Progress on literacy, numeracy, equality stalled . . .
Bangkok hosted participants from 200 education ministries from across the Asia Pacific at the 5th Asia-Pacific Meeting on Education 2030 last month. The meeting assessed the progress the region has made towards sustainable development goals (SDGs) to ensure girls and boys complete “free, equitable and quality” primary and secondary education, and to guarantee that both women and men “achieve literacy and numeracy” as adults. According to UNICEF’s Regional Office for East Asia and Pacific, progress towards these targets has stalled.
Successes and challenges . . .
Between 2001 and 2017, ASEAN member states increased school enrolment for primary and high school for both girls and boys. And ASEAN nations have accomplished near-universal enrolment in primary education, a major regional success. These successes have been driven in part by government spending: at least 15 per cent more in Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, and Singapore. Still, education quality is an issue for lower income countries like Indonesia and Thailand, which score low in international performance tests, while education equity continues to challenge students in rural regions, with disabilities, or from ethnic minorities. UNICEF in Indonesia reports that 57 per cent of school-aged children with disabilities do not attend school. In Malaysia, UNICEF reports that access to education and learning outcomes for children from Indigenous groups such as the Orang Asli lag significantly behind ethnic Malay, Chinese, and Indian students.
The tech horse before the education cart . . .
With the growth of digital economies and Industrial Revolution 4.0 technologies in Southeast Asia, governments have encouraged the involvement of tech startups to digitalize education and prepare the next generation of tech-entrepreneurs. A primary example is Indonesia, where President Joko Widodo elected unicorn Go-Jek’s CEO, Nadiem Makarim, as the new education and culture minister. Indonesian tech startups like Tokopedia and Bukalaka have invested in both educational platforms to train new developers online and in several university research centres to address tech talent shortages. However, the country struggles with an increasing digital divide where close to 40 per cent of the rural population lacks internet access, and where schools are underfunded. Without addressing educational fundamentals, countries like Indonesia that are increasingly reliant on tech-oriented education strategies may be putting the tech horse before the education cart.
- The Diplomat: The Asia-Pacific’s education crisis
- The Jakarta Post: ‘Indonesia is not just Java’: Teacher in rural Papua pleads with Nadiem to listen
- Malay Mail: Malaysia on right track for big data, AI in education, says minister