ASEAN Education Ministers Discuss Strategy for Education in Post COVID Times

ASEAN is a regional organisation that promotes economic, political, and security cooperation among its ten members namely Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. The group has been a driving force behind Asian economic integration, pushing efforts to construct one of the world’s largest free trade blocs and completing six free trade agreements with other Asian states.

On the 29th and 30th of September, 2021, ASEAN Education Ministers and senior officials met in Manila for a series of meetings under the theme “Transforming Education the ASEAN Way: Forging Partnerships in the Age of Global Disruptions,” which corresponded to the Philippine Chairmanship’s theme for the ASEAN education sector.

Recognizing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on regional and global education, ASEAN Member States shared best practices and lessons learned on recovery efforts in order to help the ASEAN education sector rebuild better and stronger. The discussions also examined ongoing activities and potential collaboration with conversation partners, notably in support of the recovery and reform of ASEAN’s education systems.

Education Ministers discussed topics related to regional education collaboration, notably how to help the ASEAN education sector rebound from COVID-19 by incorporating ICT into the classroom. They also gave strategic assistance for reopening, recovery, and resilience in the education sector. The meetings adopted the respective meeting’s joint statement to reaffirm their pledges and provide direction for future education collaboration within the ASEAN Plus Three and East Asia Summit frameworks.

The sessions were organised by the Department of Education Philippines, with cooperation from the ASEAN Secretariat, and took place both online and in-person in Manila. The 16th ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting on Education (SOM-ED) took place on September 29, the 11th ASEAN Plus Three Senior Officials Meeting on Education (11th SOM-ED+3) and 6th East Asia Summit (EAS) SOM-ED took place on September 30 while the 5th ASEAN Plus Three Education Ministers Meeting (APT EMM) was held in the morning of 1 October 2021. The 5th East Asia Summit Education Ministers Meeting (EAS SOM-E) took place on October 1. The 16th SOM-ED brought together senior officials from ASEAN member states. The 11th SOM-ED+3 included representatives from China, Japan, and the Republic of Korea (Plus Three Countries), as well as the ASEAN Plus Three Countries, while the 6th EAS SOM-ED included representatives from Australia, India, Russia, and the United States of America, as well as the ASEAN Plus Three Countries. Representatives from the ASEAN Secretariat, the AUN Secretariat, the SEAMEO Secretariat, and partner organisations also attended.

The next ASEAN Education Ministers and Senior Officials Meetings will be held in 2022, according to Viet Nam, the incoming head of the ASEAN education sector. SOM-ED, SOM-ED+3, and EAS SOM-ED were founded in 2006, 2010, and 2012, respectively, to promote education in the area and facilitate closer engagement and cooperation on education development among ASEAN Plus Three and East Asia Summit countries. They report to the ASEAN Education Ministers Meeting, the ASEAN Plus Three Education Ministers Meeting, and the East Asia Summit Education Ministers Meeting, respectively.

ASEAN was founded in 1967 by bringing together Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand to form a united front against communism and promote political, economic, and social stability in the Asia-Pacific region. The Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia, signed in 1976, emphasises mutual respect and non-interference in the affairs of other countries. By the end of the 1990s, membership had more than doubled. The end of the Cold War, the ending of Cambodia’s civil war in 1991, and the normalisation of US-Vietnam ties in 1995 restored relative stability to mainland Southeast Asia, clearing the door for more countries to join ASEAN. The organisation began to pursue attempts to enhance regionalism with the admission of Brunei (1984), Vietnam (1995), Laos and Myanmar (1997), and Cambodia (1999).

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