During the time of ancient kings, education was already seen as important. There were Buddhist monasteries in every corner of the country and most of these monasteries had schools attached. Children, especially boys, attended the traditional Buddhist monastic education system. In 1866, the British established an education centre in lower Burma and the monastic education system was transformed into classroom education.

In 1884 Rangoon College was established and was affiliated to Calcutta University in India. The University of Rangoon Act was passed by the Burma Legislative Council in September 1920 and the foundation of Rangoon University took place in December 1920. Then in June, 1925, Mandalay College was founded as an affiliated institution to the University of Rangoon. In 1947, it was upgraded to a degree college. The first teacher training school was established in Rangoon in the year 1876.

In 1922, the Department of Education was established at Rangoon University College and the diploma education course was introduced. In 1931, the Teachers’ Training College (TTC) was established as a constituent college of the college of the University of Rangoon. With the opening of the new college, the Diploma in Education classes was discontinued. Later in 1947, the first State Teachers’ Training College (S.T.T.C) was opened in Rangoon.

When Burma gained independence, new education plans were drawn up and since 1952, four - year education plans were implemented. Then for the general public to be able to read, write and calculate, basic training courses known by Ah Thone Lone were implemented. Faculties in Medicine, Engineering, Education, Law, Arts, Science, Agriculture, Social Sciences and Forestry were established with their respective training courses before 1962. Then after 1962 some of these faculties were transformed into separate universities.

Since 1971, four-year education plans have been laid down. Symposiums were held on the basic education sector and plans were drawn up for implementation. Then work on education research and a census on education was also carried out. The basic read, write and calculate training courses known by Ah Thone Lone began in the year 1964-1965.

In an attempt to raise the national educational level, a special four-year plan was implemented beginning from 2000-2001 to 2003-2004 financial year. Then again, a thirty-year national education plan starting from 2001-2002 till 2030-2031 financial year has been earmarked and five short-term planning periods have been implemented. (Reference: The Ministry of Education)

However recent history is riddled with ethnic and religious conflicts, human rights violations, abuse of the natural environment and the destruction of civil institutions. Isolated from the rest of the world for over five decades, the country has also suffered from lack of civil engagement and empowerment in leadership roles. The nation urgently needs capable leaders to help it rebuild. Myanmar’s people yearn for human rights, justice under the rule of law and integrity before the world. Education, social services and the economy have all suffered greatly. For decades education was not given importance; repeatedly a bare minimum was set aside for education in the national budget.

In November of 2015, the people of Myanmar elected the National League for Democracy whose leader, the Nobel Laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi, promised the new government would uphold the rule of law and promote human rights. Civil leadership is now a key component of the new national agenda, but potential leaders must be cultivated, educated, trained and supported.

To help address this need, the Myanmar Leadership Institute (MLI) was formed as the result of a cooperative agreement between the Catholic Archdiocese of Yangon and the Myanmar Jesuits. In 2014, Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, Archbishop of Yangon, asked the Jesuits to take responsibility for the design and implementation of the project. MLI held its first classes on 19 October 2018 and was officially inaugurated on 14 November 2018.