Saturday, 10 August 2019 14:55

The 4th Strategic Dialogue for the Education Ministers

During the 50th SEAMEO Council Conference, the 4th Strategic Dialogue of Education Ministers (4th SDEM) was convened on 24 July 2019 to provide a platform where Southeast Asian Education Ministers would discuss on the trends in education affecting the region in the digital era and Industry 4.0, as well as on how to make SEAMEO education goals more relevant and responsive to the changing contexts. The 4th SDEM focused on issues related to inclusive education and how to utilize technology, discussed new opportunities and challenges, identified the critical role of technology such as machine learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI) in education as well as provided directions for SEAMEO towards its post-2020 Strategic Plan.
 

H E Dr Maszlee Malik, Minister of Education Malaysia and SEAMEO Council President welcomed the delegates to the 4th Strategic Dialogue for Education Ministers (SDEM) and invited them to listen to some expert perspectives on Sustainable Development Goals specifically on Inclusive and Equitable Education and Lifelong Learning, Technology and the Future of Education as well as Partnership and Collaboration for the Future of Education. In his remarks, he pointed out that the forum is directed to cover issues and progress that support the implementation of the SEAMEO Education Agenda and 7 Priority Areas toward the achievement of UN Sustainable Development Goal No. 4. 

The 4th Strategic Dialogue for Education Ministers was led by the SEAMEO Secretariat in collaboration with UNESCO Bangkok Office.  There were roundtable sessions with highly respected speakers to deliver thematic keynote presentations. 

Session I Theme: Sustainable Development Goals and the Implications for the Inclusive and Equitable Education and Lifelong Learning in Southeast Asia

In this session, Mr. Shigeru Aoyagi presented UNESCO's views on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by outlining three key messages;

  • Southeast Asia (SEA) countries are not on track to achieve the SDGs.
  • SEA will not achieve the SDGs by 2030, particularly SDG4 with current practices.
  • SEA must change according to current times and trends.

He reiterated that the SDGs must be reinterpreted critically in light of the new challenges of current times and the shifting demands from the job market. He urged SEAMEO members to discuss, deliberate and determine the next key recommendations that will consider these issues.

This session was followed by a roundtable discussion led by Ms Azlina Kamal, an Education Specialist of UNICEF Malaysia as the moderator. The session aims to get the reflections, insights as well as experiences on the said theme from the panelists H E Dr Maszlee Malik, Minister of Education, Malaysia; H E Assoc Prof Dr Khamphay Sisavanh, Deputy Minister of Education and Sports, Lao PDR; H E Dr Leonor Magtolis Briones, Secretary of Education, Philippines; and H E U Win Maw Tun, Deputy Minister of Education, Myanmar.

Session II Theme: The Future of Education: Leveraging Technology in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning for Quality and Equitable Education

In this session, Dr Fengchun Miao, Chief of the Unit for ICT in Education, UNESCO Headquarters presented the future of education to address leveraging Artificial Intelligence (AI) to achieve SDG  4 - Education 2030 by outlining the issues include:

  • How to ensure ethical, inclusive & equitable use of AI in education?
  • How can education prepare humans to live and work with AI?
  • How can AI be leveraged to enhance or reinvent education?

In this opportunity also, UNESCO extended an invitation to audience to participate in 2019 UNESCO ICT in Education Prize with the theme "The Use of AI to Innovate Education, Teaching and Learning", on 31 October 2019.

This session was followed by a roundtable session led by Dr Chantavit Sujatanond, SEAMEO RIHED Director as the moderator. The session aims to get the reflections, insights as well as experiences on the said theme from the panelists H E Dato Seri Setia Awang Hj Hamzah bin Hj Sulaiman, Minister of Education, Brunei Darussalam; Dr Totok Suprayitno, Head of Research and Development Agency, Ministry of Education and Culture, Indonesia; H E Mr Ong Ye Kung, Minister for Education, Singapore; and H E Prof Dr Phung Xuan Nha, Minister of Education and Training, Vietnam.

