Countries To Show More Support for ASEAN Education: Experts

Posted on February 27, 2014 by


Although 2015 is almost looming near, there seems to be a lack of understanding within the ASEAN members in terms of ASEAN framework and what it actually means for each of the Southeast Asian nations, despite the fact that some have already been included into school curriculums.

Cambodia, the last country that joined the ASEAN communities, has not integrated curriculum into their education system, nor has the information about this been widely spread.

Hean Socheata, a student at Royal University of Law and Economic, Phnom Penh said that she did not know much about the ASEAN unless she did a self-study. However, she could not ignore the fact that the media play an important role to inform people about the activities related to ASEAN. She gets some information about ASEAN from the media including TV, radio, and newspaper especially, she said.

“Whenever I heard about ASEAN, I always think of the ASEAN integration by 2015. And, one more question that comes to my mind is are Cambodian youths ready to compete with other ASEAN members on both education and skills?”

Mr. Phan Vong echoed Socheata’s idea. An employee of a popular cafe in Phnom Penh, Phan said he has heard and known about the ASEAN word through TV, but rarely gets any information through social media. “That’s why I don’t know what ASEAN really means to me and everybody else,” he said.

In Cambodia, there is not any specific ASEAN course designed for students as yet. This has posed a challenge that prevents Cambodians in general from fully understanding the roles of ASEAN and the ASEAN integration by 2015.



Mr. Pou Sovachana, Senior research fellow at Cambodian Institution for Cooperation and Peace and lecturer at a private university in Phnom Penh is of an opinion that school materials such as textbooks are important for teachers and students. Therefore, the ministry of education will play an indispensible role in designing the textbooks, which include ASEAN education.

“The more our youngers are aware of and become knowledgeable about ASEAN, the better it is for Cambodia in terms of political security, economy, and the social cultural aspects which are the three pillars of ASEAN integration,” he said.

According to a survey done on ASEAN Community Building Effort 2012 of ASEAN Secretariat, 76% of the people interviewed just have a basic understanding about ASEAN, which is still seen as a major challenge for ASEAN nations before the full integration by 2015.


Surveys on ASEAN Community Building Effort 2012

Surveys on ASEAN Community Building Effort 2012

Dr. Yeo Lay Hwee, Director of EU Centre Singapore, supports the idea of an ASEAN project to produce one ASEAN product/textbook that can be used in all educational institutes in ASEAN nations.

“The ASEAN Secretariat or the ASEAN Foundation can commission a project to produce a common ASEAN Textbook that can be agreed upon and be used in schools in all ASEAN member states”.

Other experts believe that textbooks for ASEAN members should be produced or done with critical thinking, and there will actually be more challenges besides textbooks themselves.

Prof. Danilo A. Arao, Assistant Vice-President for Public Affair Director, System Information office, Philippines stated, “I think there is a need to further deep the use of textbooks by the ASEAN could be done but the fundamental problem in the Philippines is the lack of adequate government subsidy resulting in the most basic of problems — lack of classrooms, lack of teachers and, Of course, the use of any textbook (including that from the ASEAN) should undergo serious scrutiny from academics of the 10 member-states. The contents should be truthful and objective.”

Not only Philippines but also in Myanmar, a spokesperson from Education Department and rector of University in Myanmar said that that Japan International Corporation Agency (JICA) will support the curriculum used in lower as well as higher education institutes. He mentioned that the discussion about ASEAN education is underway, and the details could not be disclosed.

Besides the curriculum integration into each education; other activities should be encouraged and supported, as experts believe.

Prof. Dr. phil.Martin Löffelholz, rector of Swiss German University-ASIA, Jakarta, Indonesia believes that ASEAN would be able to increase its own popularity and public outreach if similar ASEAN studies would be offered at all major universities in the region first.

“In these elective additional studies, textbooks would be a valuable source for teachers, lecturers, and of course students.”

The fact that ASEAN hasn’t accomplished much so far, as Mr. Sok Touch, rector of a Phnom Penh private university said, comes from the fact that ASEAN hasn’t set even clearer goal.

“It would be very good if we integrate ASEAN Textbook into the education system for each student in each member state to learn even more.”

The relevant ASEAN department of Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Cambodia has worked on the dissemination of ASEAN information in the country. Pou Sothirak, secretary of the department, believes that social media, Internet, and broadcast media will be the main actors to help the country focus on, promote, and encourage the ASEAN education system in both urban and rural areas.

While not many people are positive about ASEAN integration by 2015, Jayant Menon, lead economist at the ADB’s office of regional integration, gave an interview to the Phnom Penh Post on December 24th, saying that he is optimistic about this huge plan and that ASEAN does not aim to be as complicated or even as similarly united as the European Union, so the deadline of 2025 would still seem more realistic.


Posted in: ASEAN, Cambodia