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Regional Policy Forum on the Promotion of ASEAN Integration through Open and Distance Higher Education (23-24 November 2015, Radisson Blu Plaza, Bangkok)

Stakeholders of Open and Distance e-Learning (ODeL) in Higher Education from ASEAN member states gathered on 23 to 24 November 2015 in Bangkok for the Regional Policy Forum on the Promotion of ASEAN Integration through Open and Distance Education.  Participants include officials from Higher Education Institutions and government offices working on ODeL-based higher education in their respective countries, joined by resource persons on quality assurance and accreditation, recognition of qualifications, and infrastructure and access.

The Forum, organized by UNESCO Bangkok in collaboration with the ASEAN Cyber University, is part of a project that intends to facilitate a policy-level dialogue among different stakeholders of ODeL to promote cross-border provision and recognition of ODeL-based higher education.  The policy-level dialogue is being built upon a comprehensive review of ODeL in ASEAN and beyond, and is being conducted through a scoping study.  The initial findings of the scoping study, which seeks to determine the ODeL state-of-play in the ASEAN and how it can be tapped to promote regional integration, was presented at the Regional Policy Forum where participants gave comments that will be incorporated in the final version of the scoping study.  Additionally, participants gave initial deliberation on policy requirements that reinforce cross-border provision and recognition of Open and Distance Higher Education among ASEAN countries.  Participants also expressed the need for other ODeL stakeholders in ASEAN to take part in the follow-up to the ongoing study.

By the end of the Forum, key messages and recommendations were made in relation to infrastructure, quality assurance and policy requirements.  In terms of infrastructure (to promote equity and access), the key messages revolve around the need of some ASEAN countries for financial and technical support to address equity and access issues as well as the growing consideration for the marginalized, while recommendations include: support from UNESCO through involvement in the crafting of ICT in Education Master Plans;  UNESCO Guidelines on the Inclusion of Learners with Disabilities using ODL; and addressing priority areas such as ODeL for teacher training.  On quality assurance (to enhance quality and acceptability), key messages include the importance of taking a closer look at the impact of ODeL, as well as recognition of the need of relevant and responsive content for both the labor market and for the general ASEAN population, including the marginalized.  Related recommendations include the need for a hub linking ASEAN ODeL experts, as well as further research to address content requirements and measuring the social and economic impact of ODeL.  Lastly, key messages on policy (at national and regional level) include encouraging forum participants to bring ODeL to debates on National Qualifications Framework in their respective ASEAN countries, as well as the need for a consortium to deal with cross-border recognition and quality assurance issues.  Recommendations on policy revolve around involving key players throughout ASEAN, including government accreditation bodies and Higher Education institutions, organizations and networks in Southeast Asia.

Prof. Dr. Arul Chib, Director of the Singapore Internet Research Centre (SiRC) of Nanyang Technological University and one of the forum participants, found the Regional Policy Forum as “a needful intersection between policymakers, researchers and educators, resulting in a sharing of diverse perspectives from across the ASEAN region.”  Dr. Chib also observed how the participants contributed to the proceedings of the Forum.  “Participants agreed on the need for shared understanding and acknowledgement of standards of quality, qualifications and accreditation of ODeL in ASEAN Higher Education.  However, recognizing both the transformative potential and challenges associated with new technologies and techniques, we sought to address outstanding questions via cross-border research collaborations. As the global community looks toward the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, this group simultaneously endorsed the need for evidence-based impact, especially for marginalized populations in the region”, Dr. Chib added.

The Forum was conducted on the heels of the 27th ASEAN Summit on 18 to 22 November in Kuala Lumpur, where heads of state of the ASEAN member states signed the 2015 Kuala Lumpur Declaration on the Establishment of the ASEAN Community.

Further information on the Regional Policy Forum is available at .


Contact info: Avelino Mejia,