ASEAN Education Ministers to Meet in Phuket in April (27/03/2009)
Education ministers from ASEAN will gather in Phuket province, southern Thailand, in April 2009 for the 44th Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Council Conference (SEAMEC) and the 4th ASEAN Education Ministers Meeting.

The 44th SEAMEC will be held from April 5 to 8, while the 4th ASEAN Education Ministers Meeting will be held on April 5-6. Both events will take place at the Sheraton Grande Laguna Phuket, a hotel in Thalang district. They will discuss education policies, initiatives, and cooperation in this region.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is scheduled to preside over the opening ceremony on April 6. ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan will also attend the ASEAN Education Ministers Meeting, which will be joined by 10 ASEAN members, comprising Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

As for SEAMEC, it will be attended by 19 countries, comprising 10 ASEAN members and nine other nations, which include Timor-Leste, Australia, Canada, France, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Germany, Norway, and Spain.

The ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Blueprint, adopted by ASEAN leaders at the 14th ASEAN Summit in Thailand, states that ASEAN will enhance the well-being and livelihood of the people in the region by providing them with equitable access to human development opportunities and by promoting and investing in education and life-long learning, human resource training, and capacity-building. It will also work closely with the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO) to promote education networking in various levels of educational institutions.

Since the quality of students and the education system as a whole rest on the quality of teachers, the present Thai government places an emphasis on improving the quality of teachers. Prime Minister Abhisit said that importance was being given to both teachers’ preparation and development, which focused not only on academic excellence but also on enhancing morality and ethics.

In his address at the international conference “Quality Innovations for Teaching and Learning,” held in Thailand on March 24-26, the Prime Minister said that Thailand had been proceeding with measures to upgrade the quality of teaching and learning. While the country was coping with the current global economic downturn, the Government was determined to protect opportunities and education for Thai children. It was recruiting more than 12,000 new teachers in the academic fields urgently needed by over 13,000 schools, mostly in the rural areas.

He said that the Government was also allocating an additional 18 billion baht, as part of its stimulus package, to ensure that basic education for 15 years would be provided free to Thai students. As a result, the education budget now amounts to 21.8 percent of the total government expenditure. This indicates the importance and priority his government gives to the area of education. The funding would provide all students with free tuition, uniforms, textbooks, and educational supplies and enable schools to organize additional co-curricular activities. He hoped that the support would enrich the teaching and learning processes and improve the quality of lives of students in Thailand.

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