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HMEF 5033












(a) The concept of universal right to education.

Education is a fundamental human right and essential for the exercise of all other human
rights. It promotes individual freedom and empowerment and yields important development
benefits. Yet millions of children and adults remain deprived of educational opportunities, many
as a result of poverty.
Normative instruments of the United Nations and UNESCO lay down international legal
obligations for the right to education. These instruments promote and develop the right of every
person to enjoy access to education of good quality, without discrimination or exclusion. These
instruments bear witness to the great importance that Member States and the international
community attach to normative action for realizing the right to education. It is for governments
to fulfil their obligations both legal and political in regard to providing education for all of good
quality and to implement and monitor more effectively education strategies. Education is a
powerful tool by which economically and socially marginalized adults and children can lift
themselves out of poverty and participate fully as citizens.
The right to education is reflected in international law in Article 26 of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights and Articles 13 and 14 of the International Covenant on Economic,
Social and Cultural Rights. The right to education has been reaffirmed in the
1960 UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education, the 1981 Convention on the
Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the 2006 Convention on the Rights
of Persons with Disabilities and the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights.
In Europe, Article 2 of the first Protocol of 20 March 1952 to the European Convention
on Human Rights states that the right to education is recognized as a human right and is
understood to establish an entitlement to education. According to the International Covenant on
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the right to education includes the right to free,
compulsory primary education for all, an obligation to develop secondary education accessible to
all in particular by the progressive introduction of free secondary education, as well as an
obligation to develop equitable access to higher education in particular by the progressive
introduction of free higher education. The right to education also includes a responsibility to
provide basic education for individuals who have not completed primary education. In addition
to these access to education provisions, the right to education encompasses also the obligation to
eliminate discrimination at all levels of the educational system, to set minimum standards and to
improve quality. The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has applied this norm for
example in the Belgian linguistic case.. Article 10 of the European Social Charter guarantees the
right to vocational education.
However, International law does not protect the right to pre-primary education and
international documents generally omit references to education at this level. The Universal
Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone has the right to education, hence the right
applies to all individuals, although children are considered as the main beneficiaries.[20]

The rights to education are separated into three levels:

Primary (Elemental or Fundamental) Education. This shall be compulsory and free for
any child regardless of their nationality, gender, place of birth, or any other discrimination. Upon
ratifying the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights States must
provide free primary education within two years.
Secondary (or Elementary, Technical and Professional in the UDHR) Education must be
generally available and accessible.

Higher Education (at the University Level) should be provided according to capacity.
That is, anyone who meets the necessary education standards should be able to go to university.

Both secondary and higher education shall be made accessible "by every appropriate means, and
in particular by the progressive introduction of free education.
The realisation of the right to education on a national level may be achieved through compulsory
education, or more specifically free compulsory primary education, as stated in both
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social
and Cultural Rights.

(b) The complexities that emerges from three aspects of education.

There are three aspects of education that create particular complexities. First, education exists
in a variety of different forms, some of which may in fact be negative. Second education points
beyond itself, being a preparation for other activities as well as a potentially valuable experience
in itself, and therefore decisions also need to be made about these external goals. Third, students
do not necessarily leave the classroom with what has been presented to them (and it is very
difficult to predict exactly what they will take away with them).

All students, regardless of age, gender, race, and socioeconomic status, have a history, a present,
and a future that is situated within a set of socially constructed societal expectations that create
limitations for some and not others. In other words, they have an identity. What is missing from
education research is a lack of admission that there is a set of socially constructed societal
expectations that parallel both society and teaching and learning, which, as a consequence, serve
to continue to enfranchise and disenfranchise the same students. For example, in a review of
literature for the teaching and learning of science for Latino/a populations, I found very little
evidence of complexity. Indeed, much research talked about or reported in their findings a
Latino/a population, but it did not mention, for example, how language ability influenced their
Forum on Public Policy 9 findings. In a chapter entitled We are more different than alike:
latinos/latinas-hispanics, main writing was : Teaching and learning science is not complicated but
complex because identity is critical to the academic success of Latinos(as). Identity is critical
because Latinos(as) can incorporate themselves into the learning process if they are understood
and accepted. However, as long as researchers and science teachers treat teaching and learning
science as a way to contrast differences between Latino(as) and an Anglo society, it will always
be complicated. A complex framework for analysis or making sense that has as its center point
the notion of identity is critically needed. Identity is the same as acceptance, and this means that
a tension between understanding us as we are versus how you think we should be must be
created. However, until it is made clear by the bulk of my colleagues how they incorporated
culture, economics, language, and sociological issues, which are part and parcel of the past and
present of the disenfranchised, then we are simply subsets contrasted against Anglo values and
interpretations, which is a hegemony in and of itself.

(c) The concept of education cannot be equated with schooling.

Education is the culmination of facts, experiences, and thought that is gained over a lifetime.
Schooling is a formal process generally associated with the institution of education- Pre-
kindergarten through 12th grade schools + university level courses and degrees. You can gain a
great deal of education from "schooling," but there is so much more to education than the bricks
and mortar, and textbooks and lectures, etc. that is "schooling."

