Post-2015 education agenda in Southeast Asia tackled, three new collaborative projects endorsed
Vice ministers, permanent secretaries and high-level education officials from the Southeast Asian countries met on 18-20 February 2014 at the Royal Orchid Sheraton Hotel, Bangkok, Thailand for the 36th SEAMEO High Officials Meeting which discussed, among others, the education agenda in Southeast Asia after 2015 which marks the conclusion of the Education for All movement which has been the flagship education agenda globally for the past three decades. The SEAMEO High Officials Meeting also endorsed three projects which focus on Southeast Asia on the themes of pre-primary teacher development, intercultural dialogues, and learning metrics which were proposed by UNESCO and UNICEF to be implemented collaboratively with SEAMEO. The 36th SEAMEO High Officials Meeting also announced plans for the conduct of SEAMEO Congress in October 2014 and the commemoration of the organization’s 50th anniversary in March 2015.
H.E. Mr Chaturon Chaisaeng, Minister of Education of Thailand presided over the opening ceremony on 19 February 2014 and addressed over a hundred education officials and representatives from 17 countries and 28 international organizations and specialist institutions. The Minister of Education of Thailand recalled the awareness and commitment to Education For All (EFA) when it was launched in Thailand in 1990 and was re-affirmed 10 years after. He also cited that the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were adopted in 2000 as a global blueprint to fight poverty. He stated that those goals are interconnected and reaffirmed that education is fundamental to all kinds of development.
Moreover, the Minister of Education of Thailand shared Thailand’s commitment to both EFA and MDGs goals and cited Thailand’s role and participation in the collaborative projects to reach the unreached in education under the auspices of SEAMEO. He reaffirmed Thailand’s keen interest to work with SEAMEO and ASEAN towards raising the quality of education in Southeast Asia. “I have every confidence that, with the continued dedication and commitment of the SEAMEO High Officials, this meeting will achieve its objectives and complete the tasks assigned to it by the SEAMEO Council.", he said.
Mr Tran Ba Viet Dzung, Director General, International Cooperation Department, Ministry of Education and Training, Vietnam chaired the 36th SEAMEO High Officials Meeting. On his second year as chairperson of the SEAMEO High Officials Meeting, Mr Tran Ba Viet Dzung thanked the SEAMEO High Officials for their continued support to him and to Vietnam as leader of the meeting. He also stated that the meeting is an important platform in strengthening cooperation between SEAMEO Member Countries, particularly in tackling regional issues of mutual concern. The chairperson of the 36th SEAMEO High Officials Meeting was assisted by Dr Witaya Jeradechakul, Director, SEAMEO Secretariat in all the sessions. The meeting of SEAMEO High Officials consists of two key sessions namely in-camera or a closed session focusing on organizational matters and plenary or an open session which deliberates new regional initiatives and provides updates on ongoing ones.
Key agenda items deliberated on in plenary session include reports on Collaborative Projects to Reach the Unreached in Southeast Asia by Brunei Darussalam, Lao PDR, the Philippines and Thailand, update on the conduct of the Regional Study and Development of Post-2015 Education Scenarios and Post-EFA Agenda in Southeast Asia, SEAMEO Congress, recent UNESCO initiatives for Southeast Asia and the proposed collaboration with SEAMEO, regional programme of the Government of Germany on health care in schools, proposed continued collaboration between SEAMEO and UNICEF EAPRO on the second phase of the Southeast Asia Primary Learning Metric Initiative, and the 50th SEAMEO Anniversary celebration.
Moreover, the 36th SEAMEO High Officials Meeting endorsed the 5th Five-Year Development Plan of SEAMEO VOCTECH and 10th Five-Year Development Plan of SEAMEO SEARCA. The Meeting also endorsed the amendment to the Enabling Instrument of SEAMEO SEARCA.
Signing ceremonies and other side events
Three SEAMEO Awards were given out during the opening of the 36th SEAMEO High Officials Meeting including the SEAMEO-Jasper Research Award 2013, SEAMEO-Australia Education Links Award 2013 and the SEAMEO-Japan Education for Sustainable Development Award 2013. Officials from partner and sponsoring countries namely Canada, Australia and Japan announced the winners in each competition. H E Mr Chaturon Chaisaeng, Minister of Education of Thailand presented the plaques of recognition to the winners.
Results of deliberations and decisions of the 36th SEAMEO High Officials Meeting will be submitted to the Education Ministers of the SEAMEO Member Countries who comprise the SEAMEO Council for information and approval. The SEAMEO Council meets biennially and 2014 is a non-meeting year. Thus, resolutions of the SEAMEO Council on the result of the 36th SEAMEO High Officials Meeting will be sought through referendum.
The SEAMEO Secretariat, in cooperation with the Ministry of Education of Thailand, convenes the SEAMEO High Officials Meeting annually in Thailand. This year’s meeting was attended by a total of 153 participants representing 10 SEAMEO Member Countries with only Myanmar that was not able to attend; 4 Associate Members namely Australia, Canada, Germany and Spain; the British Council as Affiliate Member; and Observer Delegations including the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) Japan; Ministry of Education, Republic of Korea; ASEAN Secretariat; ASEAN-China Centre; ASEAN University Network; Asian Development Bank; Korean Educational Development Institute (KEDI); UNESCO Asia-Pacific Regional Bureau for Education (UNESCO Bangkok); UNICEF East Asia and Pacific Regional Office (EAPRO); Organization of Ibero-American States for Education, Science and Culture; the 21 SEAMEO Regional Centres and Network.
The 8th ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting on Education (SOM-ED), the 4th ASEAN Plus Three Senior Officials Meeting on Education, the 2nd EAS Senior Officials Meting on Education were also convened back to back with the 36th SEAMEO High Officials Meeting on 20 and 21 February 2014.
The annual SEAMEO High Officials Meeting is the precursor of the SEAMEO Council Conference that is attended by Education Ministers of the Southeast Asian Countries. Thailand will host the next Conference from 29 Apr to 2 May 2015 in Hua Hin, Thailand.