On May 16, 2015, Dr. U Than Oo was bestowed with an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa 104th Annual Commencement Ceremony. After earning his master’s degree from the College of Education (COE) in 1963, Oo would return to his home country of Myanmar to begin a remarkable career and become a renowned leader in education.
Born in Chaung-nar-dan village in what was then Burma, Oo endured many personal hardships while growing up in a highly political environment. He persevered through immense adversity, determined to continue his education in order to bring educational gains to the people of his country.
“I am proud and delighted to receive this great honor and truly pleased to be at the University of Hawaiʻi, which I regard as my alma mater, once again to attend the advanced degree ceremony,” Oo wrote in a thank you letter. In it, he pays tribute to the COE and the educational administration program which helped pave the way for his tenure in the field.
Among the impressive list of his early roles, Oo was the Assistant Administration Officer of Schools in the Directorate of Education, the Principal of the Pathein Teacher Training School, and the Assistant Education Research Officer at the Burma Education Research Bureau under the Ministry of Education. It was at the Research Bureau that his work in the field of language and literacy gained notoriety, leading to the Mass Literacy Movement in Myanmar.
From 1964 to 1988, the Mass Literacy Movement achieved a 78.6% literacy rate throughout the country, forever changing the way language would be taught in Myanmar. In 1977, Oo was named Director General of the Department of Basic Education in the Ministry of Education and later served as the head of the Myanmar Academy of Arts and Science within the Ministry of Education.
Oo closes his thank you letter, saying, “To have this prestigious highest award… is not my individual struggle or achievement, but the invaluable intellectual and professional contribution of my colleagues… from basic education to the higher education level. I sincerely wish to say that this award belongs to each and every one of the of the Myanmar Department of Education.”