Methodist English School, Yangon (Rangoon), Myanmar (Burma)

General History of Methodist English School 

With it’s looming Victorian-style architecture, the Methodist English School has survived two World Wars and revolutionary government regimes in Myanmar. It  was originally known as the Methodist Episcopal Girls School where it was located on Lewis Street of Rangoon, Myanmar. Rangoon is now known as Yangon. 1

In the year of 1894, the school moved to where it stands today on Nawaday Road and Signal Pagoda Road. This educational institute was retitled yet again as the Methodist English Girls High School. Pre-World War II attendance was at 55 students. Post World War II, the school was closed for six years and finally began running in May of 1947. Former Principal Mrs. Logie led the renovation of the school building that had been desecrated due to the war. 2

Over the years between 1947-1951, the school population rose significantly to 850 students. It’s buildings blossomed to 15 classrooms, located across four stories in 1952. 3 Within that year, the school was yet again renamed the Methodist English High School. 4 Today there is an active facebook page and website for Methodist English High School Alumni. 5 6

April 14, 1965 was the year this educational institute was taken over by the government under the Department of Basic Education (Ministry of Education) and developed into a top ranking public school named Basic Education High School No. 1 Dagon, known by the local community as Dagon 1 High School. 7


The Jewish Experience at Methodist English School

A former alumni of Methodist English School, Seemah Saul Betz was one of the Jewish students attending this institute. Betz remembers being immersed in an advanced education system on par with Cambridge standards. This school prepared students for college and university exams and also the General Certificate of the Education exam under the University of London. 8 The environment also accommodated children from diverse nationalities including Japanese, Chinese, French and Russian. 9

The lower-class Jewish families sent their children to schools such as the Jewish English school due to the inexpensive tuition. The upper-class Baghdadi Jewish families sent their children to the Methodist English School. 10 Many of the Baghdadi families had settled in Rangoon during the 19th century as they were a part of the business interactions of the British trading systems. 11

Jewish students at Methodist English School were not required to attend their Christianity courses and in place of those courses, they studied nutrition. There were no classes being taught on Jewish education or Hebrew. Because of the absence of a Jewish education, Baghdadi families experienced the loss of the Judeo- Arabic language that they used for prayer. Despite the absence of Jewish cultural learning in school, the Baghdadi history and culture was passed onto younger generations through Jewish-Baghdadi community relations and inherited family keepsakes. 12

In 1941 during World War II, the Japanese occupied Myanmar. Because of their fear that the Jewish population would be sympathetic to the British, they persecuted the Jewish communities there. Rangoon, now known as Yangon has seen no resurgence of Jewish communities since then. The city of Rangoon was nearly emptied of its Jewish population. 13 After World War II, only around 500 Jews returned to the city, but many fled again after the 1962 military coup in Myanmar. 14 

Yangon (Rangoon), Myanmar

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