The first Fulbright countries: Burma, China, Greece, and the Philippines

Did you know that the first four countries to have educational exchanges under the Fulbright Act of 1946 where Burma (now Myanmar), China, Greece, and the Philippines? While the bilateral agreement with China was signed before Burma’s, the first action under the Fulbright Act was with Burma. 

The realities of the narrowly defined Fulbright Act made it slow to get implemented. The requirements included 1) a signed bilateral agreement between the Secretary of State and the foreign government, 2) the managed sales of surplus military equipment in the country, 3) certification by the Department of the Treasury that the local currency was available, and 4) the establishment of a U.S. Educational Foundation in the foreign country. Under the terms of the Fulbright Act, no more than $1m in local currency may be used in one year in any one country, no more than $20m may be spent in one country, and the money may only support educational activities of individuals.

As of June 1948, there were agreements with the four countries:

  • China — signed November 10, 1947, for $20m (equivalent) over a 20yrs.
  • Burma — signed December 22, 1947, for $3m (equivalent) over a 15yrs, to be increased to $4m over 20yrs.
  • Philippines — signed March 23, 1948, for $2m (equivalent) over 10yrs.
  • Greece — signed April 23, 1948, for $2m (equivalent) over 5yrs, subject to renewal for up to $8m for 20yrs.

The Fulbright Act was not inclusive in nearly all aspects. Other funds, private and public were often necessary. One other public source was the Smith-Mundt Act, which often supplemented Fulbright scholarships. The Mundt program made U.S. Government dollars available for a wide range of activities, including but not limited to education (i.e. technology, agriculture, science, civil engineering, governance), did not require a bilateral agreement between governments, did not require the identification of local foundation, and did not have a per country cap.


Burma is once again an important country to foster exchanges. They need, and are eager, for the opportunities that exchanges can bring. This is for all kinds of programs, not just educational but professional and technical, related to media to civil engineering to governance to agriculture and more.