Translating education commitments into action: Examples from Asia

Six months after the Transforming Education Summit in 2022, countries from Asia and the Pacific gathered to share and learn from good practices and innovations they have initiated to transform their education systems and address the learning crisis. Here are key takeaways.

May 10, 2023 by Deepali Gupta, GPE Secretariat
4 minutes read
Participants at the "Transforming Education Now and for the Future We Want: TES National Follow-up Actions to move towards the achievement of SDG 4". Credit: UNESCO
Participants at the "Transforming Education Now and for the Future We Want: TES National Follow-up Actions to move towards the achievement of SDG 4".
Credit: UNESCO

Although more children and adolescents than ever before are receiving an education in Asia -Pacific, the region is facing a learning crisis. In many countries, between one-third to two-thirds of children are unable to read and understand a simple text at age 10, despite completing their early grades.

The COVID-19 crisis also brought long-standing disparities to the forefront, exposing how disadvantaged learners are being left behind.

At the Transforming Education Summit in 2022, 29 countries from the Asia-Pacific region made national statements of commitment on education. Six months later, at the Asia Pacific Forum for Sustainable Development, UNESCO Asia and Pacific Regional Bureau for Education (UNESCO Bangkok), UNICEF East Asia and Pacific Regional Office (UNICEF EAPRO) and the UNICEF Regional Office for South Asia (ROSA), brought together countries from the region to share how they have operationalized their commitments.

At the event – Transforming Education Now and for the Future We Want – countries shared priority actions, progress and bottlenecks. Here are some highlights from GPE partner countries:

Investing in learning recovery

Nepal has developed a Recovery and Accelerated Learning (ReAL) Plan in consultation with education stakeholders, which complements its existing education sector plan. The learning plan includes additional budget for local governments to implement learning recovery activities, as well as operational guidelines to utilize this additional budget in the next 2 years. In addition, the ministry of education has made available a repository of diagnostic tools and accelerated learning programs based on best practices.

Prioritizing the most vulnerable

Nepal shared its plans to update the Equity Index – developed in 2014 by the ministry of education with support from UNICEF, the World Bank and GPE – with new census data, and created an Education Development Index. Both indices will be used to re-prioritize how resources are allocated to local governments to help them reach the most marginalized children.

Cambodia highlighted its efforts to improve the quality of community preschools, including expanding multilingual and inclusive education programs, promoting parent education and capacity building programs for preschool principals and teachers.

Credit: Deepali Gupta
Participants at the "Transforming Education Now and for the Future We Want: TES National Follow-up Actions to move towards the achievement of SDG 4".
Deepali Gupta

Reforming curriculum and increasing support to teachers

Bangladesh rolled out a new national curriculum at the secondary level this year, which incorporates new skills and competencies needed to face the challenges of the 21st century.

The curriculum also supports the government’s development plan – Vision 2041, to equip the country to respond to disaster and climate change issues. Experiential learning, interdisciplinary approaches and formative assessment are key aspects of the new curriculum.

The Philippines highlighted its Basic Education Reform Agenda, MATATAG (which translates to ‘resilience’), developed as a response to the learning crisis. MATATAG focuses on making the curriculum more relevant, accelerating the delivery of basic education services, promoting learner’s well-being and supporting teachers.

Cambodia is focusing on foundational learning, given its low performance on regional and international assessments. This includes teacher support, new teaching and learning resources, community and parental engagement and learning assessment. Cambodia has also increased its focus on early years and is implementing a holistic approach including education, health, nutrition, responsive caregiving, safety and security.

Indonesia focused on what it described as “one of the most radical reforms in our recent history”: the Merdeka Belajar or Emancipated Learning reforms, which have been underway for the last three years. The reforms range from a more flexible curriculum, improvements to teacher training, and an increased focus on leveraging technology in classrooms. The ministry of education is recruiting 400 technology professionals and embedding them into key units to build user-centric products based on input from teachers, students and principals. Indonesia has also abolished national school exams, which assessed individual students’ mastery of subject-specific knowledge, and replaced these with a diagnostic assessment of all schools. The assessment focuses on foundational competencies and socio-emotional skills, and also measures teaching quality, school safety climate and instructional leadership. These results are shared with schools and districts to encourage evidence-based planning.

Making systems more resilient and integrating climate change education

Lao PDR has undertaken a risk mapping and aligned both its education sector policies and plan to national, subnational and local disaster management plans. It is also integrating learning about climate change into supplementary materials, applying the ASEAN School Safety Framework and training school principals and teachers on education contingency plans.

These examples show that countries in the Asia-Pacific region are stepping up their efforts to transform education. But they all stressed they cannot do it alone – increased international financial support and partnerships are crucial to achieving SDG 4 in the region.

Read more about the event and watch the recording.

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Thanks for sharing us.

In the South Asian region, India has the largest share of out-of-school children and youth, poor academic performance of school-going children, high rate of illiteracy among adult women. And yet, it seems there is no concerted attempt to address these rather serious issues, particularly with regard to high rate of illiteracy among women. Is this due to lack of political commitment? There is need for serious discussion.

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