In its first major educational reform in almost 20 years, Myanmar has introduced a new curriculum for first-grade students developed with Japanese assistance.

With the support of the Japan International Cooperation Agency, Myanmar's Education Ministry has produced textbooks based on the new curriculum for distribution to nearly 1.3 million first-graders in the academic year that began June 1.

JICA said it contributed technical assistance in drawing up the new curriculum through its Curriculum Reform at the Primary Level of Basic Education, or CREATE program.

To support reform of Myanmar's education system, JICA started the CREATE project in May 2014 to develop new textbooks in all subjects in the first through fifth grades.

Government-assigned curriculum development teams came up with the new primary education curriculum under the guidance of around 40 Japanese academics and more than 60 local education experts.

The new curriculum comprises nine subjects: arithmetic, science, social studies, music and art, morals and civics, English, physical education, life skills and the study of Myanmar's official language.

According to JICA, the new textbooks are designed to help students make independent observations, improve communications skills, and stimulate the spirit of curiosity and the fun of learning.

The government of the National League for Democracy has declared that education is one of its policy priorities, stressing reform staring with the elementary level and planning to promote universal education.

As promised in the party's election manifesto pledging greater investment in education, the NLD government increased this year's budget for the education sector by 8.4 percent to 1.76 trillion kyat ($1.3 billion) from 1.5 trillion kyat last year.

NLD leader and State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, founded the NLD Education Network in 2012 after her release from house arrest. The network has established more than 200 free schools throughout the country.