Education lies at the core of ASEAN’s development process and contributes to the enhancement of ASEAN competitiveness. During the ASEAN Education Ministers’ retreat in August 2005, recognition was given to the primary role that education plays in ASEAN’s social and economic development and its supporting function in building a strong ASEAN Community.
At the 11th Summit in December 2005, ASEAN Leaders set new directions for regional education collaboration when they welcomed the decision of the ASEAN Education Ministers to convene the ASEAN Education Ministers’ Meetings on a regular basis. They viewed education as the vehicle to raise ASEAN awareness, instil the “we-feeling” and create a sense of belonging to the ASEAN Community. The Leaders also called for ASEAN Education Ministers to focus on enhancing regional cooperation in education.
The mandates for setting priorities for education are anchored in the ASEAN Vision 2020 and the Vientiane Action Programme (VAP). The VAP’s theme for accomplishing the ASCC pillar is “nurturing human, cultural and natural resources for sustained development in a harmonious and people-centred ASEAN.” Cooperation on education in the ASCC comes under the strategic thrusts for “Building a Community of Caring Societies”, “Managing the Social Impact of Economic Integration” and “Promoting an ASEAN Identity”. Moreover, the Education Ministers were of the view that education, by developing human resources, permeates all the three pillars of the ASEAN Community in enhancing the competitiveness of individual Member Countries as well as ASEAN as a region.
The ASEAN Education Ministers identified four priorities that ASEAN cooperation on education would address. They are:
The work plan or strategic direction based on the above priorities is developed in the Strategic Framework for ASEAN Cooperation in Education.
In recognition of the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization’s (SEAMEO) contribution to human resource development in the region since 1965, the Education Ministers agreed that the existing ASEAN and SEAMEO forums on education should integrate their respective programmes and activities in a complementary manner. The priorities of ASEAN cooperation on education would be undertaken through collaboration with SEAMEO.
ASEAN cooperation on education is overseen at the Ministerial level by an ASEAN Education Ministers Meeting (which meets annually) and the implementation of the programmes and activities for education matters is carried out by the ASEAN Senior Officials on Education (SOM-ED), which reports to the ASEAN Education Ministers Meeting (ASED). SOM-ED’s initiatives on education cooperation include the ASEAN Students Exchange Programme at the secondary level and the promotion of ASEAN Studies in the primary and secondary school curriculum. SOM-ED also oversees cooperation on higher education which is coordinated by the ASEAN University Network (AUN). The AUN was established to serve as an ASEAN mechanism to: