SEAMEO member countries commit to focus on learning recovery, foundational and lifelong learning at the 6th Strategic Dialogue for Education Ministers

Tuesday, 18 April 2023 | Kamaleswaran Jayarajah

The eleven (11) SEAMEO member countries have committed to focus their efforts and resources in prioritizing learning recovery, foundational and lifelong learning during the 6th Strategic Dialogue for Education MInisters (SDEM) held back to back with the 52nd SEAMEO Council Conference on 8 to 10 February at Edsa Shangri-la Hotel, Mandaluyong, the Philippines.

Guided by the theme Prioritizing Foundational Learning, and Lifelong Learning: Investing in Literacy, Numeracy and STEM Education in the Digital Era,  the member countries signified their strong united stand in putting forward evidence-based policies and programs in order to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 4 targets that focus on ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong opportunities for all.

The dialogue, chaired by Her Excellency Sara Z Duterte, Vice President of the Philippines and Secretary of Education, provided a platform for the member countries to reflect upon their experiences, share their initiatives, insights, and plans in advancing the quality of education in their respective countries. The member countries were represented by represented by ministers, deputy ministers, and other high-level officials.

A noted international expert in education from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Professor Vijay Kumar, provided the inputs and anchor for the discussion. Professor Kumar emphasized that the advocacy strategy for improving education should intensely focus on investing in literacy, numeracy, and STEM Education. Further, he urged the SEAMEO member countries to strengthen the monitoring and evaluation of foundational and lifelong learning initiatives to ensure that they are effectively implemented in the region. In conclusion, Professor Kumar encouraged the integration of digital transformation principles and concepts in literacy and numeracy programmes.

The roundtable discussions also brought to the fore the challenges that each country faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, citing that learning recovery is an urgent need for learners who may have suffered from learning loss.

Recognizing the unique needs of vulnerable learners, the council members raised the importance of developing more inclusive approaches linked to wider strategies for protecting marginalized populations and overcoming inequality. All these initiatives must be coupled with capacity building for teachers and other education personnel to keep up with the dynamic changes in the digital learning environment.

Key regional partners such as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO Bangkok) and UNICEF's East Asia and Pacific Regional Office (UNICEF EAPRO) were also present to share their insights and reflections on the crucial role of foundational and lifelong learning in developing learners.

Closing the conference, Vice President Duterte thanked the SEAMEO Council Members for their active participation throughout the dialogue and said that she looks forward to collaborating with all the 11 countries during the Philippines SEAMEO Council Presidency and ended the session with a symbolic battlecry: Yes, we can.


Her Excellency Ms Sara Z Duterte, Vice President and Secretary of Education of the Philippines,
and Dr Ethel Agnes Pascua-Valenzuela, SEAMEO Secretariat Director
spearheaded the 6th Strategic Dialogue for Education Ministers (SDEM)


The SEAMEO Council Members, UNESCO Bangkok and UNICEF EAPRO during the
6th Strategic Dialogue Education Ministers (SDEM) at Manila, Philippines.