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South-East Asia values education project eyes second phase


South-East Asia’s rapid growth has created a disconnect for many of the region’s youth between what they learn within their communities and cultures and the often conflicting influences coming from media amid increasing globalization.

Values education has the potential to give young people the skills they need to navigate these tumultuous times and make life choices, fostering a sense of self-worth, as well as empathy, responsible personal behavior and engagement both with others, the wider community and the world.

A recent UNESCO regional workshop presented the findings of an assessment of the state of values education in three countries – Cambodia, Lao PDR and the Philippines – a mapping exercise that is intended to inform the development of a toolkit on values education for wider dissemination.

The workshop, “Educating for sustainable futures through integration of values in school-based and community-based programs targeting young people,” held from 27-29 July in Bangkok, brought together South-East Asian education ministry officials, NGO representatives as well as teachers and youth from the three target countries.

UNESCO Bangkok Director Gwang-Jo Kim spoke at the forum’s opening of the importance of capitalizing on education’s potential to build peace and sustainable futures.

“Education can serve as a unifying force that encourages empathy and builds understanding among people both within countries and across borders. It can also be twisted to fuel bitter divisions and breed antipathy,” he said. “Which path education takes depends in part on the foundation upon which it rests. We are here today to build and strengthen that foundation.”

The workshop, conducted with the support of the Malaysian government through Malaysia Funds-in-Trust (MFIT), detailed how values education is currently approached in the three pilot countries.

In Cambodia, values education is often framed as moral-civics education in the national context and is taught through formal and informal education as well as being embedded in Khmer language studies. Emphasis is given to international frameworks, such as Education for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals, to enable students to more deeply consider the consequences of their actions.

Values are taught implicitly in a variety of subjects in Lao PDR, including citizenship education, Lao language classes, history and others, while in the Philippines school-based values education is a priority, although the method of delivery is more lecture-driven than differentiated or experiential.

The workshop marked the conclusion of the first stage of UNESCO’s values education project, with the next stage expected to see the development of a practical toolkit to support values education in the sub-region.

The toolkit will serve as a resource for teachers, encompassing school teachers, trainers, parents, community leaders and even peers, as well as learners in and out of school. It will aim to identify, develop and implement values education by supporting young people to make informed choices that promote sustainability, diversity, empathy and flexibility through rational thinking, reflection and solidarity.