Asia and Europe focus on education partnership

By Shada Islam - Asian and European ministers for education meet in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on May 13-14 to study ways to strengthen and develop an education partnership for the 21st Century.

The meeting is part of the multifaceted and informal process of Asia-Europe Meetings (ASEM) – a forum for dialogue and cooperation between European and Asian countries – which was launched in Bangkok in 1996.

Organised by the Ministry of Higher Education of Malaysia (MOHE) and the ASEM Education Secretariat set up in the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the meeting will discuss critical issues including quality and recognition in education as well as bringing business and industry views into planning and lifelong learning, including in technical and vocational disciplines. The aim is to enhance cooperation and encourage exchanges on key education issues between Asia and Europe.

The European Commission supports a range of international education and training activities and has established policy dialogues with several countries, including many in Asia.

Education has been a top ASEM priority for many years. ASEM leaders, meeting in Helsinki in 2006, underlined the importance of education as an investment in human resources.

Two years later, ASEM Education Ministers met for the first time in Berlin, Germany, to emphasise the pivotal role of education and training in ensuring economic and social development in both regions.

The Second ASEM Education Ministers' meeting was held in Hanoi in 2009, and discussed the "Sharing Experiences and Best Practices on Higher Education”.

At their third meeting, in Denmark in 2011, ministers underlined the need for an intensive and sustainable Asia-Europe education partnership on the basis of mutual respect and benefit.

In Kuala Lumpur later this month, the focus will be on "Strategizing ASEM Education Collaboration".

Discussions will look at ways of improving Asia-Europe mobility in education by improving information on opportunities in Asia and Europe, encouraging ASEM members to increase the number of joint degree and short-term study programmes and promoting student, researcher and staff exchanges by using existing mobility schemes.

The importance of lifelong learning will be emphasised, with participants looking at ways of disseminating good practices and sharing research findings between ASEM countries.

ASEM partners have already agreed that high-quality research, education and training systems that encourage and foster lifelong learning are crucial for growth and development of both Asia and Europe and also for democracy and social cohesion in both regions. Now they will be looking at how to take the ideas forward in practice.

The Asia-Europe Foundation, established under ASEM to promote cultural exchanges between the two regions, has set up an ASEM Education Hub and the ASEM Education and Research Hub for Lifelong Learning to strengthen cooperation and mobility between Asia and Europe and to improve transparency and understanding of the different education systems.

In Copenhagen two years ago, ASEM partners also agreed that their future cooperation should build on existing structures and international conventions (e.g. UNESCO), in the field of recognition, quality assurance and mobility of both students and researchers.

In addition to the meeting of education ministers, ASEM Rectors’ Conferences and ASEM University-Business forums are also held regularly.