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Asean exec says K to 12, school calendar shift good for regional education system

/ 12:08 AM April 07, 2014

LA TRINIDAD, Philippines—The government’s expanded basic education program and the decision of  some universities to shift the start of their academic calendars from June to August would be good for a proposed educational integration among members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in 2015, a Thai education official said.

Dr. Sauwakon Ratanawijitrasin, outgoing center director of  Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization–Regional Center for Higher Education and Development, said Southeast Asian countries were trying to harmonize and “internationalize” their education systems by 2015, which is part of a process of developing a regional economic community.

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Education is key for fulfilling an integrated Asean social and economic system, said Ratanawijitrasin during the national conference of the Philippine Association of Communication Educators (Pace) hosted by  Benguet State University here last week.

Ratanawijitrasin is also an associate professor at  Mahidol University’s social sciences and humanities division in Thailand.

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The Asean integration program requires better cooperation among the region’s academic communities, she said.

The Asean member-countries need to promote “greater mobility of students” and develop “a common standard of competencies for vocational and secondary education,” according to Ratanawijitrasin’s presentation during the conference.

The presentation said the  integration foresaw an Asean educational environment where every idea and scholarly advancement could be shared, so member-countries could equip the Asean’s human resources with better information.

The Philippine government’s expanded basic education program, known as K to 12  which took effect in 2011, and the new academic calendars of top universities, like the University of the Philippines and  Ateneo de Manila University, appeared to be synchronized with the Asean integration program, Ratanawijitrasin said.

Recently, Saint Louis University in Baguio City had required all school levels—college, elementary and high school—to start the next school term in August.

The August opening for Philippine schools would be good for their students from the perspective of the Asean, Ratanawijitrasin said.

“If you are going to be an exchange student, you will lose two months [under a June school opening]. If we can change, harmonize, it will be better [for the member-countries],” she said.

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Dr. Gwenetha Pusta, a Pace official and a communication and media studies professor at the University of Santo Tomas, said the expanded basic education policy also addressed the fact that freshmen college students are usually age 16. She said this age group might be too immature compared to the mainstream university population of many countries, who start college at 18 years old.

The Commission on Higher Education (CHEd), however, said the decision of some universities to open schools in August might have been premature.

“[The] CHEd stands firmly on this belief that the best way to internationalize or engage [with] the global academic community is for higher education institutions to intensify their quality assurance, capacity building and institutional development program,” said Luisa Valencia, CHEd Cordillera  director.

“The academic calendar is not an issue,” Valencia said.

She said collaboration with Asean universities was feasible because of quality research, not the altered academic calendar.

Valencia said Philippine universities had also started developing courses that match the standards of universities in other countries.

Ratanawijitrasin said all Asean members had been pursuing the internationalization of education in the region. “All countries have this program. Only, some are slow, some are faster,” she said.   Jhoanna Marie Buenaobra, with a report from Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer Northern Luzon

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TAGS: Education, K to 12 Program, News, Regions, school calendar shift
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