THE Philippines will host the two annual conferences of Southeast Asian education ministers – the 45th Seameo Council Conference (Seamec) and 5th Asean Meeting of Ministers of Education (Ased) – on January 26 to 29 at the Shangri-la Hotel in Cebu.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will grace the opening ceremony as the Guest of Honor on January 27.

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Education Secretary Jesli Lapus said the back-to-back conferences aim to foster stronger cooperation on education among Southeast Asian countries and beyond.

Lapus, who will assume the presidency of the Seameo Council, said high on the agenda are the 10-collaborative projects of the Seameo Member States.

These projects are aimed at providing education to the underserved communities in the region, integration of climate change in the school curriculum, harmonization of higher education in Southeast Asia, building capacity on maximizing the use of language in teaching, integration of ICT in teaching and learning, and strengthening visibility of Seameo, among others.

“Aside from fostering greater cooperation among our neighbors in terms of education, the conference will also provide a way for greater understanding of the challenges every one of us is facing in terms of ensuring greater access to quality education for all,” Lapus said.

“This is very critical as we are in the crossroad between the 20th and 21th century with a myriad of exciting challenges,” he added.

As to his taking the council highest post, he said it is a vote of confidence on the country’s competence and initiative in education.

“As president, I will steer Seameo into a more dynamic organization that gives special focus on two main thrusts: early childhood care for learners and the use of technology in education,” said Lapus.

In 2007, Lapus was elected into the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) Executive Board in Paris, France. He served as Vice President of the 34th Unesco General Conference, which gave the country a chance to press forward issues facing Philippine public education to the international agenda.

The Seameo Council, the Organization’s governing body, is composed of the 11 ministers of education of the Seameo Member Countries.

Seameo is an international and regional intergovernmental organization whose members are Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao Peoples Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Timor-Leste and Vietnam. It has 19 specialist Regional Centers in Southeast Asia.

Seameo collaborates with global organizations like Unesco, Unicef, UN Habitat, the World Bank, and the Asean Secretariat. It is also supported by its Associate Member Countries: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, and Spain. The International Council for Open and Distance Education, and Tsukuba University are Affiliate Members. The headquarters of Seameo is located in Bangkok, Thailand.

More than 200 participants from 19 countries – comprising education ministers, high-level government education officials, and representatives from international organizations – from the eleven Seameo Member States, Associate Members, Affiliate Members, and partners are expected to attend the Conferences.

A policy forum carries the theme, “Understanding the Vital Years for Future Learning.” (AH/Sunnex)