Schools and the quality of education in rural areas is generally poor and compounded by numerous factors such as remoteness, poor infrastructure and services, low household and community income, low human capacity and in the case of border communities, cross-border migration. Therefore, it is of paramount importance that significant attention be paid to actively improve and enhance the quality of education and health in rural communities in order to achieve the SDGs.
In this regard, SEAMEO Regional Centre for Community Education Development (SEAMEO CED) has launched the Border Schools Project which aims to enhance teaching capacity of primary and secondary school’s teachers in the borderland of SEAMEO Member Countries, strengthen the capacity of schools’ administrators in education development and the management of schools, strengthening the capacity of the community and community leaders in monitoring and evaluation of schools’ development and promote collaboration between SEAMEO Centres.
From 29 to 30 August 2019, an international seminar on education for rural community was held in Luang Prabang Province, Lao PDR. The seminar was attended by government officials of education, researchers and practitioners from Brunei, Cambodia, China, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. It focused on updating the current outcomes of the Border Schools Project, informing and seeking feedback on the new initiative on enhancing community partnerships in education development. It also aimed at exchanging knowledge about innovative approaches of non-formal education for ethnic groups in Mekong sub-region.
Representing SEAMEO Regional Centre for Lifelong Learning (SEAMEO CELLL), Ms Tien Tran, Programme Officer, Reasearch and Training Department, contributed to the seminar with the findings from the centre's most recent research on indigenous education in Vietnam, within the framework of the project Lifelong learning for ethnic groups in the Greater Mekong Sub-region: Towards culturally responsive development. This project was initiated by UNESCO International Research and Training Centre for Rural Development (UNESCO INRULED) and UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL).
The presentation focused on the interventions of Vietnamese government to promote education for ethnic minorities as a key to eradicate poverty. It also provided a case study on a CLC in Ha Giang Province, a mountainous province in the far north of Vietnam with 277km border with China. This CLC was chosen for study due to its innovative approaches to governance, financing and conducting programmes.
The seminar concluded with a discussion on the definition and scope of community education, from which SEAMEO CED will base its future research and training projects on. A field trip to Thapho village, a rural community, was also conducted to give insight to participants on how a CLC in remote area of Lao PDR was successful in helping its inhabitants improve their livelihood.