SAELA showcases and promotes the value of education, training and research and their roles in fostering stronger people-to-people and institutional links between Australia and SEAMEO Member Countries (MC).  It focuses on innovations in the field of education cooperation between Australia and Southeast Asia. The Award also acknowledges and rewards innovative projects or proposals demonstrating effective and inspiring efforts of individuals, groups, education institutions, or organizations to improve education cooperation and linkages across the SEAMEO region and between SEAMEO MC and Australia.  SAELA recognizes cross-border partnerships on education which promote inter-cultural understanding.  It will also support regionalization of education while promoting the importance of and respect for local wisdom.

Education link as suggested by the Award’s name includes existing initiatives in educational cooperation which have proven to be effective and beneficial to Southeast Asia and Australia.  It can also be proposals or innovative ideas which carry the potential in improving education in the region.  Projects and proposals may include event organizations, academic or student exchanges, an education or research development programmes, and other activities.  Proposals for scholarships and research in Australia are, however, not considered for the SAELA programme


As recognition for exemplary research by Southeast Asian nationals, the annual award was established in 1990 with the support of the Government of Canada. The 2018/2019 theme follows the priorities of both SEAMEO and the Canadian Government. SEAMEO Priority Area No. 2 aims to address barriers to inclusion and access to basic learning opportunities. Similarly, Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy seeks to eradicate poverty and build a more peaceful, more inclusive and more prosperous world.


At the end of the DESD in 2014, the UNESCO World Conference held in Japan announced the Global Action Programme (GAP) on ESD aimed at generating and scaling up ESD actions at all levels and in all areas of education, training and learning to accelerate progress towards sustainable development to the post-2015 agenda.

While ESD is implemented worldwide under the GAP, in support of further promoting ESD in Southeast Asia, the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO), and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Japan (MEXT), in cooperation with the UNESCO Asia and Pacific Regional Bureau for Education, have shown their collective commitment to promoting best practices in ESD in schools across Southeast Asia by organising the SEAMEO-Japan Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) Award. The award scheme has been held annually since 2012.