As communities grew, knowledge expanded, inventions came more frequently, and a

greater need for the next generations to have a more formal educational process developed. The
educational process began with the basic skills of reading, writing, and arithmetic; eventually
adding additional instruction, such as history, geography, music, sciences, philosophies, religion,
social studies, and arts. Advanced mathematics, sciences, and many other disciplines, became
part of the educational process.
No one actually knows when formal schooling began. Could it have been with the
cavemen training their children with the survival skills to continue their lives, and pass their
skills on to countless generations of descendents? Prior to written languages, learning processes
existed solely as oral traditions; societies were developed based on communicating this
knowledge, or schooling the next generation. One of the earliest examples of schooling found,
was in Egypt, around 3000BC.
Todays schools are pressure-packed places narrowly focused on producing results,
specifically in reading and math, on standardized tests. The emphasis on test scores, rank in
class, grade point averages, or other numeric indicators has caused teachers to prepare students
for these tests. Sometimes an inordinate amount of time is spent on teaching test format
familiarity, test-taking skills, and drill. Other subjects history, science, and the fines arts are
being squeezed out or curtailed as a result. Appropriate skill tests are helpful if they assist
teachers to make sound instructional decisions for individual students. But one-time, high-stakes
test events can compromise time for creative and imaginative lessons and projects that promote
reasoning, problem solving, questioning, analyzing, synthesizing, and understanding.
Consequently, we are teaching students the game of schooling as if it were a short term
competitive exercise do what you must to get the number you need. Hence, many high school
students are concerned with passing, not learning; short-term grades, not in-depth understanding;
and building rsums, not following their bliss. We are teaching that competition is the only
approach to reaching excellence, as if passion, commitment, and hard work over the long-term
do not matter. And, we emphasize that human worth can be quantified by a set of numbers,
discounting the intangibles of heart, perseverance, and long-term commitment. The recent
admission of scoring errors by test companies on high stakes tests should send a shudder through
us all. The idea also seems to be that what is not metrically measurable is not important. This is a
cousin to the idea that if you cannot see it, don't believe it. But that flies in the face of the very
concept and principles under which this country was founded. The great philosophical questions
of life truth, beauty, justice, liberty, equality, and goodness cannot be assessed through as
computer scored test. Searching for these answers to these issues is at the very core of our
society and the essence of becoming well-educated. These great ideas should be studied in school
and understood by our children if they are to live a life of depth, understanding, and principle.
This requires a broad education in the academics, fine arts, and culture. An education is more
than simply getting a job or meeting a career goal. There is a difference, too, between education
and training. Chasing the brass ring without a strong foundation in principle can be corrupting.
One only has to look at the business world or professional sports to see obvious examples. All of
our children, rich and poor, should be educated so they can contribute to the common good, be
responsible and active citizens, and adapt to changing times.
Being able to think critically, to pose questions as well the seek answers, and to understand
and develop an ethical and moral framework are a part of being well-educated. Educated people
have strong academic skills, but they also have the values and principles that form the foundation
for their lifes decisions. Unfortunately, some of our schools are becoming too narrowly focused
and our competitive society has pushed some of our high school students to say "I have to cheat"
to get ahead. Cleverness, cunning and cutting ethical corners are not standards of an educated
person. Well-educated people revere knowledge and apply values and principles to guide them as
they seek a meaningful life of purpose. They try to make "wise" decisions premised on strong
ethical and moral ideals and broad academic understanding. Education is a lifelong process of
continuous learning and examination. Being welleducated means having a sense of stewardship
and a concern for the common good, not simply tending to self-interest and ego needs.

(d) Schooling sometimes infringes with the rights of the child.

Education is something we have all experienced. Whether we remember our days in the old
school yard as the happiest days of our lives or whether we were glad to escape from school into
the adult world, nearly all Australians either as students or as parents of students have at some
time had personal experience of the school education system.
Education is not easily fitted into a 'service provider' and 'service consumer' analysis.
Who are the service providers: departments of education, school councils, school principals,
teachers? The New South Wales Education Reform Act 1990 states that 'education is the primary
responsibility of the child's parents', and one might even argue that parents are the primary
service providers. Some States and Territories have devolved some responsibility to school
councils with representatives from various sectors of the educational community.

Deciding who are the consumers of education is equally difficult. Students, whether willingly or
unwillingly, spend most of their weekdays sitting in the classroom and could be said to be the
primary consumers. Parents of school children have a real interest in the availability and quality
of educational services and the legal responsibility for ensuring that children go to school.
Parents make most of the choices about their child's education and, in the private system, have an
added financial interest in the quality of the educational services they are paying for. The
relationship between students, parents and educators can be complex and confusing, and the
boundaries are often unclear. This lack of certainty frequently works to the disadvantage of
Education is seldom seen as a social service and the notion of schools providing a service
for students and their parents is not often expressed. Schools are often viewed as self-enclosed
communities, part of a separate sphere governed by their own ideology, rules and priorities, and
for which there are historical and pedagogical reasons. The school world is often resistant to
interference from other disciplines such as the social services and the law. The notion of schools
somehow being above the law has never received acceptance from the courts, but courts have
traditionally shown a reluctance to intervene in internal school matters. The courts have
generally accepted that school principals and teachers are the best suited to make such decisions.
The concept of 'consumer power' in education is not well developed in many states
education system, and an analysis of education in terms of the rights of children and their parents
is strongly resisted by many educationists. The approach is often that schools have been
entrusted with the difficult task of imparting knowledge and skills to children; that teachers are
professionals with a specialist expertise and they should be free to get on with the task without
outside interference.
This approach is enhanced by the traditional lack of community control and community
accountability in state schools. While there has been some move in the last decade to devolve the
power of education departments and increase the input of parents, students and the community,
the steps forward have been tentative and faltering. There is an understandable fear that
devolution is likely to be an excuse for reduction in resources, closure of schools, redundancies
and worse employment conditions for teachers
Compulsory education means a loss of autonomy and personal freedom for the child and
extends the child's dependency on adults beyond the time when such dependency is essential for
the child's survival and development. Children of compulsory school age face significant
restriction of their freedom of movement and assembly, their freedom of expression and their
freedom of thought, conscience and religion. They are denied the right to work during school
hours and thus to earn money. In Australia, as in most industrialised societies, this loss of
freedom is seen as a necessary sacrifice for children's greater good and for that of society, which
has an interest in its citizens attaining a high level of education.
Children can no longer be treated as passive objects about whom parents and teachers can
make decisions. They are independent people with increasing powers of self-determination as
they grow in maturity and understanding. With very young children the protectionist role of
adults predominates, but as children move towards adulthood they are empowered to make more
and more important decisions for themselves. Adults can advise and suggest, but children move
to a situation where they are increasingly able to make their own choices and determine their
own actions.
There is a discernible resistance amongst educators to the idea of children having
independent rights in education. Historically, school education has placed considerable emphasis
on the teacher's authority and control. It is believed that effective education is most likely in a
disciplined and firmly controlled environment and there remains considerable emphasis on
conformity, respect and obedience. Educational philosophies which encourage informality,
experimentation, selfmotivation and innovation have had some influence on educational
approaches, but most state and independent schools remain firmly rooted in the English
pedagogical tradition.

