High-level meeting to chart regional directions, craft strategies to improve technical and vocational education in Southeast Asia

Officials from the ministries of education, labor, and vocational training from the 11 Southeast Asian countries, as well as heads of specialist institutions of the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO), will convene in Brunei Darussalam on 9-10 September 2019 to discuss the current situation of technical and vocational education and training in Southeast Asia and to develop strategies to improve the regional cooperation and harmonization for the region.

The Philippines will be represented by a delegation from the Department of Education (DepEd) and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA). A Filipino also heads the Bangkok-based SEAMEO Secretariat, which organized the 5th High Officials Meeting (HOM) on Southeast Asia-Technical and Vocational Education and Training (SEA-TVET).

With the theme “Strengthening Efforts towards TVET 4.0,” the HOM on SEA-TVET will determine and plan regional directions and strategies to advance the quality of TVET in Southeast Asia.

The Philippine government-hosted Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) has actively supported TVET since it was tapped by SEAMEO to lead a research on competency certification for agricultural workers in Southeast Asia to promote TVET in agriculture.

Headed by Dr. Glenn B. Gregorio, SEARCA is one of the 26 SEAMEO specialist institutions, some of which will be represented in the 5th HOM on SEA-TVET. Dr. Gregorio is among some 60 participants of said high-level meeting.

The SEARCA study showed that TVET qualifications in the region are prevalently accorded through competency certification systems that are now being integrated into national qualifications frameworks linked to the ASEAN Qualifications Reference Framework (AQRF).

SEARCA further reported that the AQRF is designed to support and enhance each ASEAN Member State’s (AMS) national qualifications framework by enabling comparisons of qualifications across AMS in terms of recognition, promotion of lifelong learning, facilitation of learner and worker mobility, transparency, and quality assurance.

Dr. Gregorio said since the AQRF gives importance to the recognition of non-formal and informal learning, it would benefit agricultural workers as they acquire skills and knowledge largely through non-formal and informal learning modes provided mostly by agriculture extension services systems.

However, the SEARCA study also showed that “while the AQRF is expected to support and enhance the individual national

qualifications framework (NQF) or qualifications system of the AMS, these NQFs are in varying stages of development and implementation, with some being fully developed and functioning NQFs while others have barely started.”

“This disparity in NQFs may be addressed during the 5th HOM on SEA-TVET, which intends to develop strategies to improve the regional cooperation and harmonization for the region,” Dr. Gregorio said.

He said the recommendations of the 2018 high-level regional workshop that validated the SEARCA study can still be relevant in the discussions in the 5th HOM on SEA-TVET.

The four-point recommendation that SEARCA presented in the 4th HOM on SEA-TVET held in Manila in September 2018 were as follows:

First, there is a need to encourage TVET institutions to increasingly assume proactive and transforming roles in assessing, validating, and certifying skills and experience gained through non-formal and informal modes within a lifelong learning framework.

Second, competency certification systems should be strengthened and expanded to cover recognition of non-formal and informal learning.

Third, TVET institutions must be encouraged to pursue partnerships and alliances with a broader range of stakeholders.

Lastly, there is a need to promote support from regional TVET networks and international cooperation.

Also expected to participate in this year’s high-level meeting are officials from the ASEAN Secretariat, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)-Bangkok, SEAMEO Secretariat, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ), and research and government agencies in Japan, Korea, Germany, and the United Kingdom. (SEARCA)