Kenan Foundation Asia was honored to share its expertise and experience on education programming during the 11th Lower Mekong Initiative Regional Working Group Meeting in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar on 3 May 2018.
The United States launched the Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI) with Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam in 2009 to “encourage equitable, sustainable, and inclusive growth in the Lower Mekong Region.” LMI marks the latest instance of the United States’ commitment to promoting cooperation and sustainable development in the region under six strategic pillars: Environment and Water, Health, Agriculture, Connectivity, Energy Security and Education.
The Education pillar encourages knowledge exchange and linkages, with an emphasis on higher education, between member countries to “prepare youth, young professionals, and women for the 21st century workplace.” The United States and Thailand, which Co-Chair the Education pillar, invited Mr. John DaSilva (Kenan’s Director of Corporate Engagement) to join other experts in a panel discussion during the Regional Working Group Meeting. Although the LMI focuses on higher education, Mr. DaSilva stressed the importance of enhancing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and 21st century skills development at lower levels (particularly grades 7-9) to create a large pipeline of quality students who can capitalize on higher education opportunities. Moreover, he stated that all stakeholders need to embed strong evaluation components into education programs at all levels to drive evidenced-based decision-making.
In addition, Mr. DaSilva represented Kenan in a session to develop the LMI’s Plan of Action for the Education pillar. LMI Country Delegates had a lively discussion on setting higher education priorities for the region, especially the role the LMI can play in promoting STEM education. Key to these discussions was the challenge in directing programming to support country’s higher education systems that vary in quality and capacity. For instance, Myanmar, Lao PDR and Cambodia raised concerns over the need to improve education standards and increase the mobility of students and professors to attend oversees institutions and to strengthen their basic education systems, while Thailand stressed the need to focus activities on STEM at the appropriate level. Kenan’s recommendation to the LMI is to focus LMI efforts on building the capacity of teachers colleges to build a new generation of STEM teachers who can carry out each country’s specific education plans, such as science and math for Thailand and technology for Vietnam, as opposed to a fully integrated STEM approach for the region.
Kenan captures knowledge from working directly with students, teachers and school leaders and uses these insights about what is effective on-the-ground to help national and regional governments construct education systems that complement the 21st century economy. Visit our education page to learn more about our efforts to deliver empowering education programming in Southeast Asia: www.kenan-asia.org/21st-century-education