October 26, 2022— The Department of Education (DepEd), through the International Cooperation Office (ICO), recently conducted a Forum on International Commitments and Partnerships on Basic Education (IC Forum): ASEAN in Focus in Cebu City on October 3 and 4, 2022.

The sessions focused on raising ASEAN awareness, its history, legacy, and relevance to the education sector. The event participants were composed of the Regional Focal Persons for ICO affairs from the DepEd Regional Offices and officials from the Schools Division Offices of DepEd Region VII.

Frederick Orticio, Project Development Officer III of ICO, discussed the roles and functions of the ICO, the different portfolios of the office (ASEAN, UN/UNESCO, APEC, Special Project, Bilateral and Multilateral Affairs), and how the international, regional, multilateral and bilateral commitments of the Department aid in the development of the country’s education sector.

This was followed by a discussion on the results of the Study on the Internationalization of Basic Education delivered by Associate Professor Ma. Ninia F. Calaca of the University of Santo Tomas. In relation to the main agenda of the activity, Assoc. Prof. Calaca mentioned that learning about ASEAN and understanding its purpose and legacy is a part of the internationalization process in education.

Meanwhile, ICO Senior Desk Officer Hanna Cortes gave the ASEAN 101 lecture on the Association’s history, beginning with its predecessors, the historical backdrop of its foundation in 1967, and the relevant developments it has undergone as an organization and community in the last five (5) decades.

After the lecture on ASEAN, Dr. Roger Yap Chao Jr., Assistant Director and Head of the Education, Youth, and Sports Division of the ASEAN Secretariat discussed the relevance of ASEAN to the Philippines and its education sector. Dr. Chao Jr. also explained the importance of fulfilling the commitments of the Philippines in the ASEAN Work Plan on Education.

This was followed by the talk led by Ms. Karen Anne Yu, Technical Program Manager of the ASEAN Youth Organization. Currently (AYO) a graduating student from the University of Santo Tomas, Ms. Yu promoted the initiatives of AYO and other opportunities provided by ASEAN that the Filipino Youth can access to expand their horizons and expose themselves to experiences that will help in their growth as productive citizens of the Philippines and Southeast Asia.

The presentations were followed by a workshop that featured a collaborative discussion among the participants on how the ICO can set up guidelines for utilizing the ASEAN-UNESCO Information Drive funds, downloaded annually to the regional offices.

The second day of the event included a visit to two schools in Cebu, the Cebu City National Science High School and Cebu City Don Carlos A. Gothong Memorial National High School, where distributions of ASEAN Charters translated to Cebuano were conducted.

Through a special pre-recorded message, Her Excellency and Philippine Eminent Person to the High-Level Task Force on the ASEAN Community’s Post-2025 Vision, Ambassador Elizabeth P. Buensuceso, shared the importance of raising awareness on ASEAN among the Filipino youth.

“Siguro hindi tayo aware that ASEAN has been an important player in resolving and solving the challenges that we face” she added that there is an urgent call to ensure that the Filipino youth, especially its learners, learn about ASEAN and appreciate the role of the Philippines role in its establishment. According to Ambassador Buensuceso, the Philippines has been ranking low in surveys and studies on ASEAN awareness conducted by regional think tanks in recent years.

The IC Forum: ASEAN in Focus is only one of the initiatives of the ICO that are leaning towards raising awareness about ASEAN. The activity was initially scheduled in August this year as part of the Department’s Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Month celebration.