Inclusive education in Asia: Myth or reality?

Inclusive education in Asia: Myth or reality?

Contribution of the Director of Strategy and Association of the Institute for Economic Research for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA), Giulia Ajmone Marsan and the founder and CEO of the Asian network, Ravindra Ngo

Has the current pandemic changed our behavior and the way students and children learn? Yes, definitely.

Does the new normal contribute to an egalitarian and more inclusive education system in Asia? The answer is not so simple.

While the transition to a digital economy is accelerating in many parts of Asia, with several Southeast Asian nations among the fastest growing digital economies in the world, progress is not reaching all places and groups in the world. same pace. Socio-economic disparities, for example, lead to unequal access to technology; gender gaps, as girls are underrepresented in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM); and unequal access to education, with some schools lacking the capacity and infrastructure to support marginalized groups such as people with disabilities.

All these problems and challenges have been exacerbated by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has accelerated the fourth industrial revolution but has also harmed the mental and social health of many students.

There is a lack of training for educators and teachers are misusing educational technology, the backbone of education, leading to ethical issues such as cyberbullying and the invasion of data privacy.

Students need to improve and strengthen basic skills such as decision making, critical thinking, and teamwork, among others, to meet the challenges of tomorrow.

However, there is room for optimism.

Online learning is becoming more common and, for those with an Internet connection, more accessible, affordable and mobile. New forms of combined and hybrid learning can complement and replace traditional teaching and reach a wider audience, with thousands of students connected at the same time, wherever they are.

In Singapore, for example, Akadasia is a mission-driven educational technology company that aims to empower educators everywhere by providing a digital platform for peer learning and exchange.

Another example is Pre-School, a consulting firm that offers business-to-business solutions and services such as teacher training, student programs and curriculum development, with an emphasis on family support as teachers and families need to work together.

Asia policymakers need to monitor these rapidly changing developments and work with education and training partners to promote inclusive education. There are a number of important priorities. One is to address inequality, exclusion and marginalization with teacher training and workshops. Education must be tailored to students with special skills and needs.

Many teachers do not have the skills to teach people in marginalized communities, including students with disabilities, those affected by cyberbullying, and those, especially girls, who face barriers to STEM education due to sociocultural norms. . ASEAN policymakers need to implement appropriate training programs and skills to equip teachers with the tools to provide a more inclusive education.

Another is to strengthen the skills and competencies of teachers for digital inclusion. As new generations of students become more technology-savvy and able to search for information online, the issue of digital teacher improvement, with a focus on inclusion, is becoming increasingly important.

Educational ecosystems need to balance the socio-emotional and cognitive skills of students; reinforce students’ core competencies; and equip students with work skills that will enable them to improve society and self-knowledge, creativity, mindfulness and positive psychology.

Important priorities also include the development of more flexible and dynamic curricula. Teaching methods must reflect and adapt to the current context and prepare for the future. Students learn to be more agile and adaptive and to collaborate and participate in problem solving.

Improving the physical infrastructure to create a healthy environment for students and improving digital technology is another important priority. A safe school environment is vital not only for children, but also for the reputation and awareness of the school.

With more government funding, digital equipment such as computers, data centers, and Internet access can be improved for a more complete digital experience.

Many ASEAN countries are putting education and skills at the center of their post-pandemic recovery strategies. They emphasize the need to combine investment in (digital) infrastructure with “softer” tools to promote lifelong learning and the effective leadership and management skills of all educational staff.

For example, in Cambodia, quality education and a healthy school environment are seen as basic elements that must be combined with project-based learning and general business skills.

It is also important to expand partnerships. Collaborations are essential for education and training. There is an urgent need to promote public-private partnerships, as well as to proactively involve all stakeholders, especially research institutes, think tanks and other education-oriented institutions, to bring the quality of education to new levels. .

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai said: “A book, a pen, a child and a teacher can change the world.” We adapt his words: “A computer, a child and a teacher can make the world a better place.”

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