(e) Kenyas education reform resulted in significant gains in ensuring availability and
accessibility to education but the aspect of acceptability has been less successful.

In 2003, Kenya introduced free primary education, following other sub-Saharan

Africancountries such as Malawi, Uganda and Zambia. In the year after implementation, grade
one intake rose by a staggering 35%, although enrolments declined slightly afterwards(Somerset
2009). The initiative has made significant gains in ensuring availability and accessibility of
education (in the language of the 4 As [Tomasevski 2006]), removing direct fees, making the
purchase of school uniform voluntary and limiting parental contributions (Somerset 2009).
However, the aspect of acceptability has been less successful.
Evidence from randomized evaluations suggests a number of key cost-effective interventions that
could be introduced to address the inequities in access and achievement in primary school.
Large-scale deworming programs, for example, have been shown to be extremely cost-effective
at increasing schooling and could go a long way in boosting participation, especially among the
poor. For example a program where local school committees are provided with grants to hire
remedial education instructors could have even larger effects. Programs that allow teachers to
tailor their lessons to better suit the level of preparation of their students are effective at boosting
students academic performance. The existing evidence shows that a merit scholarship program
can raise achievement. Since primary school fees have been abolished, providing merit
scholarships for students who gain admission to secondary school is a possibility that warrants
further exploration. Additional programs that provide teachers or head-teachers with incentives
to raise the levels of learning in their students could also be piloted and evaluated on a small-
scale before implementation on national-scale.
With the increasing demand for secondary school as a result of the FPE program, it is
becoming increasingly important to implement programs that address the primary-to-secondary
school bottleneck. Introducing programs that reduce the financial barriers to secondary schooling
especially for females and students from disadvantaged families could have important
implications. For example, a merit scholarship program for students from poor backgrounds who
gain admission to a national or provincial school could both alleviate the financial barriers and
stimulate student performance in primary schools. Lack of information has also been identified
as a constraint that prevents many individuals from adequately investing in education or from
accessing quality schools. With limited information about the quality of schools and the
secondary school selection process, children and parents often make many judgment errors in the
process leading to unfavorable outcomes. Data from the 2004 KCPE records shows that over
20% of students made judgment errors in selecting their preferred schools that led them to miss
opportunities to enroll in higher level schools. In 7 7 addition, data from other settings has shown
that individuals in developing countries are often misinformed about the economic (or pecuniary)
benefits of education. Overall, the research has shown that individuals from poor backgrounds
are more likely to be constrained by information. Providing individuals with more information
on the benefits of education, the quality of secondary schools and on the school selection process
could boost secondary school enrollments and also allow students from poorer backgrounds to
access better quality schools. This is a very cost-effective way of improving the outcomes of
students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Given the high incidence of judgment errors
committed by students in the secondary school selection process, it may be instructive to explore
reforms to the secondary school assignment system.

(f) Learning outcomes as the basis for the right to education.

