Adventist School in Myanmar Offers Education to Diverse Communities

The institution in Yangon is expanding its reach in a mostly non-Christian environment.

Edward Rodriguez, Southern Asia-Pacific Division, and Adventist Review
Adventist School in Myanmar Offers Education to Diverse Communities
Yangon Adventist Seminary’s newest building, inaugurated in 2018. [Photo: Southern Asia-Pacific Division]

Amid a mostly non-Christian environment, a Seventh-day Adventist school in Myanmar is on a path to share hope and love with the community, regional church leaders said.

From Yangon Adventist Seminary’s small beginnings, it has grown into a powerful force in society, sharing the gospel of truth and faith, leaders reported. “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,” they said. “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 of the Seventh-day Adventist Church (MYUM) has owned and run YAS since 2013. Its roots trace back to the 1950s, however, 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 1,199, with only 17 percent Adventist students and 83 percent coming from other faiths. Parents who have chosen to enroll their children in the institution often liken it to a second home for their offspring. “They view YAS as a nurturing environment conducive to wholistic learning,” leaders explained. These parents value not only the academic development fostered here but also the emphasis placed on character building and cultivating meaningful relationships with others, they said.

“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,” Ciin Suan Piang, a YAS student father, commented. “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,” Piang added.

Current YAS principal Sonia Shine emphasized that the school’s mission extends beyond mere teaching. She envisions a dynamic environment where students, parents, and faculty are interconnected, cultivating not only academic growth but also character development. Through encouraging strong connections, the school aims to cultivate a supportive community conducive to wholistic learning experiences, she explained.

“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.

School 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 commandment of the Bible. 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 when the assembly voted to transfer administrative oversight to MYUM.

YAS through the Years

Through the years, YAS experienced steady growth. 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 of other faiths. 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 Adventist world church and support from the Southern Asia-Pacific Division (SSD) and MYUM, the new building was completed on June 5, 2018.

Today and Beyond

Currently, most YAS students represent a diverse array of religious affiliations, including Methodist, Anglican, Baptist, Buddhist, and Islamic faiths. Remarkably, 54 students have been baptized into the Adventist Church in the past five years.

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 YAS’s continued growth and commitment to nurturing both its students and staff, regional church leaders shared. “As Yangon Adventist Seminary 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,” they said.

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

Edward Rodriguez, Southern Asia-Pacific Division, and Adventist Review