My piece on ASEAN Student Magz
Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as a regional organization is embarking on upgrading its grouping to a whole new level by forming ASEAN Community 2015, an attempt to remove all remaining borders between nations and create a single society. This integration consists of three pillars: ASEAN Political-Security Community (APSC), ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), and ASEAN Sosio-Cultural Community (ASCC) which each has different specific goals but collectively aim to improve the lives of its citizens and strengthen ASEAN’s position in global affairs.
“As the clock ticks towards the ASEAN Community 2015, much of our efforts for the period under review has been focused on implementing regional commitments across all three pillars of the ASEAN Community,” said H.E. Le Luong Minh, Secretary-General of ASEAN. “Conscious of the need to accelerate efforts towards achieving the ASEAN Community in less than three years, it is critical that all stakeholders in ASEAN come together and join hands towards this endeavor.”
As a people-oriented community, active participation of ASEAN citizens plays an important role in reaching the goals of integration. This active participation can only be fully realized if the citizens are aware and understand the richness of ASEAN’s history, languages, culture and common values. This is a great challenge to the ASEAN Community to further create programs on how to address this issue through education. Education lies at the core of ASEAN’s development process, creating a knowledge-based society and contributing to the enhancement of ASEAN competitiveness.
“We are facing unprecedented challenges, brought by the convergent impacts of globalization, the increasing importance of knowledge as a principal driver of growth and the ICT revolution. Education is considered very important and strategic for developing ASEAN human resources. The right to education imposes an obligation upon countries to ensure that all children and citizens have opportunities to meet their basic learning needs. Promoting Quality and Equity in Education is a common policy for countries in Southeast Asia region regardless of their different levels of development,” said Dr. Mohammad Naim Yaakub, Director General of Colombo Plan Staff College for Technician Education.
For ASEAN countries, much work needs to be done in education and skills development, technological readiness and innovation. Gaps in the quality of education, compounded by low gross tertiary enrollment rates of less that 50 percent, remain a major stumbling block. Besides Singapore, none ranks among the top 50 globally in technological readiness. Except for Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, innovation is likewise weak for the rest of ASEAN.
According to Asian Development Bank (ADB) Report 2012, ADB also allocate funding supported the core sectors for the development of Southeast Asian Nations. But, from $3.7 billion funding, only 5% goes to education. This is a relatively small amount compared to another sector, such as infrastructure (54%) and finance sector development (9%).
Leaders at the 7th East Asia Summit (EAS) on 20 November 2012 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, expressed their strong commitment to further strengthen human resource development in the region and follow it up with 7th ASEAN Education Ministers Meeting on 4 July 2012 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.
According to Annual Report ASEAN 2012, as a follow up of the endorsement of the ASEAN Five-Year Work Plan on Education (2011-2015), the education sector in ASEAN has implemented a number of initiatives covering four strategic priorities: (i) raising ASEAN awareness among the ASEAN citizens particularly the youths; (ii) promoting education access and quality particularly for those living in under privileged and marginalized areas; (iii) promoting greater people-to-people connectivity through scholarships and student-faculty exchanges; and (iv) increasing the competitiveness of the region and its people. These initiatives are being pursued through the ASEAN University Network (AUN), in collaboration with the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO), development agencies, civil society organizations and the private sector.
“I think it’s very important that we improve our higher education quality in order to ensure the quality of our graduates,” said Nantana Gajaseni, executive director of the ASEAN University Network (AUN), which includes 26 universities from the 10 countries. “Among the AUN universities we have the core values of working together for the benefit of the whole region.”
Despite all the initiatives, ASEAN still have a long way to fully implement its integration. ASEAN countries are rich in culture, diverse in language and religion but state to have one common goal, to be united as one. To fully realize this goal, not only the leaders but also all stakeholders in ASEAN need to pay more attention to education.
Unlike any other writing in this blog, the purpose of this one is to inform. So yeah, it’s not a soliloquy.