's mission extends beyond academics. She envisions a dynamic environment where students, parents, and faculty are interconnected, cultivating not only academic growth but also character development. Through strong, encouraging connections, the school aims to cultivate a supportive community conducive to holistic learning experiences.

"Our students don't just absorb knowledge within classroom walls; they actively engage with the community, gaining invaluable experiences in helping others and creating positive change," Shine emphasized.

The School’s Beginnings

In the challenging landscape of the 1960s, church mission schools faced nationalization, compelling Adventist children to attend state-run institutions across Myanmar. However, the clash between educational requirements and religious beliefs posed challenges as students were obligated to attend school and sit for examinations on Saturdays, conflicting with the Sabbath observance of Seventh-day Adventists. Faced with the dilemma of compromising faith or education, church leaders resolved to provide an alternative solution.

In response, the Park Lane Junior Bible Seminary emerged on June 9, 1975, offering a school for Seventh-day Adventist children to pursue their education in alignment with their religious convictions. Initially operated under the leadership of the Yangon Attached District, the seminary underwent a significant transition in 2013.

On November 29, 2013, during a pivotal church business session, a landmark decision was made, marking a new chapter in the seminary's history. The assembly voted to transfer administrative oversight to the Myanmar Union Mission, reflecting a strategic shift in governance and management.

With this change, YAS continues to uphold its mission of providing quality education intertwined with spiritual growth, nurturing future leaders grounded in faith and knowledge. As it stands today, YAS remains a beacon of hope and opportunity, shaping the lives of students within the dynamic landscape of Myanmar's educational sphere.

Developing Through the Years

As a testament to growth and dedication, Yangon Adventist Seminary has undergone significant transformations since its humble beginnings. Founded in 1975 with just 14 students, most of which were children of church workers and lay members, the seminary has evolved into a thriving educational institution.

Initially housed in a single basement room, YAS took its first step towards expansion in 1978 with the construction of a 24-by-36-foot wooden building. Under the leadership of Yee Yee Shwe, the school's inaugural principal, this new space accommodated students up to grade 9. A pivotal moment came in 1996, when the institution was renamed Yangon Adventist Seminary.

An Avenue for Adventist Education

As enrollment steadily increased, necessitating more space and higher grade levels, plans were set in motion for a larger facility. In 2000, a two-story brick building capable of accommodating 150 students was erected. This marked a turning point as non-Adventist parents began recognizing the value of Adventist education, leading to a surge in enrollment.

By the 2017–2018 academic year, YAS welcomed a student population exceeding 630, with 28 percent being Adventist and 72 percent being non-Adventist. Recognizing the opportunity for mission and outreach, church leaders embarked on a monumental project to construct a six-story building. With funding from various sources, including a 13th Sabbath offering from the General Conference (GC) and support from the Southern Asia-Pacific Division (SSD) and the Myanmar Union Mission (MYUM), the new building was completed on June 5, 2018.

Today and Beyond

Yangon Adventist Seminary stands as a beacon of education and faith, with 1,093 students and 51 dedicated teachers. A striking 83 percent of the student body comes from non-adventist backgrounds, representing a diverse array of religious affiliations, including Methodist, Anglican, Baptist, Buddhist, and Islamic faiths. Remarkably, 54 students have been baptized in the past five years, underscoring the spiritual impact of the institution.

With a commitment to excellence in education and spiritual development, YAS has achieved accreditation from the Accrediting Association of Seventh-day Adventist Schools, Colleges, and Universities (AAA) in Maryland, United States.

In a significant milestone, the construction of new staff housing, dedicated in October 2022, serves as a testament to Yangon Adventist Seminary's continued growth and commitment to nurturing both its students and staff. As YAS continues to evolve and expand its reach, it remains steadfast in its mission to impart knowledge and share the love of God with young minds, embodying the principles of faith, education, and service.

The original version of this story was posted on the Southern Asia-Pacific Division website.