December 4, 2020 – The Philippines’ Department of Education (DepEd) hosted the 15th Senior Officials’ Meeting on Education (SOM-ED) on Wednesday, November 18, 2020, which was attended by education ministers from across the ASEAN region.

“In this meeting, we put in perspective not only what we are facing now but what we will do in order to be better and stronger after COVID-19. We are aiming to a forward-looking education that is responsive to the demands of a fast-changing world. We need to re-direct and re-structure our plans for education to be able to cope these challenges,” Secretary Leonor Magtolis-Briones said in her welcome remarks during the virtual international meeting.

Undersecretary for Planning Service and Field Operations Jesus L.R. Mateo served as the chair of the meeting, which adopted the theme “Transforming Education the ASEAN Way: Forging partnerships in the age of global disruptions”. Each ASEAN member state shared their experiences in promoting learning continuity during the present pandemic.

During the 15th SOM-ED, Undersecretary Mateo reported updates on the programs it implemented under the Basic Education – Learning Continuity Plan (BE-LCP) including DepEd Commons as its online learning platform and DepEd TV.

Meanwhile, efforts of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) such as OPLAN TESDA: ABOT LAHAT and TESDA Online Program (TOP) that aim to contribute to upskilling and reskilling in the “new normal” through its online courses and PHL CHED Connect and CHED HiEd Bayanihan that allow access to learning and training materials to educator and learners of Commission on Higher Education (CHED) were also highlighted.

“The Philippine Department of Education, as well as TESDA and CHED, remains steadfast in its commitment to regional cooperation in various fora especially in these challenging yet exciting times. The diversity among Southeast Asian countries can yield experiences, knowledge and opportunities to learn the solutions that work best in the circumstances that enable effective implementation,” Undersecretary Mateo emphasized.

“The Philippines support for such regional platforms as a potent contribution to enriching the knowledge resources that would be relevant in addressing current concerns and in guiding future education reforms in the region,” he added.

Meanwhile, some countries presented their respective responses to the pandemic, including conducting physical classes by phases with safety protocols being observed. A School Management Manual was published in Thailand to ensure safety for both learners and their teachers. Singapore, on the other hand, observes daily temperature check in their schools as part of their health safety protocols.

With most ASEAN states implementing distance learning, education ministers encouraged each member state to continue supporting their learners by providing quality content through the utilization of their present learning modalities such as online platform, as well as television and radio.

Apart from learning continuity efforts, ASEAN member states also gave recognition to the importance of the mental well-being of the learner to ensure the effective implementation of distance learning. Malaysia shared that a whole-of-community approach creates a supportive learning environment for children.

The ASEAN education ministries also adapted their respective revised school year plan and curriculum framework for this year and highlighted the need to do research to prepare for other crises in the future.

Regional initiatives were also presented during the meeting, such as the progress of the ASEAN Work Plan on Education 2016-2020 and the development of post-2020 work plan, the post-COVID rebuilding efforts through the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework and the establishment of the TVET Council.

SEAMEO Secretariat reiterated that the efforts of the ASEAN members need to be sustained for learning continuity to be successful amid the current public health situation.

“For us who have the means, and the authority to influence the direction of our educational systems, the opportunity is now. Let us seize the day. Let us all be inspired to lead our learners and our teachers to the future of education, that is now”, Undersecretary Mateo added.

The Philippines was also represented by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and SEAMEO INNOTECH who gave support in commitment to continuing quality education in the country through partnerships with the ASEAN Region and beyond.