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A Year of Achievements for EPR

The Education Policy and Reform (EPR) Unit of UNESCO Bangkok is entrusted with the promotion of policies and strategies that can help improve education systems within the Asia-Pacific. As such, the breadth of EPR’s work is always significant, stretching across a number of important thematic areas.

The year 2014 has been no different - EPR has worked hard to support education ministries and produce a number of important regional conferences, workshops, studies and publications all aimed at strengthening education systems of the region. Below is a reflection on achievements and milestones over the past year for the entire Unit. All staff have worked tirelessly to produce these important works. We thank them all for their incredible efforts. 

Lastly, thank you, our readers!  May 2015 be a great year for all in our continued commitment to strengthening education development outcomes across our region. Happy holidays and happy reading!  

Looking Back on 2014

In 2014, the Education Research and Foresight Team, together with UNESCO’s APPEAL Unit, was given the monumental task of organizing the Asia-Pacific Regional Education Conference (APREC) in cooperation with UNESCO's partners (including the Ministry of Education, Thailand, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Japan, the Ministry of Education, Republic of Korea, and UNICEF). APREC brought together 37 Member States and Associate Member States, 10 United Nations and other intergovernmental organizations, and 43 civil society organizations, businesses, national institutes and centres to discuss issues, challenges and priorities for education beyond 2015 on the basis of the national EFA reviews and in light of emerging development challenges. The Conference helped to develop regional recommendations (the “Bangkok Statement”) for the international framework for action to be adopted at the World Education Forum in Incheon, the Republic of Korea, in 2015.                                             

The work of the Policy and Planning Team has spread across a number of key areas, only some of which we can fit into this article! In 2014, the policy and planning team in collaboration with the German Institute of International Education Research (DIPF) and the Center for Research on Educational Testing (CRET)/ Bennesse Corporation, organized the first working group meeting on Globalization and Education. This collaboration will help to create a long-term, 3–tiered strategy to identify challenges and risks of globalization, identify how education can effectively deliver the skills and competencies to deal with these challenges, and ultimately develop an assessment framework to monitor and evaluate the progress of learners. Stay tuned for follow up to this important work in 2015.

As a secretariat of ERI-net, the policy and planning team also facilitated the second phase of ERI-Net regional study on “transversal competencies” (also commonly referred as 21st century skills or non-cognitive skills). In 2014, this involved a regional study focused on how education policy in this area is interpreted and practiced at the school level.  To this end, 10 countries and economies of the region are undertaking a country case study, although preliminary findings were shared at 2014 ERI-Net annual meeting, on 26-28 November 2014, in Hangzhou, China, in collaboration with Zhejiang University and with support from Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Technology—Japan, Tokyo Institute of Technology and Korean Educational Development Institute (KEDI). Case studies from the 10 education systems will be synthesized as a regional study early in 2015.

In addition, the team also provided technical assistance and capacity building support to the Myanmar Ministry of Education, in the framework of the Comprehensive Education Sector Review. The team conducted technical training workshops for officials in the areas of decentralized education planning and management as well as costing and policy simulation, and developed a customized EPSSim model of the Myanmar education system to enable the Ministry to assess the financial implications of various policy options for its costed National Education Sector Plan.

The policy and planning team finished the year by providing technical assistance in the development of a new Education Blueprint in the Kingdom of Bhutan, working closely with the Ministry of Education. The Education Blueprint, set to launch in December 2014, aims for a rapid and systematic reform of the education system in Bhutan.

The EPR Unit’s Quality team also had a particularly significant number of activities under its web in 2014. The Quality team, which coordinates the Network on Education Quality Monitoring in the Asia-Pacific (NEQMAP), organised a second annual meeting from 31 March –1 April 2014 in Bangkok, preceded by a second NEQMAP Steering Group meeting on 30 March. The meetings focused on the discussion and exchange of ideas on the implementation of network activities foreseen for the immediate future and beyond. In addition, NEQMAP successfully organized its first capacity development workshop, offering an “Introduction to Large-Scale Assessments of Learning” from 23-26 September in Bangkok. Attended by more than 40 participants representing ministries of education, assessment/evaluation bodies from 16 countries in the Asia-Pacific region and partner organizations, the workshop provided an excellent opportunity for participants not only to gain further understanding of various assessments, their implementation and effective use in policy formulation but also to benefit from active exchange of knowledge and experience of multiple countries and organization. In 2014, NEQMAP was also able to expand its membership circle to 28 members across 19 countries.

The Quality team also published a synthesis report on “Learning to live together” in early 2014. Carrying findings from ten countries in the Asia-Pacific, the report looks at how education systems are promoting this concept to build more peaceful and equitable societies. In addition, as a part of joint research project in collaboration with the Korean Women Development Institute (KWDI), a regional study was conducted in order to explore various factors affecting girls’ and women’s career choice in STEM fields across 7 countries in the region. The synthesis report of the study is being finalized and due to be published early 2015.

Finally, in 2014, the EPR Unit’s TVET team focused on transversal/transferable skills development. Thus in July 2014, the regional study entitled Transferable Skills in Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET): Policy Implications was published. The study focused on the ways in which transferable/transversal skills are defined in policies and curricula in 13 countries of the Asia-Pacific region. Based on country reports from this study, the 3rd issue of TVET@Asia online magazine was published in June 2014. Looking forward, the second phase of the research on transferable/transversal skills in TVET will look at pedagogies and assessment of transferable/transversal skills in seven countries of the region. The study is currently being conducted and is expected to be completed in the first half of 2015.In this context, the TVET team has also produced the Asia-Pacific Education Policy Brief which focuses on the skills needed to develop well-rounded learners in the 21st century.  

All in all, this prolific spread of conferences, workshops, studies and publications reflect the fruitful efforts of the EPR Unit across a range of areas important to education development in 2014. Looking forward, we are already excited and eager for 2015 and for all the exciting new projects and follow up initiatives we’ll be engaged in. As always, we look forward to sharing updates and news with all our readers via Education Policy Matters! E-Newsletters. 

Written by Education Policy and Reform Unit

Related Links

•  Asia-Pacific Regional Education Conference (APREC)
•  Asia-Pacific Statement on Education Beyond 2015 (Bangkok Statement)
•  Asia-Pacific Regional Education Conference (APREC) Final Report
•  Network on Education Quality Monitoring in the Asia-Pacific
•  ERI-Net annual meeting
•  Introduction to Large-Scale Assessments of Learning
•  Learning to live together
•  Transferable Skills in Technical and Vocational Education and Training: Policy Implications
•  Asia-Pacific Education Policy Brief
•  Education Policy Matters! E-Newsletters.