ASEAN makes commitment to Out-of-School children

ASEAN countries have come together to declare their shared commitment to addressing the needs of the more than 3.2 million out-of-school children in the sub-region.

The ASEAN Declaration on Strengthening Education for Out-of-School Children and Youth will be presented for official endorsement tomorrow during the ASEAN Summit in Vientiane, Lao PDR.

The declaration was approved by ASEAN education ministers at a meeting in May. 

The declaration marks the first time a regional grouping has made a unified commitment to addressing the needs of out-of-school children, a group drawn from some of the region’s most marginalized groups.

These children face barriers to education that can include gender and racial discrimination, geographical distance, inadequate support for children with disabilities, school costs, languages, and emergency situations caused by conflict, natural disasters, statelessness and migration. 

Thailand’s Ministry of Education led the drafting of the ASEAN Declaration, with support from the ASEAN Secretariat and UNESCO Bangkok.

The declaration takes a comprehensive approach to addressing the needs of these vulnerable groups.

The declaration defines out-of-school children and youth as those who do not have access to a school; those who have yet to enroll in school despite having one available; those enrolled, but at risk of dropping out; and those who have dropped out.

It also lists five key principles in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 4, the guiding framework for the global 2030 education agenda: inclusivity, equity, accessibility, continuity, quality, flexibility and sustainability. 

ASEAN countries also agreed under the declaration to guide domestic legislation and policies to benefit out-of-school children, including plans to promote “awareness of ASEAN as a caring and sharing community and as a people-centred and people-oriented region.”

Specific programmes and practices to benefit out-of-school children are outlined in the declaration, including assistance to address the poverty barrier; flexible learning strategies to enable children to be educated outside of formal schools; basic education equivalency frameworks; as well as minimum standards of inclusive and quality education provision and accessibility. 

The declaration also includes recommendations for mechanisms and personnel to carry out the proposed activities, as well as provisions for improved monitoring and information gathering on out-of-school children; and suggestions on possible resources, such as national budgets, private sector partnerships and encouraging volunteerism. 

ASEAN member states also committed to improved coordination and cooperation between and within countries “anchored on the understanding that long-term equitable investment in education yields economic and other benefits for sustainable development.”