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The Tokyo Convention: Transforming higher education through fair recognition of online and blended learning

The Tokyo Convention: Transforming higher education through fair recognition of online and blended learning

The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have transformed international higher education. Online and blended learning are necessary vehicles for ensuring equitable access to quality higher education for all. Recognition authorities in Asia and the Pacific are working to ensure the fair recognition of diverse qualifications, including those earned through online modes, partial studies and diverse qualifications, such as micro-credentials, to better provide for relevant and quality assured learning.

Fair recognition is critical to achieving Sustainable Development Goal Four (SDG4) on quality education, and for the Tokyo Convention on the recognition of qualifications in Asia and the Pacific. As UNESCO Asia and Pacific Regional Bureau for Education (UNESCO Bangkok) director, Mr Shigeru Aoyagi has stated, ‘The Tokyo Convention will help countries to minimize further disruption to all students and graduates through fair and transparent recognition of online and blended learning. This is key in the context of COVID-19 and for the future of higher education’.

From 14 to 15 October 2021, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), Japan and UNESCO Bangkok co-hosted the Third Session of the Tokyo Convention Committee in conjunction with the First Plenary of the Asia-Pacific Network of National Information Centres (APNNIC). Professor Shingo Ashizawa, Advisor to MEXT, commented, ‘As President of the Committee, Japan was honored by over 20 countries and observers who took part in consultations on mobility and recognition’. Professor Ashizawa further stated that ‘with support from the Japanese Funds-in-Trust, ASEAN University Network, and Kanazawa University, nearly 100 delegates also took part in a joint side event with the ASEAN+3 Rectors’ Conference. These two conferences explored how to further the effective use of the Tokyo Convention, including focusing more on recognition of non-traditional learning and micro-credentials, which will ultimately help to achieve the SDGs.’

As a result of the events, a new Bureau and work plan are taking shape under the leadership of China as incoming President of the Tokyo Convention Committee and APNNIC from October 2021 through late 2022. Commenting on these developments, Mr Cheng Weixing, Director of the China Higher Education Student Information and Career Center (CHESICC), stated, ‘This is an exciting time of transformation in higher education for the Asia-Pacific region. The Tokyo Convention itself and APNNIC provide a framework for collaboration and network for setting shared priorities for fair recognition of qualifications. China is pleased to work with UNESCO, State Parties and the wider community to improve transparency of education systems and qualification information and facilitate mobility in line with the SDGs.’

Additional ratifications of the Tokyo Convention are needed, especially by countries in Central Asia, South Asia and Southeast Asia. Going forward, UNESCO Bangkok welcomes requests for technical assistance on ratification and recognition issues to facilitate cross-border mobility in Asia and the Pacific, as well as worldwide through the complementary Global Convention.

For questions and consultations, contact the Secretariat of the Tokyo Convention Committee at UNESCO Bangkok: eisd.bgk@unesco.org.