Education progress has many benefits, but behind that progress is a problemone that grows
with each additional child that walks through the classroom door. Some children in those classes
are learning nothing. Many more are learning a small fraction of the syllabus. They complete
primary school unable to read a paragraph, or do simple addition, or tell the time. They are
hopelessly ill-equipped for secondary education or almost any formal employment. The crisis of
learning is both deep and widespread. It is a crisis for children, too many of whom leave school
believing they are failures. And it is a crisis for their communities and countries, because
economic analysis suggests it is what workers knownot their time in schoolthat makes them
more productive and their economies more prosperous.
School systems in many developing countries are chronically underfunded. Many are filled
with undernourished children of illiterate parents and staffed by poorly trained teachers who lack
mastery of the subjects they teach. But the crisis of learning is about far more than funding,
training, or the socioeconomic status of students. It is about education ministries that have
measured success on inputs such as budget, student numbers, teachers, and schools rather than
outcomes such as students who can read. It is about parents and parliamentarians who demand
schooling and simply assume learning will result.
Fixing the learning crisis will take systemic reform stretching beyond the education sector. It
will take teachers, headmasters, and education officials with the mandate to focus on learning.
And it will take those officials being held accountable for learning outcomes by informed
stakeholders including parents, parliamentarians, and employers.
Assessment regimes are a central part of this reform effort. They can provide evidence on the
scale of the learning crisis as a lever for reform. They can track progress on improvements and
provide the evidence base for what works. They empower parents to demand better outcomes
or move their kids to where they can find them.
We want children to be in school because we think they will learn valuable lessonsfrom
basic literacy and numeracy, to manners, workplace skills, and good citizenship. But learning
requires more than a students physical presence in a classroom. Hunger and exhaustion can
interfere with learning, and a lack of equipment, knowledge, or motivation can prevent effective
The development and education communities have long recognized the problem of failure to
learn. Even so, developing-country governments and donors continue to focus first on getting
children to school, and second, on inputs such as staff numbers and materials. Rarely do the
development and education communities focus on whether students are actually learning.
Evidence is mounting, however, that learning is stagnating in developing-country school
systems, as demonstrated by low levels of learning and small increments in learning across
Learning stagnation is linked to educational institutions in developing countries: from teacher
incentives, through syllabus design, to the structure of the education sector as a whole.
Conditions outside of school, including household characteristics, remain by far the best single
predictor of student test scores, 2 but this fact itself signals a widespread failure of the school
system to level outcomes. In fact, learning stagnation is primarily a problem of political
economy, where senior education officials and staff focus on inputs rather than the output of
The first step in systemic reform is to understand the problem: many students are learning close
to nothing in school. And assessment can help shift the focus of citizens, businesses,
parliamentarians, governments, and development agencies to maximizing outcomes rather than
Whether or not expanded educational opportunities will translate into meaningful
developmentfor an individual or for societydepends ultimately on whether people actually
learn as a result of those opportunities, i.e., whether they incorporate useful knowledge,
reasoning ability, skills, and values. The focus of basic education must, therefore, be on actual
learning acquisition and outcome, rather than exclusively upon enrolment, continued
participation in organized programmes and completion of certification requirements.
According to the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child, education shall
promote [a childs] general culture and enable him, on a basis of equal opportunity, to develop
his abilities, his individual judgment, and his sense of moral and social responsibility, and to
become a useful member of society.
Parents and governments expect a return on this investment. Parents send their children to
school in expectation of improved employment opportunities, income, status, and quality of life.
Ministers and parliaments hope that expanded education will lead to economic growth, improved
health outcomes, and nation building.
Recent direct measures of the schooling-learning gap suggest that official literacy
statistics significantly underestimate the scale of the problem. In several developing countries,
many of the students who were enrolled in six full years of primary education were unable to
answer questions about a simple paragraph or solve simple math problems. This suggests a
dismal rate of return on years of school enrollment.
In an environment of limited learning opportunities (especially for disadvantaged
students), continued schooling can be a net negative to household wellbeing. Deon Filmer and
Norbert Schadys analysis of a Cambodian scholarship program found that it increased school
enrollment and attendance by 25 percent, but 18 months after the scholarships were awarded,
children did no better on math and vocabulary tests than they would have without the
program. Absent the scholarship, then, many parents and children made what appears to have
been a rational choice to not go to school at all. Until school systems can guarantee that students
will learn while sitting in class, it may even be counterproductive to encourage longer periods of
universal education. In fact, expanded enrolments can actually harm overall learning outcomes if
quality cannot be broadly maintained.

(g) Educational processes as the basis for the right to education.

The education process needs to shift from focusing on education inputs to learning outcomes.
Significant emphasis should be given to build the overall system capacity to improve learning
outcomes this can only be done by fostering better teaching-learning practices in the
classroom, and by strengthening the school system and administrative governance. High
standards should be set for students and the curriculum needs to be strengthened, without
dilution in quality from the Centre to the State Boards, while integrating local context and real-
life connections.
Teachers should be equipped with the skills to look at classroom transactions and
assessments differently focusing more on inquiry, critical and analytical thinking, and ability to
make connections, numeracy, literacy, social and communication skills, physical well-being,
environment consciousness and citizenship. Evaluation needs to move from testing the ability to
reproduce blindly (rote) to ability to think, design, collaborate, create and do. The teaching-
learning process should cater to the multiple intelligences, while ensuring inclusion of children
with special needs and from disadvantaged backgrounds. Continuous Comprehensive Evaluation
is a great concept it needs to be implemented well, by providing teachers orientation, the right
tools, resources, and giving it time. The environment should be conducive for teachers to deliver
from focused and relevant professional development programmes, reduction in administrative
workload, teacher-student ratios that are conducive for personalised attention, to enabling
autonomy and better trust from school and community. Student portfolios (eventually electronic)
should be maintained to capture student work, and key milestones academic, co-curricular and
This will help track progress as well as plan support and interventions without losing
continuity, even if teachers change. Some schools could be identified as centres of excellence
to help benchmark best practices, coordinate professional development programmes, develop
evidence-based curriculum tools and resources, and also serve as hubs that brings together
practitioners from a variety of setting for research and innovation.

(h) Reformulation of the right to education.

As parents, we all try to spend whatever is needed on our own young children to ensure their
growth into healthy and productive adults and to give them as good a start in life as possible. Yet
as societies, especially low- and middle-income societies, we don't invest enough in young
children, and we certainly don't invest enough for our poorest children whose parents don't have
the necessary resources. We have erected a financial barrier to ensuring poor children's
participation in early-childhood programs.
The consequences of this man-made barrier are probably better known than are ways to break
the barrier. The barrier leads to older children who don't learn as well in school as they otherwise
would; to adults who lead less productive lives in our economies and are less engaged as
citizens; and to societies that, even with overall economic growth, are still unable to give a fair
chance to all.
This financial barrier needs to be broken. It can be brokenwe created it, after all, and we
have examples that show it. And we urgently need to break it to give all the world's children the
opportunities they deserve. We don't need more early-childhood policy documents without teeth.
More than half of African countries now have such policies; the problem is that almost none is
properly funded.

