From Declaration to Action for ASEAN’s Out-Of-School Children and Youth

From Declaration to Action for ASEAN’s Out-Of-School Children and Youth

From Declaration to Action for ASEAN’s Out-Of-School Children and Youth

First workshop on rolling out landmark commitment by sub-regional grouping outlines working group and framework for implementation

Education is a fundamental and universal right, regardless of nationality, environment or circumstance and last year leaders from ASEAN countries made a historic commitment to protect this right with the “ASEAN Declaration on Strengthening Education for Out-of-School Children and Youth.

However, for many countries in the region the distance between this stated commitment and the reality facing millions of out-of-school children and youth in the region remains wide. UNESCO Bangkok Director Gwang-Jo Kim likened the situation to a large pit that constantly deepens if no action is taken – eventually the cost will become unmanageable.

Dr Kim was speaking at the first workshop aimed at turning the laudable intentions of the declaration into action for some of the region’s most marginalized and disadvantaged learners.

The “1st Workshop on Drafting the Action Plan for the Implementation of the ASEAN Declaration on Strengthening Education for Out-of-School Children and Youth (OOSCY)” was held from May 5-6, 2017 in Bangkok, bringing together education ministry officials from ASEAN member states: Cambodia, Lao PDR, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam.

Opening the workshop, Rodora Babaran, Director of the ASEAN Secretariat’s Human Development Directorate, said the declaration reflects a unified commitment among member states to ensure education for all within the framework of the Sustainable Development Goal 4-Education 2030 Agenda. “The ASEAN Declaration on Strengthening Education for Out-of-School Children and Youth is an imperative reminder in our regional community-building efforts to always ensure inclusivity,” she said.

Karin Hulshof, UNICEF Regional Director for East Asia and the Pacific, stressed the need to seize on the momentum generated by the declaration and break from past, unsuccessful approaches to expanding education. “For us to make a difference in our region, more than ever, we need to think of innovative, unconventional, and more bold and targeted ways,” she said. “This [means] we need more of an evidence base – we need to know who the out-of-school children are, where they are, and more importantly, why they are not in school”.

To this end, the workshop saw the country action framework for the declaration’s implementation updated to include an increased focus on monitoring, reporting, and qualitative and quantitative data and information on OOSCY.

The workshop offered education officials the opportunity to brainstorm and collaborate on actions to address challenges regarding OOSCY at both the national and regional levels. Terms of reference were drafted for a Working Group to help implement the proposed activities, which will be raised for approval at the ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting on Education (SOM-ED) later this year. 

During a country-sharing session, participants emphasized that while implementing the declaration was important, identifying pathways to inclusive education, disseminating evidence, and establishing a regional equivalency framework as well as a comprehensive national database system on OOSCY were also crucial for providing equitable, quality, flexible and lifelong education. 

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Ms Duriya Amatavivat, Assistant Permanent Secretary of Thailand’s Ministry of Education, noted that over the past decade her country has endeavored to promote “education as a fundamental right of all people, including those who are vulnerable and underserved”.

“The Thai Ministry of Education is highly committed to ensuring 15 years of free education for every citizen, and increasing the average number of years in education for the labor force and children with special needs,” she said.

UNESCO Bangkok Director Kim noted that for the grouping as a whole, however, significant work remains. “For many countries in our region, [15 years of free education for all] remains an elusive goal and constant challenge, particularly as it pertains to those living in areas where formal schooling is unavailable.” 

The Action Plan for the ASEAN Declaration, he said, will be critical in addressing this disparity.

At the end of the workshop, the following key documents were prepared for endorsement at SOM-ED, scheduled for the end of the year:

  • Terms of Reference on the Working Group for the ASEAN Declaration on Strengthening Education for OOSCY
  • A list of proposed regional activities
  • A draft Country Action Framework of the ASEAN Declaration
  • Timeframes for the above

The workshop was organized by UNESCO Bangkok, in collaboration with the Thai Ministry of Education, the ASEAN Secretariat and UNICEF’s East Asia and Pacific Regional Office.

More information about the workshop and UNESCO’s work on OOSC: http://www.flexlearnstrategies.net/workshop-on-drafting-the-action-plan-for-the-implementation-of-the-asean-declaration-on-ooscy/

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By: Kornchanok Subsoontorn 

Main Photo: Thi/Shutterstock.com