Ministers from the APEC member economies have convened in Lima to finalize a set of new collaborative measures for modernizing their education systems. They are intent on mitigating the unintended effects of globalization which threaten continued economic and social progress across the Asia-Pacific.
Focus is on improving the quality of education and training needed to boost productivity and social mobility in the world’s most populous region. Policies on the table concentrate on enhancing the knowledge and skills, innovation capacity and employability of work forces in APEC economies. Their implementation will be driven by a new APEC Education Strategy concurrently under development.
“The world of work is changing rapidly and in ways we cannot foresee,” explained Peru’s Minister of Education Jaime Saavedra, chair of the two-day APEC Education Ministerial Meeting. “We are joining forces in APEC to modernize our education systems to better prepare students of all ages to engage in an increasingly complex and globalized economy.”
“Access to education is an area in which we have made real strides and most of us in the region can say, “check,” but the level of quality remains uneven,” Minister Saavedra acknowledged. “Our goal is to deliver a high standard of education and training based on skills development and innovation that aligns labor forces with the shifting needs of economies.”
Ministers are pursuing actions to strengthen the organization of their education systems. Particular attention is on attracting, cultivating and raising incentives for teachers as well as improving resource allocation for education, curricula and lifelong learning channels. Promoting classroom and school-wide innovation is a complementary emphasis.
“There is no magic bullet that will allow us to introduce digital tools to meet all of our education requirements,” Minister Saavedra noted. “We are working to enhance the use of information and communications technology in the classroom and to make sure that teachers have the skills for employing it in ways that support learning.”
Ministers are also fleshing out initiatives to facilitate people’s transition from education and training to the workforce, boosted by closer coordination between government, industry and academia.
“Peru and fellow APEC economies have a good idea of the soft skills like entrepreneurship that will continue to be in demand but nobody knows what technical skills will be needed 10 or 20 years from now,” said Dr Alan Bollard, Executive Director of the APEC Secretariat. “Providing technical and university education paths that will have transferability throughout people’s careers is a high priority for regional cooperation within the sector.”
Parallel work is being taken forward to open up education opportunities for all corners of society. This includes efforts to bolster secondary and tertiary education for women, the integration of disabled people in schools and the availability of good education for vulnerable populations such as those who speak second languages or live in remote areas.
“Favorable demographics that added a quarter of a billion people to workforces in the APEC region are ebbing due to declining birth rates and aging,” concluded Dr Bollard. “Optimizing labor capacity through the delivery of quality and inclusive education will be increasingly critical to ensuring APEC’s position as a global leader for growth and further raising living standards.”
The APEC Education Ministerial Meeting, which is being co-chaired by Russia, will conclude here on Thursday.
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