SEAMEO-UNESCO-UNICEF Ministerial Forum on
Increasing Access to and the Quality of Education through Child-Friendly Learning Environments (CFLE)

Imperial Queen's Park Hotel, Bangkok, Thailand
26 May 2004

I. Introduction

The Ministerial Forum was convened by SEAMEO jointly with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Asia-Pacific Regional Bureau for Education, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) East Asia and Pacific Regional Office and SEAMEO.

The one-day Ministerial Forum was held at the Imperial Queen’s Park Hotel in Bangkok on 26 May 2004, the eve of the opening of the SEAMEO-UNESCO Education Congress, with the Signing Ceremony on the adoption of the Bangkok Declaration on Child-Friendly Learning Environments held in the evening.

The Ministerial Forum on Increasing Access to Child-Friendly Learning Environments builds on the success of previous forums convened during the 38th SEAMEO Council Conference in Manila and the forum on Thoughtfulness and Technology in Education in Brunei Darussalam. The active participation and discussions during both activities indicated the desire of Ministers of Education and their senior staff to engage in serious policy dialogue on issues of importance to their work.

The ongoing SEAMEO project on Quality and Equity in Education highlights the Ministers' concern for achieving the principal targets of Education for All - fulfilling the right of all children to obtain a basic education of good quality, where quality is defined (as it is in the Dakar Framework for Action) in a comprehensive and multifaceted manner. This concern is reflected in the development and dissemination of innovations focusing on Child-Friendly Schools (CFS) or, more broadly, Child-Friendly Learning Environments (CFLE). Such learning environments are seen as being not only child-centred but also child-seeking, actively identifying and enrolling children excluded from education and from learning. These environments are also seen as being not only effective for learning - the traditional definition of quality - but also inclusive of all children, healthy and protective of children, gender-responsive, and involved with children, families, and communities. This comprehensive view of quality not only has been supported by UNICEF and UNESCO in the areas of school health, life skills education, gender, and community involvement, but also has attracted additional support of agencies such as the World Bank, WHO, and the World Food Programme (WFP).

II. Objective

The objective of the Forum was to share experiences among Ministers and experts concerning how to promote and implement - at both national and school level - a more comprehensive definition of quality education.

III. Forum Structure and Organization

1. Forum Theme

The Ministerial Forum explored the concept of Child-Friendly Learning Environments and how it can be made operational in the region. Examples of programmes based on the development of Child-Friendly Learning Environments (CFLE) or similarly comprehensive programmes, both in SEAMEO Member Countries and beyond, were presented and their major components, strengths and weaknesses were discussed.

2. Participants

Some 80 participants attended the Forum; all the members of the SEAMEO Council led by His Excellency Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Wijaya Dato Haji Abdul Aziz Umar, Minister of Education of Brunei Darussalam and President of the SEAMEO Council were in attendance. Aside from the SEAMEO Member Countries, country delegations from Afghanistan, China, Ghana, Japan, Timor-Leste, and Uganda were also present. Other participants were representatives of international financial institutions, international development organizations, non-government organizations in the region and the organizing agencies.

3. Structure of the Forum

The keynote address by Sir John Daniel, UNESCO Assistant Director General for Education, was presented on his behalf by Mr Sheldon Shaeffer, Director of UNESCO Asia-Pacific Regional Education Bureau who covered the major characteristics of educational quality, as defined in the Dakar Framework for Action. Ministers or designated High Officials presented individual country experiences on key thematic areas dealing with CFLE.

Three panel sessions permitted presentations on individual country programmes by Ministers or High Officials of SEAMEO Member Countries. The panel sessions also included presentations on the perspectives and contributions of supporting agencies, including SEAMEO, UNESCO, UNICEF, FAO, and WFP, among others. Regional NGOs involved in promoting educational innovations were also asked to present their work and share their insights.

The panels focused on the following core issues relating to the development of child-friendly learning environments.

1. Inclusive Education
2. Gender-Responsive Education
3. Healthy and Protective Environments

Statements from country delegations and observer organizations were invited during the afternoon plenary. His Excellency, the SEAMEO Council President also presided over discussion by the SEAMEO Council on the draft Declaration on Child-Friendly Learning Environments. SEAMEO Council unanimously adopted the declaration as presented during the session.

The Dinner-Reception held in the evening featured cultural presentations as well as the formal signing of the SEAMEO Declaration on Child-Friendly Learning Environments by the SEAMEO Council.

A report on the Ministerial Forum was presented by H E Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Wijaya Dato Haji Abdul Aziz Umar, Minister of Education of Brunei Darussalam and President of the SEAMEO Council during the Opening Ceremony of the SEAMEO-UNESCO Education Congress.

IV. Forum Output

The main output of the Forum was the Bangkok Declaration on Child-Friendly Learning Environments that stated renewed support for efforts to adopt and implement a more comprehensive view of educational quality.

Ref: 40th SEAMEC 2005 [MC40/WP21]


Last updated: 1 April, 2005  





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