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Putting Skills to Work for Inclusive and Sustainable Growth


Held on 10-12 December 2012 in Manila and organised by the Asian Development Bank, the “International Forum on Skills for Inclusive and Sustainable Growth” brought together 80 professionals and researchers to provide diverse perspectives on skills policies in the Asia-Pacific region.

The forum, which explored a range of effective policies and strategies for skills development, current growth of labour markets in the region, and demands for skilled workers at middle and higher levels, was described as timely by UNESCO Bangkok Chief of Unit, Gwang-Chol Chang.

Indeed, UNESCO’s 2012 Education for All Global Monitoring Report (GMR), ‘Youth and Skills: Putting Education to Work’ has focused on this important issue.

“This is because the social and economic challenges of recent years have focused attention on skills deficits amongst young people. The challenges of rising youth unemployment amid economic downturn in certain regions brought a sense of urgency to the third Education for All Goal and made it an evident focus for GMR 2012 edition. This Goal has arguably not been given the attention it deserves in the past, partly because of the ambiguity of the commitments made when EFA goals were established in 2000,” Gwang-Chol said.   

“Now, needs are changing and so too priorities must also shift. Our focus is particularly on those who face the most disadvantages in acquiring skills due to circumstance at birth – such as poverty, gender and where they live. The voices of these young people are least heard, but they are in most need of skills training to ensure they can expect a decent life and work,” he said.

According to the Report, the number of out-of-school adolescents has decreased on the past decade, yet the region still houses 41 million out of school youth (East Asia and Pacific, and South and West Asia), which represents some 65% of 70 million out of school lower secondary level youth worldwide. They will lack necessary foundation skill, which are a prerequisite for them to continue in further education and training, and also for acquiring transferable, and technical and vocational skills, unless alternative learning opportunities are provided.

Investing in education and skills is not just important for the individual – to ensure they can escape working in poverty, it is also good business. As the GMR has calculated, $1 invested in a child’s education and skills pays back at least tenfold in economic growth in that person’s lifetime.

For UNESCO, the forum provided opportunity to present findings from the 2012 edition of the EFA GMR with a particular focus on the Asia-Pacific region.

Overall, the meeting allowed for diverse perspectives on skills development in the region with some important messages emerging, some of which may include the following:  

  • Successful education and training systems cannot be built without strong government leadership and commitment;
  • Education-industry cooperation is not an easy task but important factor to strong skills development;
  • There is no universal recipe and no short-cut to skills development and rapid economic growth: the experiences of other countries can be learnt, but necessary adaptation and “localization” of these are needed, accompanied with continuous monitoring of policy implementation.

For more information,please contact Gwang-chol Chang [gc.chang(at)] at the Education Policy and Reform Unit.  

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

Related Links:  

 Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2012 

• Skills for Inclusive and Sustainable Growth in Developing Asia-Pacific: An International Forum

•  Asia Must Close Skills Gaps, Go High Tech to Sustain Future Growth - ADB