Photos: A brighter future for children in Southeast Asia: Using evidence to improve education

Education teaches us that the more you understand something, the better your choices will be about how to improve it.  And this simple principle applies to education itself, as it does to many other aspects of life.

So four organizations — SEAMEO, UNICEF, UNESCO and DevInfo Support Group — have teamed up to build an education database that will create a map of where things stand in education in our region.  Analysis drawn from this database map will contribute to our understanding and will provide the evidence needed to make good, strong choices about how to shape education policy and improve the quality of the education that South East Asia’s children receive.

In an interview with Dr. Witaya Jeradechakul, Director of the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO), and a key pioneer in this initiative, the SEAMEO Education Database was praised for its potential to have a central role in the mission to provide the best possible education to all children.

The need for this mapping was first acknowledged in 2009 by ministers of education, and they began to collect essential regional statistics on education.  UNICEF, UNESCO and DevInfo Support Group later joined with the various governments of the region to add their support and expertise to the project and strengthen regional educational monitoring.  The database now provides an evidence-based perspective on progress and guide educational planning and decision-making.

The Southeast Asia region is home to a number of nations with a wide array of cultures, languages, and history.  It is no surprise that educational challenges are no less different and addressing them requires a tailored approach.  The data collection processes and questionnaires for the database is adjusted to custom fit each country context.

Dr. Wittaya noted that, “UNICEF’s cooperation in this process was very important for SEAMEO.”  The organization not only provided financial support but also offered cutting-edge ideas and expertise that helped to facilitate the initiative.

“Everyone involved is certainly very enthusiastic about this project and believes that the new database will be unique and highly useful for the public.  In addition, it could also prompt cooperation between stakeholders, connect various countries, and perhaps become a role model for other regions worldwide” said Dr. Wittaya.

SEAMEO and its partners are currently analysing the regional education situation based on the collected data and will prepare customized EFAInfo tools that also includes interactive maps and graphics.  EFAInfo is a DevInfo-based education database designed as a tool to support the compilation, dissemination, analysis and presentation of key education data across the region – contributing to the efforts to achieve Education For All by 2015.

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