Saya Gyi U Ba Khin was born in Rangoon, the capital of Burma (now Myanmar), on March 6, 1899. He was the younger of two children in a family of modest means living in a working class district. Burma was ruled by Britain at the time, as it was until after the Second World War. Learning English was, therefore, very important; in fact, job advancement depended on having a good speaking knowledge of English.
Fortunately, an elderly man from a nearby factory assisted U Ba Khin in entering the Methodist Middle School at the age of eight. He proved a gifted student. He had the ability to commit his lessons to memory, learning his English grammar book by heart from cover to cover. He was first in every class and earned a middle school scholarship. A Burmese teacher helped him gain entrance to St. Paul’s Institution, where every year he was again at the head of his class.