UNESCO’s Field Offices in Asia-Pacific Collaborate to Enhance Inclusive and Lifelong Education

Bangkok – UNESCO’s regional field offices in Bangkok, Jakarta, and Kathmandu are joining forces to strengthen inclusive and lifelong education initiatives across the Asia-Pacific region. Collaborating with the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL), these offices have recently engaged in a significant conference to explore strategic directions and foster cooperation.

The joint efforts of the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL) and the Ministry of Economic Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia led to the organization of the Inclusive Lifelong Learning Conference in Bali, Indonesia, from July 3 to 6, 2023. Drawing more than 300 participants from 50 countries, particularly from South-East Asia, the conference aimed to facilitate policy discussions on inclusive lifelong learning, identify strategic paths, and encourage collaboration on adult education and lifelong learning matters.

Representatives from South-East Asian countries, partnering nations, as well as technical and financial partners convened for a four-day session to discuss lifelong learning policies, initiatives, and prioritize upskilling and reskilling, emphasizing inclusivity. Moreover, participants explored practical methods for translating the commitments outlined in the CONFINTEA VII ‘Marrakech Framework for Action: Harnessing the transformational power of adult learning and education’ (MFA) into effective policy measures and strategies.

Ms. Prativa Shrestha, Senior Programme Coordinator for Education at UNESCO’s Field Office in Kathmandu, expressed her optimism about the conference’s objectives, noting that “learning is a process that lasts beyond a person’s formal education and should not be confined by time or method. Various learning opportunities that take place outside of the formal educational system promote inclusive lifelong learning.”

During the conference, Ms. Shrestha provided valuable insights into Nepal’s policies and plans related to inclusive lifelong learning, focusing on functional literacy promotion and expanding continuing education opportunities for all citizens. She highlighted UNESCO’s support for government policies through the Capacity Development for Education (CapEd) program and stressed the importance of effective strategies for strengthening non-formal education and lifelong learning among local stakeholders. She also emphasized the significance of embracing inclusive digital transformation to equip learners for the rapidly evolving landscape.

UNESCO Bangkok’s Multisectoral Regional Office, a reliable partner in advancing UIL’s work in Asia, recently hosted the ‘CONFINTEA VII Follow-up Meeting: Asia’ on May 30, 2023. Stakeholders and partners involved in lifelong learning, adult learning, and education in East Asia, South-East Asia, and South Asia collaborated to identify best practices and innovations and established a regional follow-up mechanism to monitor MFA implementation progress.

The conference showcased UNESCO Bangkok’s successful framework through the Learning Coin Project, which supports out-of-school children and youth, migrants, and Thai students in continuing their education through financial literacy and a conditional cash transfer mechanism. With plans for Learning Coin Phase II set to launch in August this year, the project will target 500 students from Community Learning Centres in Thailand.

As the conference came to a close, Dr. Denni Puspa Purbasari, Executive Director of the Project Management Office, Kartu Prakerja, Indonesia, announced the adoption of the Bali Manifesto—a roadmap towards inclusive lifelong learning systems. The document summarizes the conference dialogue and outlines key actions to build inclusive lifelong learning systems that contribute to sustainable development and shared prosperity.

The Bali Manifesto urges governments, UNESCO, international organizations, and educational institutions to advance inclusion, strengthen knowledge-sharing of successful policies and programs in lifelong learning, and closely monitor the implementation of the Marrakech Framework for Action to ensure lifelong learning opportunities for all. Dr. Choi also encourages lifelong learners to participate in the #ImALifelongLearner campaign, initiated by UIL on July 3, 2023, by uploading their image and personal statement on the campaign platform.