The 1st SEAMEO Education Congress: Challenges in the New Millennium
Softie Central Plaza, Bangkok, 26-29 March 2001

Summary Report

The 1st SEAMEO EDUCATION CONGRESS  held  between  March 26-29 at the Softie Central Plaza has ended with a lot of thought- provoking and action-oriented issues that  were timely and relevant to  Southeast Asian countries' education reform.

Under the Sub theme "Current and Emerging Education Scenarios at the Global Arena and Developed Countries", the general consensus is that political changes and revolution in communication have allowed the flow of intellectual capital beyond geographical and political barriers. The common activities of building up networks, looking for partners in specific areas or research fields and exchanging staff  were brought up. The  line between Western and Asian  education policies was clearly drawn. The former seemed to focus primarily on governance, financing and accountability, the latter seemed to emphasize on vocational, technical and professional education and training delivered by public and private institutions. Two major  problems emerged in  a lack of information and language barriers in addition to a lack of quality. The following solutions were suggested: gaining more budget autonomy, giving more academic power, allowing external influence in decision making and stressing evidence-based financing policy.

Under the sub theme" Current and Emerging Educational Scenarios in developing Countries and Southeast Asia", the following are clearly shown: literacy rate has increased significantly; education systems  have grown at a phenomenal scale; education reforms have been introduced; enrollment rate has increased significantly; education development is considered connected with national development. One big problem is the issue on the effective implementation of the blueprint for educational reform. As a response to this issue, the following recommendations were put forwarded: mobilizing resources from different sectors for education management; creating bodies which will concentrate on the implementation of the blueprint; practicing unity in policy and diversity in implementation; establishing partnership with local communities, individuals, institutions and all segments of society; and  intensive training for teachers and education personnel who are involved in the reform.

Under the sub theme" Moving towards Distance Education and Open Learning", the significance of inclusion of open and distance learning in the present education system is  being felt along with the feeling that full support to the faculty carrying out such undertaking must be given. It is also agreed that E-learning is the most suited application  to bridge the digital divide. The two problems are: how to create an effective distance learning program and how to find the balance in E-learning. The proposed  resolutions to the first problem are: focusing the  goals of the program not only to the learners but also to the instructors as well; taking  full consideration of the learners' needs e.g. culture, environment; sustaining administrative support; promoting the concept of "learning villages" wherein the people within the society can explore their world and seek for knowledge themselves. The following are the resolutions to the second problem: development of educational software with care; increase in the learners' access to computers educational softwares; the delivery of quality and affordable education program wherein the teacher knows the material,  and a respect for culture, learning styles and life's goals.

Under the sub theme" Using Information and Communication Technology (ICT) as  a Strategic tool for Education", the panelists shared a common vision that by the next decade, practically all educational institutions will be a learning community committed to preparing a new generation of citizens for the world of advanced communication technology and that it is  a great challenge to retool and retrain every teacher to acquire technology-enhanced skills. The following problems were pointed out : lack of trained staff to handle the change; inadequacy of the distribution of the ICT; lack of funds to distribute ICT. Recommendations were to place emphasis on retooling and and retraining staff in educational institutions to acquire the technology-enhanced skills; to place a wider distribution of computers and other ICT tools in order to bridge the digital divide; to call for collaborative efforts among the stakeholders to share resources for maximum benefits.

Under the sub theme" Assuring Quality and Relevant Education", the panelists are united in giving impetus on specifying content and minimum quality standards for the majority of learners in terms of knowledge, skills, and values. Three major issues  have emerged namely: who sets the standards, who reviews the outcomes, who gathers the data of success or failure in achieving results. The resolutions were : to define the outcomes expected for the consumers of education services; to seek reliable, timely information on progress towards meeting these outcomes; to make the information publicly available; to establish clear lines of accountability and to seek to develop effective sanctions for failure and incentives for success.

Under the sub theme" Responding to the Challenges in the New Millennium through Educational reform, Budget, and Stronger Cooperation", the panelists recognized  the need of introducing educational reforms in the learning arena and to develop learners holistically. The panelists raised the  question of what reforms should be introduced to educational system and the suggestions are as follows:  strategic planning should be practiced by the Ministry of Education, schools, and universities every ten years to check if the current educational system is still responsive to the needs of the learners, teachers, community and the government; teacher training  programs should be developed; the use of technology in teaching and learning should be optimized; new learning theories focusing on human development should be adopted; reform on the teacher aspect should be made, that is , teachers as facilitators of learning, provision of research grants , incentives, awards. The second question raised was  what are the  panaceas on budget inadequacy. The recommendations to this question are the following: additional budget from the national asset should be requested, checking the possibility of realigning the national budget; a change in the mindset of the people that education is not only a government's concern but rather everybody's concern; local participation should be encouraged, welcoming the possibility of training some of the community members as teacher assistants; decentralization of budget by giving each region authority to manage their own education budget; cooperation among countries should be strengthened ; conceptualization of international fora, conferences should be highlighted.

As the end result of this Education Congress, the ten Member Countries of the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization  have to unify their efforts in activating the education reform in their respective context  so  as to cope effectively with  all the challenges  in the  new millennium.


Last updated : 31 March, 2005

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