We don't need more debates about the respective roles of the public and private sectors. The
reality is that early-childhood programs around the world are mainly, but by no means only,
delivered by the private sector. We don't need more economics, either. Finance is often conflated
with economics, but it should not be. The economic case for investing in young children is well
establishedwhat else promotes both growth and equity? What else can ensure that all children
can have a fair start in life? Yet economists continue to spend unnecessary time establishing yet
again the return on such investments.
The real barrier is not the lack of policy or the role of the private sector or the lack of
economic analysis. The real barrier is finance, where to get the capital to make such investments
and to fund the unfunded policies. We urgently need to put our energy into finance, not into
policy documents, ideological public-private debates, and economic analyses.
We can break this financial barrier. We just have to systematically adopt three crucial
First, we have to increase public spending on young children. Sounds simple, but it isn't,
because public funding of programs for young children is usually fragmented. Typically, we don't
just have one government department in charge of these programs; rather, they involve multiple
ministries, including health and education and social welfare, in each of which young children's
importance is relatively minor and so gets inadequate attention.
But there are ways around this. Many countries in Latin America, notably but not only
Chile, have raised public spending on very young children. Some countries impose a special tax
that is earmarked for young children, like the sin tax in the Philippines. Some governments, as in
Utah in the United States, reimburse private investors who finance early-childhood programs
once those programs produce results. Second, we have to recognize that most programs for very
young children are delivered by the private sector. So we need to encourage the participation of
poor children in these private programs. We can give publicly funded vouchers to these children
and their families to do this, through conditional cash transfers, as in Mexico. We can set up tax
and other incentives so that private providers themselves subsidize poorer children from the fees
paid by the parents of more affluent onesjust as private universities in the United States
subsidize needy college students. We can encourage microfinance programs to help poor parents
pay for their children to take part, as in Brazil. Third, we have to get early-childhood financing
away from the early-childhood experts. These experts are great, often with backgrounds in
psychology and extraordinary levels of personal commitment to very young children. But they
don't know about finance. And they don't know about what has been achieved in other
development areas, like telecommunications, water resources, and health, all of which have
much to teach early-childhood programs about effective finance and effectively targeting it on
the poor.
No one of these steps is the magic right step. All three are needed in different
combinations in different economies and societies. But all three need to be triedeven if some
mistakes are made in the process. The problem with early-childhood financing, unlike a lot of
other areas in development, is not that financing attempts have failedit is that we have failed to
make attempts.

3. Issues and challenges in addressing Education Reform in South East Asia

Education is likely to play an increasingly important role in Southeast Asia over the next
decades. The reason is that past development strategies have primarily relied on exports of labor
- intensive and low-skilled products, but there now seems to be a need to upgrade production and
exports. Even in more high-skilled industries, such as electronics, the part of the production
process located in Southeast Asia is often simple assembling. One illustrative example is found
in the hard disk drive industry (HDD). All major foreign firms in the industry had assembly
plants in Southeast Asia and the region accounted for as much as 64 percent of final global
assembly and 44 percent of total global employment (Amsden et al. 2001:3). Still, the region
only received 13 percent of the industries wages because high skilled activities are maintained in
Europe, Japan and the US, and low-skilled activities are located in Southeast Asia.

Whereas the past development strategy of labour intensive exports has been successful,
there are reason to believe that it may fail to provide future growth. One reason is that the past
success has led a number of countries to follow the example set by Southeast Asia. Most
importantly, the reliance on low-skilled production has become more problematic for Southeast
Asia over the last decade when both China and India have liberalized their economies. China has
even become the largest exporter of manufactures in the developing world, which intensifies the
competition for ASEAN exporters. It should be emphasized that the effect from the Chinese and
Indian liberalizations is not symmetric across the ASEAN countries and that it also offers
positive export possibilities to these growing markets. For this opportunity to be realized, it
seems important that the ASEAN countries manage to upgrade their production and thereby
avoid competing in goods where the emerging giants can be expected to be especially

The state of a countries education can be evaluated from inputs into education, such as
public expenditures on education and the number of teachers, and from outputs of educational
efforts, such as enrolment- and literacy rates. Starting with input measures, Table 3 shows figures
on public expenditures on education in Southeast Asia, and in some Northeast Asian countries
for the sake of comparison. The countries differ substantially in their level of economic
development; the wealthiest country in Southeast Asia, Singapore, has a GNP per capita that is
20 times higher than the poorest country, Myanmar. There is a positive relation between the level
of economic development and the amount of public expenditures on education; Myanmar spends
only slightly more than one percent of GNP on education whereas Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand
and the Philippines spend between 3-5 percent, which compares well with the Northeast Asian
countries. Especially Malaysia and Thailand have a high level of spending in comparison with
their level of income. The former country has been spending substantial amounts of GNP on
education since, at least, the 1980s, whereas Thailand has increased expenditures primarily in the
Furthermore, Indonesia spends only slightly more than Myanmar on education, which is
substantially less than many poorer countries in the region. The figures on the share of total
public expenditures allocated to education are incomplete but suggest that countries that spend a
high proportion of GNP on education also spend a high proportion of public expenditures on
education. Almost one forth of public expenditures in Singapore goes to education but only about
eight percent in Indonesia.

Differences in the demographic situations in the countries might affect how much
resources that is actually allocated per student. Again, the figures suggest that Malaysia and
Thailand have high expenditures on education in relation to their income levels. Malaysia has
especially high expenditures on tertiary schooling, which is also the case in Vietnam. Among the
poorer countries, Myanmar has low expenditures per pupil but Laos and Vietnam quite large.

Another input measure of obvious importance for the quality of education, is the
availability of teachers. Table 4 shows the number of teachers and the pupil-teacher ratio in
primary and secondary school. The number of teachers per 1000 nano agriculture labor force is
highest in some of the poorer countries such as Laos, Indonesia and Vietnam. However, the
figures are likely to be biased as a general measure on the stock of teachers since these countries
do also have a relative large share of the population employed in agriculture. Moreover, there
might be differences between countries. shares of the population in the school ages. An
alternative measure is the pupil-teacher ratio which is shown for primary and secondary
education. The ratio is very high in primary school in the poorer countries, especially in
Myanmar and Cambodia were there are close to 50 school children per teacher. Indonesia,
Vietnam, and Laos have lower ratios, most likely because of their relative high shares of teachers
in the labor force. Three of the countries that spend most on education, Singapore, Malaysia, and
Thailand, have the fewest students per teacher in primary school. The figures for secondary
school are quite different with very low ratios in, for instance, Indonesia, Myanmar, and Laos,
and with the highest ratio in the Philippines.

