Youth initiatives on education heard at SEAMEO Innotech 14th International Conference

To provide an avenue for the voices of young people of Southeast Asian nations, the SEAMEO Regional Center for Educational Innovation and Technology (SEAMEO Innotech) held its 14th International Conference focusing on empowering Southeast Asian learners by further addressing the Education For All (EFA) goals.

In partnership with the Department of Education (DepEd), the two-day conference gave an opportunity for some 150 youth leaders and educators from 15 different countries to discuss key issues on development agenda for education, especially for the upcoming Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) integration. The participants’ final outputs were presented to the Council of Ministers of Education and SEAMEO high officials.

Education Secretary Br. Armin A. Luistro FSC responded by encouraging the young participants to serve their communities in order to achieve reform progress of the ASEAN, as well as on a global scale.

“ASEAN is a reality today. Therefore, we could actually paint a picture where there are more countries where young people and old people can go visit each other’s country and feel that we are one family. If that were so, the question for you is: 'What are you ready to give up in order to be part of this new community and what will you wish you retain?’ We'll have to live with that anxiety and reality that if we want to be a community, we have to struggle daily with what your identity is and what you are willing to give up to be ASEAN,” said Luistro.

National Youth Commission (NYC) Assistant Secretary Earl Saavedra said the conference is very timely as the Philippines is going to chair the ASEAN by 2017 and will need the participation of the young people on convergence platforms and opportunities for growth and development of each of their respective localities.

“From our end, it is very important that you were able to touch on the importance on the role of the youth in the emerging ASEAN integration. The Philippine government and the National Youth Commission is in the process of conceptualizing the ASEAN communications master plan for the youth, and the next steps would be the conceptualization of the ASEAN Youth Situationer, which should be backed up by the ASEAN Youth Development Index. Your output will help us brainstorm how we could move forward and make things happen,” Saavedra stated.

Dr. Steve Anzalone, Senior Vice President for Asia of the Education Development Center (EDC) encouraged the youth to act as catalysts issues that they are passionate about.

“Part of being a youth is being rebellious. As youth, you've got to rebel a little bit against the existing order or there will never be any sort of change that will take place. If there is a sense of where we could altogether rebel a little bit, there is a wonderful and beautiful set of principles that will start,” Anzalone said. 

The conference focused on the youth and their reflections on improving the quality education in the region. One of which is capacitating individuals with leadership skills. Luistro instead challenged the delegates to go where the crisis is so that they will discover their own leadership from within. 

The education chief said, “Leadership is tested when you move out from your comfort zone and face the reality out there. During the worst typhoon that hit the Philippines and one of the worst recorded in history: Typhoon Yolanda. We never knew that there were so many leaders on the ground. Leaders emerge during times of crisis. The question is, 'Are you still preparing today so that you will acquire leadership skills?' or ‘When you go back to your locality, whether you're from Brunei, Malaysia, Cambodia, Mindanao, what are your steps to make a change there and what are you willing to invest to make that change possible?’” 

“The world will not change just by coming up with a recommendation that somebody else or the government will implement. We must empower young people as ordinary citizens to do it for us and for themselves,” Luistro added.

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