Session III Partnership and Collaboration for the Future of Education in Southeast Asia.

In this session, Mr Francisco Benavides, UNICEF Education Advisor, UNICEF EAPRO delivered the topic of partnership focusing on how partnerships and collaborations will help us in the future. Instead of trying to stress on the importance of partnerships, he seeks to bring to the floor some elements or evidences of how some partnerships can lead to successful results or failures in educational reforms. The first part of the presentation is to link this partnership approach. The key points discussed are as follows:

  • Why partnerships and the SDG agenda?
  • Education challenges and evidence from successful reforms
  • Types of partnerships and examples in the EAP region
  • Some ideas for reflection

He spoke on governments with strategies that will benefit children. He underlined that clear vision and strong leadership from all sectors are crucial to create a strong partnership and collaboration. There is no question about the importance of having a vision that is embraced and led by a group of people leading which in this case are the ministers of education.

After the session a roundtable discussion led by Mr Hyun Mook Lim, Director, UNESCO APCEIU as the moderator. The roundtable discussion aims to get the reflections, insights as well as experiences on the said theme from the panelists H E Dr Maszlee Malik, Minister of Education, Malaysia and SEAMEO Council President; H E Dr Nath Bunroeun, Secretary of State, Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, Cambodia; Ms Duriya Amatativat, Deputy Permanent Secretary for Education, Thailand; H E Mr Maria Olandina Isable Caeiro Alves, Ambassador

Session VI Voices from Associate Member Countries

Ms Bernadine Caruana, Counsellor (Education & Science), Australian High Commission, Malaysia; and Ministry of Education and Training, Australia shared her perspective on the future of education and future work and the drive to build 21st century skills. She mentioned that bringing in technologies and innovations can only be done through partnerships. She added that the speed of change is so great that if we are not working together nor building on each other's knowledge would be a loss. Working together to gain faster outcomes is for the betterment of the nation.

Mr David G Ferron Priestley, Counsellor for Education in Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore and India, Embassy of Spain in Canberra; and Ministry of Education and Vocational Training, Spain talked about the aspects of EU Post ET 2020 which has similar goals like SEAMEO. He focused on the Post ET 2020 Strategy which is based on the Gothernburg Pillar of Social Rights. He identified five significant aspects that guaranty equality, quality, and equity. The five aspects include education, artificial intelligence, life-long learning, and languages.

At the end of the session, the SEAMEO Secretariat Director, Dr Ethel Agnes Pascua Valenzuela presented the Strategic Dialogue of Education Ministers of Education: Commitment to Action which had been presented to the ministers which testify the commitment of the SEAMEO members.

The document testifies the commitment of the SEAMEO Ministers of Education which contains the SDG goals presented in the conference as well as AI and situations in each member country.

The document also conveys a commitment to action among the SEAMEO member countries as well as affiliate institutions and partners on three key areas:

  • to work cooperatively to promote inclusive education driven by innovation and empowering a new generation of teachers and lifelong learners in the use of digital technology
  • to create a policy environment that will help bridge the digital divide and pursue digital transformation in a more systemic level through informed policymaking assisted by SEAMEO Centres research and development initiatives, promoting relevant and contextualized pedagogy for the digital era
  • to encourage partnerships and alliances that create and build an innovative SEAMEO educational ecosystem where mutual ideas can be created and promoted paving new ways of learning and teaching beyond teaching technological skills.

To close the 4th Strategic Dialogue for Education Ministers, H E Dr Maszlee Malik, Minister of Education, Malaysia thanked everyone for their participation and attendance. The keynote speeches and roundtables were presented highlighting three important themes. The first roundtable focused on the SDGs and the quest for more inclusive and equitable learning. He thanked the Deputy Ministers of Education from Lao PDR, the Philippines and Myanmar for sharing their educational programmes which moved towards universal access to free basic education. He closed his remarks by stressing that the success of SDGs hinges upon the ability to collect and analyse data successfully as well as ensuring that education is a collective responsibility from every level of society.