SEAMEO Showcases Key Educational Initiatives

Tuesday, 02 July 2024 |

SEAMEO Showcases Key Educational Initiatives at EWF 2024


In a bid to tackle key educational challenges facing Southeast Asia, the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO) actively participated in the prestigious Education World Forum (EWF), held in London from 19-22 May 2024. As the largest annual gathering of education and skills ministers, the event drew over 100 Ministers of Education, Higher Education and Skills, accompanied by their advisors and delegations from around the world.

Datuk Dr Habibah Abdul Rahim, Director of the SEAMEO Secretariat, led the organisation’s delegation. Leveraging SEAMEO’s partnership with the UK government on the ASEAN-UK SAGE programme – with the EmpowerSAGE project specifically designed to strengthen SEAMEO’s capabilities in programme delivery and evaluation – Datuk Dr Habibah was accompanied by Mr Craig Farmer, Team Leader for ASEAN-UK SAGE, and Mr Alejandro Ibanez, Project Manager for the SEA-PLM programme.

Throughout the four-day event, the SEAMEO delegation actively participated in various sessions and bilateral meetings, including with the Lao PDR delegation led by His Excellency Prof Dr Phout Simmalavong, Minister of Education and Sports, and the Cambodian delegation led by His Excellency Mr Oung Borat, Secretary of State and Head of the Cabinet of Deputy Prime Minister, Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, fostering collaboration to advance inclusive education across Southeast Asia.

Unlocking Education Potential in Southeast Asia with AI

One of the highlights from the EWF 2024 is Datuk Dr Habibah’s presentation at a EWF 2024 side event on artificial intelligence (AI) in Education, hosted by the Business Council for International Understanding (BCIU). During the session, Datuk Dr Habibah explored the potential of AI as a revolutionary approach to education in Southeast Asia, particularly in addressing the region’s persistent educational inequalities.

She also quoted the results of the most recent Global Education Monitoring Report. According to this report, the region has witnessed a remarkable surge in digital technology use, with an estimated 400 million users and 40 million new internet users in 2020 alone. This rapid expansion has permeated the education sector, ushering in the “Education 4.0” era where digital and mobile technologies are integrated into teaching and learning. For example, 96% of schoolchildren in Singapore used a learning platform during the pandemic, highlighting the region’s growing comfort with technology-aided education.

However, this rapid digitalisation has exposed a stark reality: a significant digital divide persists within and among Southeast Asian nations. While the average student has a 57% chance of having internet access at home, this number varies wildly between countries, ranging from a mere 16% to a staggering 98%. This digital divide extends beyond national borders, with significant gaps existing between urban and rural areas within individual countries.

Understanding technology in Southeast Asian education gives perspective on approaching generative AI's potential to reshape teaching and learning. As we explore AI's advantages, we must consider data privacy and access to ensure it drives positive change without worsening inequities.

Datuk Dr Habibah believes AI can play a crucial role in bridging this divide and creating a more equitable education system in Southeast Asia. Here, AI-powered personalised learning emerges as a powerful tool.

Datuk Dr Habibah’s vision for AI-powered education in Southeast Asia is one of inclusion and equity. By leveraging AI for personalised learning, the region can bridge the digital divide and unlock the potential of every student, regardless of location or background. As Southeast Asia continues to explore this innovative approach, collaboration and a focus on unique regional needs will be paramount in ensuring AI becomes a true catalyst for educational transformation.


Enhancing Educational Opportunities for Girls in Southeast Asia

The SEAMEO delegation also attended the APAC Breakfast Meeting hosted by Baroness Barran MBE, the UK Minister for the School System and Student Finance. This meeting provided an opportunity for ministers and senior delegates to connect before the conference, fostering discussions on shared interests and regional developments.

During the meeting, Datuk Dr Habibah delivered a presentation on the Southeast Asia Primary Learning Metrics (SEA-PLM) programme, a flagship initiative aimed at advancing foundational learning in Southeast Asia. She shared key insights from the SEA-PLM 2019 report, discussing its implications for policies and practices in basic education.

Datuk Dr Habibah also highlighted the alignment between SEA-PLM’s work on foundational learning and the newly launched Supporting the Advancement of Girls Education (SAGE) programme. This initiative, a collaboration between the ASEAN Secretariat, the UK Government, the British Council, and the SEAMEO Secretariat, aims to further enhance educational opportunities for girls in the region. She encouraged the need to intensify the work of Ministries of Education to accelerate the implementation of evidence-based policies and practices in curbing the learning loss and address the learning crisis in Southeast Asia.