Most Southeast Asian countries have literacy rates above the 73 percent average in developing
countries. The exceptions are Laos and Cambodia. The situation in Laos is particularly bad with
a literacy rate of only 47 percent, which is very low also in an international comparison. The
literacy rate is above 90 percent in Singapore, Thailand, Philippines, and Vietnam. This is a
rather strong achievement in the latter two relatively poor countries. On the other hand, the
literacy rate in Singapore is less than in other countries on a similar income level. For instance,
OECD has a 100 percent literacy rate despite an average income that is lower than the one in

The main difference is between a country such as Singapore who has a large proportion
of the students in the sciences and engineering faculties and Thailand where most tertiary student
can be found within law and social sciences. The large share of Singaporean students in
engineering is a deliberate policy that goes back to the early years of independence. The
government was then worried about widespread unemployment of white-collar workers if higher
education was generally expanded rather than closely directed to the skills demanded by the
foreign multinational companies. The focus became, and has remained, to supply skilled
technicians and engineers whereas higher education in arts and social sciences has been
deliberately restricted.

It has been widely argued that all the high performing Asian economies shared a strong
emphasize on education and skill upgrading (World Bank (1993), Campos and Root (1996)). As
seen from the discussion above this is in fact not typically the case for Southeast Asia. On the
contrary, Ann Booth has convincingly showed that Southeast Asia has traditionally been
neglecting education rather than promoting it (Booth (1999a, 1999b). Taking all of the different
measures on education into account, it seems clear that there is one group of countries, which
performs reasonably well in promoting education. This group includes Singapore, Malaysia,
Thailand, the Philippines and perhaps also Vietnam. There is also a group of Southeast Asian
countries where educational standards seems weak. This group includes Laos, Cambodia,
Myanmar and perhaps Indonesia. Moreover, even among the countries that do relatively well
according to the discussed figures, a more detailed look reveals various problems and

For instance, Singapore might be the best educational achiever in Southeast Asia, but is
still lagging behind Northeast Asia and the OECD despite having a similar or even higher
income level. The reason is that the official emphasize of human resource development has only
in recent years been matched by actual improvements in education. As late as in 1997, almost 25
percent of the labour force had, at most, only a primary education (Booth, p. 296). The lack of
appropriate skills in the local labour force, has forced Singapore to rely on a large number of
foreigners to achieve the necessary upgrading of production.

Thailand and Malaysia are two other countries that seem to perform reasonably well in
supporting education, but also these countries suffer from various problems. The standard of
education in Thailand was for a long time the worst in the region. Access to higher education was
limited and even provision of basic education was arbitrary in the rural areas. The neglect of
education created bottlenecks that in the late 1980s seemed to threaten the continued economic
development. As a result, the government introduced a compulsory nine year school and
increased expenditures on education. The expansion of secondary education, in particular, was
rapid with the enrolment rate in lower secondary education increasing from about 32 percent in
1987 to 66 percent in 1996 and in upper secondary education from about 24 percent to about 40
percent (Booth, 1999a). Still, there are large remaining problems, such as the low number and
poor quality of science and technology students (Brimble, 2001).

Malaysia has traditionally been spending more on education than other countries in the
region, at least in relation to its level of development. One reason is the effort to stimulate the
ethnic Malays to attend higher education, and thereby to diminish the large income differences
between different ethnic groups. One can not escape the impression that Malaysia has not
received sufficient economic returns on the large investment in education. One reason is that
some of Thailand.s problems seem to be present also in Malaysia. Most importantly, there is a
lack of people with sufficient tertiary and technical schooling. Employers are frequently
complaining about the difficulties in finding skilled workers (Rajah, 2001). The reason seems to
be that although education has been expanded, an insufficient share has been allocated to science
and engineering. Malaysia has only about 2 percent of secondary students in technical education
compared to, for instance, 19 percent in Korea and 12 percent in Indonesia. This lack of skilled
employees has been one major problem for upgrading production and to the difficulties
encountering .high-tech. projects such as the Multimedia Super Corridor outside of Kuala

Reforms, progress and obstacles

Inequalities in the region exist not only between rural - urban areas and public private
education institutions or among provinces within the countries. There are also genders and socio-
economic conditions that result to disparities in the delivery of quality learning opportunities
especially if we talk about access to ICT. In Indonesia, for example, educational disparities can
be seen across geographical areas, urban and rural, between western and eastern part of
Indonesia and among groups of people with varying income and gender. (Muhaimin, 2001)
The rate of female enrolments into upper secondary education schools in Vietnam, for
example, is much lower than that of male enrolments. Ethnic minority school girls are the most
most disadvantaged in upper secondary education. Only 4 % (37,689) out of the total number of
disabled children are in both special and integrated education. (Information Management Centre,

In Malaysia, gaps in achievement are a main focus of programmes undertaken by the

MOE. The programmes such as for English, Science, Mathematics and ICT all emphasize the
need to bridge gaps between urban and rural children.

The following factors contribute to inequality of education and learning opportunity:

a) Lack of available school building and classroom with all required facilities.
This might not apply to countries like Brunei and Singapore but most of the countries in this
region are still facing this problem.
b) Shortage of teachers, especially in remote areas; That is one of the reason in countries like
Thailand and Indonesia there are multi grade teachers where one teacher teaches more than one
grades of primary school.
c) Uneven spread of population, which also creates serious disparities in educational opportunity;
especially in a big country like Indonesia.
With 18 provinces, 141 districts and around 12,000 villages and population around 5.5 million
people Lao PDR has serious disparities in educational opportunity due to uneven spread of
population and the inaccessible nature of much of the country. About 4,000 villages lack of
primary schools.
d) Lack of good textbooks and other learning materials. Due to financial and geographical reason
this problem can easily be found in remote schools.
e) Geographical location.
There are still many students living in remote areas where it is difficult to reach them or ask them
to go to the school due to lack of adequate transportation system or schools. In some places,
number of students is so small so that it will be very expensive to build a school building to serve
their needs. On the other hand teacher: students ratio usually bigger in urban areas in compare to
the remote ones. It is not unusual to see 60 or even more students in a class with one teacher in
some of the countries.
f) Students and parents low appreciation toward education.
They dont see the benefit of going to or sending their children to school. This is magnified by
the fact that many school or even university graduates cannot get any job and remain
unemployed. In some countries community belief, tradition and value limit girls opportunity to
go to school or continue their study to a higher level.

