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From Strength to Strength with ERI-Net

ERI-Net 2012 Seminar members discuss Public Private Partnerships in Higher Education and TVET and youth employment.


We asked former UNESCO staff and Education Research Institutes Network (ERI-Net) founding member, Molly Lee, Programme Specialist Satoko Yano and ERI-Net member Prof Kai-ming Cheng, about the outcomes of the 2012 ERI-Net Seminar: Public Private Partnerships in Higher Education and TVET and Youth Employment and the importance of education research partnerships in the region.

ERI-Net was established by UNESCO's Asia and Pacific Regional Bureau for Education in Bangkok in 2009 and aims to enhance the exchange of policy initiatives, experience and information through research and dialogue and to contribute to policy-making in education development and innovation in the region.

The Network has focused on a number of research topics of relevance to the Asia-Pacific region, including International Student Mobility (2011)  The Use of ICTs in Universities and the Impact of the Economic Crisis on Higher Education in Asia and the Pacific (2010).

In 2012, the ERI-Net Seminar  took focus on: (1) public private partnership in higher education and TVET; and (2) youth employment

During the two-day event, specialists from ERI-Net in Australia, China, Hong Kong SAR, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mongolia, Philippines, the Republic of Korea, Sri Lanka and Thailand gathered to share research findings on these topics and draw valuable lessons. 

“What we’ve seen from this seminar is that PPPs can have different interpretations in different contexts,” said Molly Lee.

“On one hand, PPPs can mean participation by the private sector in decision-making processes on policies and strategic planning in education. On the other, PPPs can involve some sort of contractual agreement between parties in public and private sectors. 

“But while PPPs can take place at different levels and also take different forms, we see a consistent challenge across our member states in establishing effective, innovative and sustainable PPP in both the higher education and TVET sectors,” she said.

Molly Lee also outlined a number of key factors contributing to youth unemployment that are common to many member states. 

“Critical factors including ‘over-education’, a mismatch between qualifications and skills required for the labour market, and shortage of specific labour market needs are repeatedly experienced. 

“Addressing these multivariate causes requires collective action by government, industry, NGOs, higher education institutions, and even households,” she said. 

In response to these challenges, the ERI-Net Seminar allowed members to showcase innovative programmes designed to tackle youth unemployment, including in the Republic of Korea and Sri Lanka. 

It also provided opportunity to announce the expanded scope of ERI-Net research beyond higher education and TVET and the identification of two key areas of focus for 2012/2013 and beyond. 

“This year, we will be looking more closely at two topics: 1) the transition from secondary education to higher education and; 2) so called ‘non-cognitive’ skills in schools,” said ERI-Net Secretariat Manager and UNESCO Programme Specialist Satoko Yano. 

“We are looking forward to further refining these topics with our ERI-Net members and to developing further our proposals.

“For now, we are extremely proud of all that ERI-Net is achieving, for the commitment of researchers across the region and for the findings we are producing.  

“Because of this, we are looking to extend the network further, inviting new member institutions ensuring the impact of our work is felt even more broadly across countries of the Asia-Pacific region,” she said. 

For Molly Lee, education research partnerships, such as ERI-Net, are important for knowledge-sharing and capacity building in education policy and planning across the Asia-Pacific region. 

“The main objective of ERI-Net is to carry out collaborative research on educational policy issues so that the research findings can help policy-makers to formulate evidence-based policies,” said Molly Lee.

“Through this collective knowledge sharing, policy makers from member states can learn from one another.  At the same time, ERI-Net provides good learning opportunities to researchers and in particular those from less developed countries,” she said. 

For ERI-Net member Professor Kai-ming Cheng, the benefits of ERI-Net are clear. 

"Working in partnership, this seminar allows us to share our findings and learn from the collective knowledge and experience of others,” he said.  “This is how we build knowledge, this is how we build evidence and this is how we improve education systems in our region and beyond." 

For more information about ERI-Net, please visit the ERI-Net homepage or contact Satoko Yano [s.yano(at)] at the Education Policy and Reform Unit.

Written by Rachel McCarthy [r.mccarthy(at)]