Myanmar daughter follows in father’s footsteps

Aung Naing Oo with her ELTO Alumni father, Ohnmar Aung Naing Oo.
Aung Naing Oo with her ELTO Alumni father, Ohnmar Aung Naing Oo.

When Ohnmar Aung Naing Oo (known as Cheryl) from Myanmar graduated from Victoria University of Wellington in December it was a dream come true for her father, who also studied at Victoria.

Aung Naing Oo (known as Oo), who is a government official in Myanmar, was part of Victoria’s English Language Training for Officials (ELTO) programme from 2002–3. He says he was impressed with the quality of the teaching on the programme, as well as the safety of Wellington city and the stunning New Zealand landscape.
“I really wanted my daughter to experience study at Victoria as well,” says Oo, who travelled to New Zealand with his wife and younger daughter to see Cheryl cross the stage at graduation.
Cheryl studied international business and management at Victoria Business School full-time for three years, starting off with a Foundation Studies year. “I made most of my friends in the Foundation programme,” she says. “It was really great to work with students from other faculties and share knowledge.”
She says her studies in New Zealand have prepared her well for a career in international business. She plans to complete a paper in business law in Myanmar next year, to familiarise herself with local law, before seeking work.   
Myanmar’s tertiary system is quite different to New Zealand, says Oo. All universities are run by the government, although recently a law has been passed that will allow Myanmar universities to be set up as autonomous institutions, enabling them to collaborate with foreign universities for the first time.
“Reading is emphasised at university in Myanmar, but there are less opportunities for innovation and individual thinking,” he says.
Cheryl agrees: “Back in my country we have to do exactly what the teacher says but here when I did projects I could explore my emotions and own thoughts.”
Oo says his fluency in English increased considerably on the ELTO programme and as a result he was promoted to a position that involves working internationally. He is now Director-General of Myanmar’s Directorate of Investment and Company Administration, in charge of the Myanmar government’s increased drive to attract foreign investment.
“I was really fortunate to come to New Zealand—it really helped my career a lot. English has become a big part of my job.”
Story originally published on the Victoria University of Wellington website, New Zealand, 26 January 2015