The Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO) convened around 450 education stakeholders from within and outside the region during its Third Education Congress on 21-22 October 2014 held in Bangkok, Thailand to formulate recommendations towards reshaping and rethinking education, science and culture for Southeast Asia regional integration.
In collaboration with the British Council and the Institute for the Promotion of Teaching Science Education (IPST), the Congress brought together three Ministers of Education from Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Philippines, the Deputy Minister for Education of Myanmar, the Vice Minister of Education from Viet Nam, and international experts, policymakers, and practitioners in education to share their views and experiences on the theme “Southeast Asia in Transition: Re-thinking Education, Science, and Culture for Regional Integration” during plenary, concurrent, and parallel sessions.
The plenary sessions of the Congress specifically addressed the following topics: (1) Lessons and Opportunities of Regional Integration; (2) Education and HRD Strategies and Innovations for Regional Integration; (3) Science Innovations and Culture Development for the Region; (4) The Role of Education and Partnerships in Regional Integration; (5) Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) models; and (6) Equity, Inclusion and Learning. On the other hand, parallel sessions focused on three thematic tracks, namely: (1) policies, reforms and innovations (PRI); (2) innovative teaching and learning strategies (ITLS); and (3) cooperation, linkages and partnerships (CLP) with three cross-cutting sub-themes on re-shaping education to bridge skills gap; prospects and possibilities for enhancing science and technology education; and cultural knowledge and education for regional integration and development.
From the synthesis of the various sessions, the Congress surfaced the following key challenges and areas for opportunity towards reshaping and rethinking education, culture, and science for regional integration:
- Political and economic boundaries;
- Cultural and environmental diversity;
- Quality of education;
- Equitable access to education;
- Standardization versus harmonization;
- Global skills gap and lack of clarity in teaching 21st century skills;
- Translating policies into actions; and
- Increasing health concerns.
Thus, the Congress generated the following recommendations considering their applicability, adaptability, and evidence-based practices across countries in Southeast Asia:
- Improve governance and provision of more supportive enabling environment;
- Strengthen and establish effective links between and among formal, non-formal and informal education systems to better address educational needs;
- Contextualize education in existing social-cultural systems (embracing and celebrating cultural diversity; recognizing cultural heritage);
- Develop more productive teaching-learning designs and purposive matching of school curricula with labour market demands and for global citizenship;
- Support school leadership development among teachers and administrators;
- Accelerate multi-stakeholder collaboration and develop more strategic alliances;
- Maximize the use of ICT;
- Aggressively promote STEM and innovation for entrepreneurship in all education levels; and
- Continuous need for capacity building.
BIOTROP Director Prof. Dr. Bambang Purwantara and Deputy Director for Program Dr. Jess C. Fernandez were among the moderators during the Congress. Prof. Dr. Bambang facilitated the parallel session on Cooperation, Linkages, and Partnerships under the sub-theme Re-shaping Education to Bridge Skills Gap. On the other hand, Dr. Fernandez was tasked to integrate the key messages from the various sessions and draft the list of recommendations of the Congress that was presented during the session on Synergizing Education, Science, and Culture for Long-Term Development.