Last year was an eventful year for the Education sector across Asia. From major policy reforms to the implementation of groundbreaking projects, we present to you a roundup of some of these initiatives.

Education initiatives across Asia in 2014 infographic by Knowledge Platform

THAILAND

After Thailand’s May 22nd coup d’etat, Admiral Narong Pipatanasai took over as Minister of Education. In addition, revisions to the 2015 budget saw a 3.2% increase in money allocated to the Ministry of Education. Education receives roughly 20% of total budget allocations.

What does this mean?

In 2013, Education Minister Chaturon Chaisang announced:

  • An overhaul of vocational education
  • Knowledge sharing about new teaching methodology and learning management
  • Uses of information and communication technology in education

These initiatives were part of a 15-year national plan to improve education from 2002 to 2016. With a new government in power, it is unclear how much of the previously decided 2015 – 2016 education reform will be carried out . Thai junta leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha has reinforced his commitment to the improvement of education and the introduction of new reforms, but now more than ever Thailand needs long-term, sustainable reform in order to improve the country’s quality of education. Thailand ranks eight out of 10 in Southeast Asia for education. It’s not a question of quantity but quality. A 20% allocation of budget does not guarantee the solution to Thailand’s education problems, but it does create an opportunity for educational content and service providers to step in and make a difference.

CHINA

What happened?

After numerous rumors circled throughout China about the decline, and possible demise, of English in the GaoKao, in September 2014 the state council released a draft of the GaoKao reform. The reform, which very much maintains the importance of English, has reduced the number of subjects examined to only three: Chinese, Math and English. Students have two chances to take the English test, allowing them to submit the test with the higher score. Pilot programs for the reform will take place this year in Shanghai and Zhejiang province starting with grade 10 students. The reform will go nationwide in 2017.

What does this mean?

The rumors that English would have less weight in the GaoKao led to decreased enrollment in English training classes and courses. This is not surprising given the importance of the GaoKao when applying to university. Now that English is once again an important fixture of the exam, we can expect to see increased interest in English, especially in supplementary programs.

MALAYSIA

What happened?

What does this mean?

The virtual desktop project equips schools with ICT infrastructure at minimum onsite maintenance and set-up. Thin client terminals are installed without any processor or hard drive because all data comes from a cloud server. Internet is required to connect with a virtual desktop machine hosted on the cloud. Electricity in rural Malaysia is provided by solar and diesel generators while Internet is provided by a VSAT satellite link. Although the technology can be deployed easily with little onsite maintenance and support, unreliable Internet connectivity may make it difficult for students to have steady access to computer applications. This project is just one of many efforts to provide ICT to schools in rural areas. Without the introduction and proper training of ICT in primary education, high school graduates later often find themselves locked out of most white-collar jobs.

PHILIPPINES

What happened?

In March 2014, The World Bank approved a US$300 million loan for the Learning, Equity, and Accountability Program Support Project (LEAPS).

What does this mean?

LEAPS will provide support for training of Grade 1-3 teachers and principals in reading and math, who will then become trainers at their respective schools. About 36,000 teachers and 12,000 principals will receive training. The project also aims to “strengthen accountability and incentives for teachers”. Education Secretary Armin Luistro hopes LEAPS will advance the basic education agenda of the government. Four million public school students are expected to benefit from the project.

BANGLADESH

What happened?

The World Bank approved US$1.1 billion for three projects in Bangladesh, of which US$400 million is for the ongoing Primary Education Development Project III.

What does this mean?

The project hopes to improve primary education by increasing net enrollment of students to 98% and the completion rate to 80%. It also aims to improve the quality of education and effectiveness of teachers and resources. An increase in money allocated to the project could lead to an increase in government RFPs and opportunities to use a wider variety of tools and resources.

CAMBODIA

What happened?

The ministry of Education, Youth and Sports released a National Education Strategic Plan providing a roadmap for reform and advancement in the Education sector from 2014 to 2018.

What does this mean?

Recognizing that Cambodia’s literacy rate trails behind most other ASEAN countries, the MoEYS has made literacy a key priority over the next couple years. With the help of UNESCO, the ministry introduced a Country Literacy Acceleration Plan and a National Literacy Campaign in order to achieve the Education For All adult literacy goal by 2015. The MoEYS organized six regional trainings for 660 core literacy trainers to reach their target of 92,000 adults becoming literate. The Educational Strategic Plan 2014-2018 also recognizes the importance of nonformal education, prioritizing vocational training and skill enhancement through the establishment of 348 Community Learning Centers throughout the country. Other priority programs include a School Establishment and Development Program, a Quality Assurance Program and a Higher Education Development Program.