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UNESCO-KEDI Seminar 2012

"Education Policy-Making in the Age of Migration in Asia and the Pacific"

Background to the theme of the seminar

As of 2010, the United Nations Population Division (UNPD) estimated that there are 61.3 million international migrants living in Asia and 6 million in the Pacific.

Two countries in the region (Singapore and New Zealand) are among the top 10 countries worldwide in terms of the highest share of international migrants in their total populations (40.7% in the case of Singapore and 22.4% in the case of New Zealand). International migrants in the region are also increasingly moving to new destination countries, including Brunei Darussalam, Japan, Malaysia and Republic of Korea. 

Simultaneously, together with the rest of the world, the region has also experienced increasing internal migration: with an estimated five-fold increase in the number of people living in urban areas between 1950 and 2000.

The phenomenon of migration within the region is not expected to stop anytime soon but rather to accelerate.  Moreover, the ASEAN sub-region, for example, expects to come together as an economic community by 2015, implying the free movement of goods, services, investment, skilled labour and freer flow of capital. 

The increasing migration has implications for all facets of society in both the countries/jurisdictions of origin as well as countries/jurisdictions of destination of these migrants. The implications for education are complex. 

Schools and institutions may need to adjust management, curricula and pedagogy to reflect classrooms which are increasingly multicultural and socio-economically diverse. Learners must be prepared for work and life not only in their own locations but also beyond, implying a new international character for education and the need to respond to an increasingly mobile workforce. 

Migration presents opportunities for countries in the region striving to improve economic development through increased skilled labour force and improved productivity. Education system performance and skills development move to the heart of economic policy-making. 

Furthermore, education in the age of migration has critical implications for the global debate around issues of quality, equity and inclusiveness to address learning needs of students from various socio-cultural backgrounds. 

It touches on the questions of what should be learnt and how and for what purposes. In an age of rapid globalization and mobility, the challenges and opportunities posed by migration will increasingly be those which underlie all education systems, both in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond. Yet the diversity in circumstances across the region imply that these impacts will affect countries in complex and varied ways, placing unique pressures on national policy making.

In addition, international student mobility has dramatically increased alongside technological advancement, rapid globalization and the integration of the global education market. 

Against the backdrop of increasing migration and student mobility, this regional policy seminar will focus on how the education sector can respond to these phenomena in order to ensure quality education for all. 

Key documents


Concept Note

List of participants

Discussion paper - Migration (prepared by UNESCO Bangkok)

Discussion paper - Student mobility (revised) (prepared by KEDI)

Seminar Presentations