More than 200 Southeast Asian Youth Leaders spearhead INNOTECH’s Youth Summit in Transforming Education
On 27-28 June 2023, more than 200 youth leaders from 10 Southeast Asian countries, officials and representatives from international development organizations participated in the first international Youth-led Summit hosted by the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization – Regional Center for Educational Innovation and Technology (SEAMEO INNOTECH).
Organized and moderated by the youth leaders themselves, the “Youth Summit 2023: Transforming Education in Southeast Asia” provided a unique opportunity to elevate education to the top of the global political agenda. It served as a platform for young people to voice their opinions, share knowledge and innovations, engage with fellow youth and key stakeholders, and convey their collective recommendations on transforming education in the region.
In her welcome remarks, INNOTECH Centre Director and former Education Secretary Leonor Magtolis Briones said, “This is a wonderful transformation of how the youth can convey their views on what our policymakers could do to take care of them. Focus on the youth is one of the major thrusts of SEAMEO INNOTECH. Legislators pass laws, bureaucrats issue memoranda, and teachers tell us how to behave and give us tests, but we must hear from the young people themselves.”
She likewise reminded the delegates of the transformational power the youth hold over their future, “After all, it is your future. The time will come when you will be running your respective countries, the time will come when you will be occupying positions of responsibility, the time will come when you will demand change. So, you will give feedback to the policymakers, give feedback to the people, on what you will consider as important to you.”
At the opening of the two-day Summit, youth leaders shared the Youth Declaration, laying out their collective recommendations on the transformation they want to see, along with their commitments for action on education. This Youth Declaration is a follow through to the Transforming Education Summit convened by the United Nations last year involving half a million youth from over 170 countries. The Youth Declaration demands that policymakers include the youth in education-related policy design, implementation and evaluation. It also appeals for decision-makers to invest in youth leadership and inclusive education.
Ilan Enverga, SDG advocate and member of the Youth Summit 2023 Core Team, led the presentation of the Youth Declaration. “Youth are not just here to complain. Youth are here to help education ministries and to work with education ministries. To address the disconnection between top down policies and the problems happening in the ground,” he said.
The Youth Summit Core Team consists of Bui Y Nhi from Vietnam, Joshua Villalobos from the Philippines, Peggy Tek Pei Yee from Malaysia, Prim Rajasurang Wongkrasaemongkol from Thailand, Si Thu Wai from Myanmar, and Veronica Pereira from East Timor.
After the opening program, the youth leaders led the parallel presentation of their programs and innovations through breakout sessions discussing key issues such as youth leadership, inclusive education, digital learning and transformation, learning support, learning through arts and technology, entrepreneurship, environmental resilience, and psychosocial and mental well-being.
The second day of the Summit was dedicated for the panel discussion where the youth leaders presented their concrete recommendations to the invited high-level officials and representatives from international development organizations.
The participants came up with a four-point call to action Youth Agenda. “Our young delegates have demonstrated the utmost dedication to understanding and contributing to the educational landscape in our region, embodying the Summit’s spirit of participatory leadership and putting youth at the center of the transformation of education. As the youth, we present both the present and the future, bearing the immense potential of shaping Southeast Asia’s educational trajectory,” read the statement presented by the youth leaders.
“These recommendations are born out of rigorous discussions, reflecting a shared vision for an educational system that is inclusive, adaptive, resilient, and future-oriented. They provide valuable insights into the needs and hopes of the young generation for the evolution of education in our region,” it added.
Among the recommendations was the establishment of a mechanism that would harmonize, replicate and scale up “innovations to synchronize youth development efforts by involving and convincing decision-makers to help transform education.”
They also recommended converging and strengthening of youth-led education innovations in digital, environment education, classroom management and other contexts by strengthening partnerships and funding opportunities, as well as organizing a Southeast Asian youth community of education stakeholders.
The youth also pushed for the use of data and technology for proper information dissemination and the development of youth programs and policies.
The Summit was concluded with the collective commitment of the youth leaders and the panel. Among those who signed their commitment of support were INNOTECH Center Director Briones, Philippine Department of Education Assistant Secretary Dexter Galban, UNICEF Philippines Chief of Education Isy Faingold, UNESCO Multisectoral Regional Office Bangkok Consultant Soumaya Maghnouj, and ASEAN Secretariat Adviser on the Future of Education Ethel Agnes Valenzuela.
This Youth Agenda will be formally submitted to the United Nations, Southeast Asian government bodies and lawmakers to champion cross-sector and multilateral cooperation in shaping the transformation of education beyond the borders of the region. INNOTECH, on the other hand, will use the youth-led solutions and recommendations for future programs in developing innovative approaches to education.