As the Association of Southeast Asian Nations enters its fifth decade, it must move beyond being a platform for political cohesiveness or economic integration.
During its formative years these areas were a top priority, but as the regional group moves toward forming an Asean Economic Community in 2015, deeper economic integration will bring new benefits to its members.
Now Asean leaders are going a step further. Education ministers meeting in Yogyakarta have agreed to new curriculum material for primary and secondary school students meant to promote an awareness of the regional bloc.
Officials agreed that schools were the best place to begin boosting community awareness and creating a sense of belonging among Asean residents. They hope to achieve this through a curriculum that will be outlined in a manual for primary and secondary school teachers, to be used in lessons on international or regional issues.
We welcome this move but also urge caution that member countries retain their individual characteristics. This is what makes Asean unique and allows each country to manage its internal affairs.
The book will help foster an outward-looking, stable, peaceful and prosperous Asean community, but in today’s highly competitive world, best practices in education should also be adopted.
This way all youth in Asean will have the ability to develop their potential to the fullest. As Asean economies allow free movement of labor, these skills will be valuable and ensure that each country has the necessary human capital to progress.
A new era is beginning for Asean and a new generation is being prepared to take over positions in government and the private sector. If they have a common understanding of what binds them, the region will have a bright future.