g) Level of socio-economic condition of the family

About one third of the population in Southeast Asia, at the average, lives below the
poverty line. Except Brunei and Singapore, where there is no data available, all countries still
have problem with poverty. High percentage of people living below the poverty line can be
found in Lao PDR (40%), Philippines (40%), Vietnam (37%), Cambodia (36%), Indonesia
(27%), and Myanmar (25%). The rest of the countries have smaller percentage: Thailand
(10.4%) and Malaysia (8%) (The World Fact book, 2004). For poor families education is not an
urgent need. Due to economic reason students have to work for helping their parents or for their
family and do not have time to attend the conventional education and training system.
In the Philippines there is an increasing demand for children to assist their parents in providing
for the familys day-to-day needs. Access and equity for the poor become the major issue in
financing education in this country. The pressures of family survival combined with the parents
own attitude toward education ultimately determine whether or not a child will be able to stay in
school despite the limited financial resources of family.( Ballestamon, 2000).

h) Lack of budget for building more schools, classrooms, learning facilities.

Funding is always an issue in promoting education opportunity as we are dealing with so

big number of children and people in a wide geographic area. Many governments have focused
their efforts on the easy to reach for social, economic or geographic reasons.

To sum up the previous discussion, the standard of education in Southeast Asia differs
between countries, but there seems to be a widespread need for reforms and improvements. Most
countries in the region have recognized this need and various initiatives have been launched to
improve upon the situation. We will look closer at some of these attempts, and also some of the
obstacles, in three countries, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.

i) Singapore

Singapore, as the most developed country in the region, has re-defined its mission and vision
of education. Its mission is to mould the future of the nation by molding the people who will
determine the future of the nation. Its vision is Thinking Schools, Learning Nation (TSLN) as an
overall descriptor of an education system geared to meet the needs of the 21st century. (Ministry
of Education, 2001).
Singapore has had an exceptionally high economic growth over the last 30 years. Large
investments, rapid growth of the labor force and large inflows of foreign Multinational
Companies (MNCs) contributed to the high growth. However, politicians and policy makers
seems to agree that Singapore needs to upgrade its production, increase technological innovation,
and enhance creativity and entrepreneurship to secure future growth. The reasons are twofold.
Firstly, growth through factor accumulation will be difficult to maintain with an investment rate
that is already about 50 percent of GDP and with an aging population. Instead, future growth has
to rely more on technological progress. Secondly, the large reliance on foreign firms might also
be difficult to maintain since the competition for inward FDI has increased substantially during
the last decade. One indication is that inflow of FDI to Singapore decreased from 15.2 percent of
GDP in 1980 to 8.2 percent in 1999 and the decrease seems to continue (UNDP, 2001). Hence, a
larger reliance on domestically owned firms are necessary. The Singaporean government
addresses both concerns and both have bearings on the educational system. More specifically, the
government attempts to encourage creativity, risk-taking and entrepreneurship through
educational reforms.

Creativity is to be encouraged through a new curriculum that encourages critical thinking and
discussions rather than memorization. All levels of education are said to face this change of
focus, but the exact nature of the changes is still not clearly defined. Suggestions include a
broader set of criteria for university entrance than only grades from the A-level exam. However,
there are also clear signals that much of the present characteristics of Singaporeans education
will remain unchanged. The most important part is the early streaming process of school children
into different educational programs. This takes place continuously and starts already after
primary three when a small number of the highest achieving students are invited to a special
program. The streaming continues after primary four when the remaining students are divided
into three different groups according to their academic capability. The outcome of the streaming
is important for the children since it is difficult to get back to the .fast track. Or the .main stream.
once you have been found suitable for the slow track.. The next streaming occurs with the public
exam after primary six. The result of the public exam determines which secondary school the
children can attend, which is often said to be of importance for the future career. The importance
of streaming has encouraged students to study very hard. For instance, children at the age of 10-
12 years spend about 3 hours a day studying after school, and 70 percent of them receive extra
tuitions. Moreover, parents are frequently taking several weeks or even months of their jobs in
order to prepare their children for the more important exams. The positive aspects of the system
are clear from international comparisons of school children knowledge of mathematics and
science where Singaporean children always are among the best performers. However, it has
frequently been argued that the system might not encourage creativity since students are too
focused on preparing for exams rather than to develop own interests, reflect upon the knowledge,
or take part in activities outside of school. To develop a system that encourage creativity but
without sacrificing the average high standard is not easy, but it might be desirable to at least
postpone the streaming until a later age, which would put some pressure of the youngest
ii) Malaysia

By the year 2020, Malaysia aspires to become a fully developed and industrialised nation
based on its own model. Towards this end, education is seen as a vehicle to transition the nation
from an industrial economy to a knowledge-based one. Over the last five decades, major
educational policy shifts have been witnessed in Malaysia. This is reflected in the various
education development plans such as the Education Development Master Plan (EDMP) 2006-
2010 and the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 which drew on many sources of input
from the World Bank, UNESCO, OECD, and results from PISA and TIMSS to achieve parity
with the global development of education. One of the many educational innovations towards
improving the quality of education of the nation outlined in these education blueprints is the
establishment of the clusters of excellent schools with the aim of accelerating excellence in
educational institutions by building on niche areas in academic disciplines, co-curricular and
sports so that they can become models for benchmarking. The discussion here focuses on the
development and implementation of this programme at an Orang Asli school in Malaysia.

