Pursing aspirations of becoming an accountant, Khin Moh Moh from Myanmar decided to study AAT to help realise her professional dreams, by opening up new pathways to education.
As her Southeast Asian homeland continues to open up to the global business community after decades of international isolation, Khin is one of a wave of young professionals seeking the modern, portable qualifications that will open the door to new opportunities.
AAT qualifications are still in their infancy in Myanmar, having been introduced just two years ago, but Khin was quick to seize the chance to educate herself through levels one to three to achieve her ambition of becoming a senior accountant in an international company.
“When I was successful in AAT[Advanced Diploma], I gained confidence in myself to take future steps, she said.” “My dream is to become a successful business woman.”
Planning your future
Khin has already mapped out the path she would like to take.
“Before I work in my own practice, I want to have a good career like a senior or chief accountant in a foreign company. If I get a chance, I want to work in the UK,” Khin added. “I think AAT will help me to achieve my dream.”
Khin comes from Kalay in upper Myanmar, where her family runs a business selling petroleum, but she now lives in a hostel in the capital, Yangon, to continue her studies.
She admits that studying for the new qualification in a foreign language has had its challenges.
“Accounting techniques were easy for me, but Ethics and Management Accounting were not. I practiced assiduously and my teacher gave me support,” she said.
Studying in English required a lot of perseverance, added Khin. “I follow my teacher’s advice. He makes me read English business journals and magazines so I am good at reading,” she said.
“Now I’m learning how to write accounting management reports. My advice to others is that practice is the best way to learn. They should read many books, take an English class and do homework.”
Making personal sacrifices for an education
Choosing to study AAT has also required personal sacrifice as Khin rarely manages to see her family. “The biggest part of living in Yangon alone is that I am apart from my family. I usually go back to my hometown once a year,” she said, adding that her family have been supportive of her career ambitions.
Now she works as an AAT tutor herself, helping her friends with their studies. “This is my first step after finishing AAT [Advanced Diploma],” she said. Khin believes the AAT qualifications will in future become a popular choice for Myanmar students.
The potential of Myanmar
For many years Myanmar’s military junta operated under severe international sanctions, but with the advent of democratic elections in 2015 that brought Aung San Suu Kyi to power, foreign companies were quick to see the potential of the country of 53 million and are starting to reinvest.
Domestically it is rapidly becoming a tourist magnet, allowing the country to build up its infrastructure through hotels, business centres and shopping malls.
But with that change comes the need to modernise and reform its commercial sectors, including in the field of accountancy, where previously the state played a large role and accountants did not have easy access to international developments in professional standards.
Entering the modern business era with AAT
AAT has been at the forefront of assisting students and entrepreneurs to update their qualifications to an international level, and to enter the modern business era.
“We currently have over 500 learners in Myanmar alone who are currently going for their AAT qualification,” said Justin Kyriakou, AAT’s international Development Manager.
AAT first entered Myanmar about two years ago following a discussion with an entrepreneurial local training provider who thought it was the ideal time to set up shop there.
“The qualifications being taken by the local Burmese were not sufficient for the market. So not knowing Myanmar that well we decided to work with that provider and see how he got on, monitor his progress and support him as much as we could,” explained Kyriakou.
“It became very quickly apparent that he was being very successful and there appeared to be a real appetite for the AAT qualification[s],” he added.
Meeting the needs of the people
The appeal lay in the qualification’s ability to provide people with the skills they were specifically looking for.
“Also because of the computer-based testing model of AAT, it meant that local Burmese who wanted to take assessments weren’t having to sit down and write three hour papers, they were just being tested on technical competences. It was suited very well to the Burmese market,” said Kyriakou.
The pricing of the qualifications has been adjusted to reflect the still relatively low incomes in Myanmar and, anecdotally, Kyriakou has noticed that the vast majority of students so far are female school leavers, with the remainder being employees who want to upskill and get a formal qualification.
Despite the challenges of doing the course in English, students welcomed the opportunity to have a foreign qualification, he said.
“Some of them want to experience working abroad, some of them want to increase the skill sets within the Myanmar population so that they can trade internationally. The UK, English-language qualification for finance sits very well within the country.”
Internet coverage can also be a problem outside of the main urban centres, but Kyriakou sees a huge chance for growth in Myanmar.
“What we have found is, when we’ve been on the ground, the Burmese we are working with are very keen to do the qualification,” he said. “We have been able to quickly build trusting relationships in Myanmar and as a result things have moved quickly.”
Nicola Smith has spent a decade reporting for The Sunday Times on both the European Union and South Asia.