October 28, 2021 – The Philippines, through the Department of Education (DepEd), fulfilled its role as Chair of the 2021 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) High-Level Education-related Meetings last September 29 to October 1, 2021.

The three-day event served as a platform for the ASEAN Member States and its dialogue partners to discuss efforts and strengthen cooperation for the ASEAN education sector, taking into consideration the challenges brought upon by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The purpose of [this] cooperation is not just to ensure that we will be able to fully recover from COVID-19, [but] we want to [also] ensure that quality education will continue to be offered to our learners, pandemic or no pandemic. Cooperation must lead to an improved education sector,” ASEAN Education Ministers’ Meeting (ASED) Chair and Education Secretary Leonor Magtolis Briones shared in her message.

Guided by the theme “Transforming Education the ASEAN Way: Forging Partnerships in the Age of Global Disruptions,” the meetings featured presentations and updates from ASEAN Member States on their respective interventions, responses, and programs geared towards responding to the challenges of the global health emergency.

With the Philippines serving as host of the 16th ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting on Education (SOM-ED), Secretary Briones welcomed the participation in the discussion, updates, and initiatives on learning continuity and other programs presented by member states.

“I would like to commend the ministries of education across ASEAN member states for a job well done in undertaking the necessary steps in initiatives for the continuation of learning in their respective countries despite the constraints and challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic,’ Sec. Briones said.

ASEAN Deputy Secretary-General for ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC) H.E. Kung Phoak highlighted the relevance of this year’s theme.

“I’m delighted to know this year that the ASEAN education sector has learned so much from the COVID-19 experience and keep on moving forward. Aside from lessons learned from COVID-19 responses, the 16th SOM-ED will be focusing on recovery efforts to discuss ways on how the ASEAN education sector can [be] built back better, stronger, [and] wider,” DSG Phoak said.

This year’s meetings went over various topics on education with digital transformation, resiliency, quality assurance, and student mobility among the important points of discussion.

Wilfredo Cabral, who is the DepEd OIC Undersecretary for Human Resource and Organizational Development and Chair of SOM-ED, also highlighted in a presentation he led on ASEAN’s COVID-19 recovery efforts from the efficient responses to good practices in the education sector as a critical area of discussion and cooperation.

He added that other areas of dialogue and collaboration include bridging development gaps in education, promoting the lifelong set of learning, building a learning society for a knowledge economy, and instilling regional identity and awareness among ASEAN member states.

“These meetings reaffirm our commitment in addressing priorities for regional cooperation in education within the ASEAN education with our dialogue partners,” Usec. Cabral emphasized.

The Philippines, as Chair, welcomed all inputs and initiatives which not only focused on the opening of face-to-face classes but also recognized the importance of blended learning in achieving a more sustainable response to the challenges currently faced by education in the region.

Among the member states and institutions who took part in the meetings were the Sultanate of Brunei Darussalam, Kingdom of Cambodia, Republic of Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Federation of Malaysia, Union of Myanmar, Republic of Singapore, Kingdom of Thailand, Socialist Republic of Viet Nam, the ASEAN Secretariat, SEAMEO Secretariat, and ASEAN University Network. The following partner countries and ASEAN entities also delivered presentations at the Open Session of the meeting: Canada, Hungary, India, the United States of America, ASEAN Quality Assurance Network, and the ASEAN Foundation.

The High-Level ASEAN Education-related Meetings include the 16th SOM-ED, 11th ASEAN Plus Three Senior Officials Meeting on Education, 6th East Asia Summit Senior Officials Meeting on Education, 5th ASEAN Plus Three Education Ministers’ Meeting, and the 5th East Asia Summit Education Ministers’ Meeting. It was led by DepEd, in cooperation with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).