The clusters of excellent schools or the Clusters of Excellence Policy (CoEP) was mooted by
the former Education Minister, Hishamuddin Hussein in 2006. To date, there are a total of 170
schools under this programme. Each school is provided with a special funding of RM500,000
and a certain degree of autonomy to develop, advance and sustain their niche areas. The Orang
Asli school studied here was established on a 299-hectares aborigines reserved land in a remote
area in the southern part of West Malaysia. It is populated by about 300 people from 65 families.
Traditionally, the aborigines engaged in various forms of forest utilisation activities. But as a
result of their resettlement, most are now wage earners involved in permanent agriculture such as
rubber, oil palm, cocoa and fruit trees. There is only one primary school here with a total of 53
students. They are under the care of 17 teachers and 3 non-academic staff. The school has
identified three niche areas: English language, aquatic and Orang Asli traditional culture and
herbal medicines.

The impact of the funding can be seen in terms of activities carried out in each niche area.
For instance, some of the money was used to improve the language laboratory to provide
students with other options of learning English. Similarly, through the special allocation, students
were able to practice swimming at a public swimming pool in town twice every fortnight. The
money also allowed the school to purchase materials that helped transform the schools backyard
into a comprehensive herbal medicine garden. There was also a marked increase in the
percentage of passes in English language Primary School Assessment Test (UPSR) from 0%
before the school was included in the Clusters of Excellence to 42.86% a year later.

Technically, the CoEP paints a promising picture in that it allows schools to be flexible in the
areas of school management, human resource management, financial and physical management,
the management and implementation of curriculum, and the management and implementation of
extra-curricular activities. However, the Orang Asli school faces difficulties in the
implementation of the CoEP as although it is given a certain degree of autonomy, it is required to
adhere to the Education Act of 1996, rules and regulations governing the Malaysian civil
servants, Financial Procedure Act of 1957, and various other circulars distributed periodically.
Furthermore, the complexity of procedures and redundancy of processes in purchasing
equipment, requesting specialist teachers and sending reports to various agencies within the
Ministry of Education also make it difficult for the school to reap the full benefits of being
included in the clusters of excellent schools. For instance, although the CoEP intends to provide
cluster schools with the power to hire and fire, in reality, the authority with such power has
been (and still is) the Commission of Education Service (Government of Malaysia, 1996). To
date, there have been no changes made in the legislation to allow for these practices to be
devolved to schools.

The government of Malaysia should be commended for its continuous efforts to improve
the nations system of education. To a certain extent, the CoEP enables schools to further
enhance their academic and co-curricular excellence through the allocation of a substantial
amount of financial assistance, and through the increased autonomy encouraged by the project.
However, it can be seen that the implementation of the CoEP has not been without significant
problems. Firstly, there need to be clearer guidelines provided by the relating to financial
management, the hiring of teachers and school enrolments. Secondly, improved clarity relating to
such guidelines and to the cluster concept itself is essential and, according to Fullan (2007), this
is often a perennial problem in the change process. Thirdly, ongoing monitoring and
improvement of the CoEP is also needed to ensure that all those involved in this initiative stay
focused on the task at hand. The current practice where schools submit standardised reports to
the Ministry is inadequate for monitoring the implementation process and for broader project
improvement purposes. Fourthly, policy-making processes in Malaysia largely take place within
the, a federal government ministry. This reflects a bureaucratic top-down system dominated by
the federal government level. Because not many stakeholders were involved in the policy-
making process, effective knowledge sharing, utilisation and creation could not take place. On a
broader level, despite a movement toward decentralisation in CoEP. This means that in practice
there is little transfer of authority from the center to the schools. Hence, the Ministry needs to
address these issues if it hopes to achieve its target of improving the quality of education through
the CoEP.

Concluding Remarks

Education is a key element in economic development and growth. At an initial

development level the requirement is to provide basic education and achieve widespread literacy.
As development progress, the requirements will shift towards improved quality of basic
education and expansion of higher education. It seems that the need for educational
improvements in Southeast Asia has accelerated because of the increased competition in low
skilled production and export, which has traditionally been the region engine of growth. The
educational standard differs substantially between countries in the region but it seems fair to say
that education has not been as much emphasized as in the Northeast Asian countries Japan, South
Korea and Taiwan. There is a clear positive relation between the income level and the quality of
education; countries in Southeast Asia with a high income level tend to spend more on education,
have higher enrolment rates and lower student-teacher ratios, than countries on a lower income
level. However, there are exceptions, the most notable are perhaps the Philippines and Vietnam
that seem to have an educational standard that is better than what is indicated by the countries.
low income levels. It is also worth noting that Singapore is the wealthiest country in the region
and with perhaps the most developed educational system, but that education in Singapore still
lags behind developed countries in other parts of the world. More generally, there is one group of
countries in Southeast Asia that are doing reasonably well in the area of education. This group
includes Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam. On the other hand, there is
one group of countries that have a rather poor standard of education, including Myanmar,
Cambodia, Laos, and Indonesia.
We continued with a more detailed look at educational reforms and obstacles in
Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. There is a widespread concern in all three countries that
educational reforms are needed to achieve or sustain economic development. Singapore tries to
spur creativity and entrepreneurship and are addressing these issues by changes in the area of
education. So far, there has been more talk about needed changes than actual implementations of
educational reforms.
The widespread expansion of basic education in Indonesia in the 1970s has not been
followed by similar expansion of higher education or by improved quality of the education. Such
reforms will be difficult to pursue within the near future since the government is lacking the
resources for costly reforms. Moreover, the political decentralization of Indonesia will probably
have positive effects on education in some areas of the archipelago, but it also means that most
districts will have substantially less resources to spend on education.

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