ASEAN education ministers underscore need to ‘re-imagine, rethink’ system

November 20, 2020, 7:02 PM

Senior officials from the education ministries of ASEAN member states on Friday, Nov. 20, met to discuss how to charter future directions of the education system in the coming years. 

The Philippines, as the chair of the ASEAN education sector, hosted the virtual 11th ASEAN Education Ministers (ASED) Meeting to find ways on how member states can collaborate to ensure that education will be inclusive to all learners –  regardless of the changes in the education landscape.

In an online press conference for this year’s ASED and 15th Senior Officials’ Meeting on Education (SOM-ED) held on Nov. 18, panelists from the Philippines’ Department of Education (DepEd), Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Commission on Higher Education (CHED), TESDA, and SEAMEO INNOTECH and the ASEAN Secretariat gave updates on this year’s meeting.

The theme for this year’s ADED and SOM-ED meeting is:  “Transforming Education the ASEAN Way: Forging Partnerships in the Age of Global Disruptions.”

DepEd Undersecretary Planning Service and Field Operations Jesus L.R. Mateo explained the importance of holding these meetings especially at a time when COVID-19 gravely disrupts the education system. “It is important that we provide that platform and mechanism to share experiences with our neighbors and look for ways on how to move forward,” he said.

While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt the education process, Mateo said that countries can learn so much from this experience. “We would like to see and use this as an opportunity to re-imagine and transform education,” he explained. “This is the reason why we need to ensure continuing coordination,” he added.

To ensure the provision of quality education even in the implementation of remote learning, Mateo said the ASEAN comprehensive recovery framework is also being crafted. “Transition is being done carefully, we continue to consider the health and safety of students as top priority – with or without the pandemic,” he added.

Mateo also shared that the responses highlighted by education leaders that are common to all include the development of a learning continuity plan and guidance documents to ensure a safe school opening; implementation of a phase reopening of schools in line with COVID health protocols; ensuring that we address the mental health and well being of students and teachers by providing psychosocial support, and looking at various modalities in delivering education.

Meanwhile, ASEAN Secretariat Deputy Secretary General Kung Phoak also underscored the need for such meetings. “We cannot get out of this crisis alone so we have to work together and collaborate,” he added.

Phoak noted that the education sector is one of the hardest hit by the pandemic. “It will be a long shot for us to recover because of the unprecedented impact but we need to prepare our students to be able to thrive, adapt and cope well from this shock,” he added.

The meetings, Phoak added, is extremely important for the ASEAN region as a whole. “We need to charter future directions of the education system in the years to come,” he added.

Meanwhile, CHED Commissioner Aldrin Darilag said that the Commission remains committed to finding ways in making the Philippine higher education sector more responsive and relevant. “We aim to re-imagine our policies and programs and plan for the rewired higher education system,” he added.

TESDA Secretary Isidro Lapeña also shared the initiatives of TESDA to contribute to the nation’s food and job security and how the agency is adapting to the new normal.

DFA ASec. Junever Mahilum-West, on the other hand, underscored the need to work together through dialogue and intensified cooperation.

“We should share experiences, lessons learned, good practices, and measures taken so that we will be able to face the new challenges ahead,” she said.

Bennet Benoza of SEAMEO INNOTECH also underscored the importance of further collaboration. “SEAMEO is meant to bring the best within the region and INNOTECH, through its current program, is striving not only to cope with the new normal but to make the best out of it,” he said.

“Let’s work together for a better future for every learner in Southeast Asia,” he added.