ASEM Education Process

Short History and Milestones

The Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) was established in Bangkok (Thailand) during 1996 as an informal intergovernmental forum for dialogue and cooperation between Asia and Europe in the political, economic, and social, cultural and educational area. ASEM has 53 partners in 2022: 51 partner countries (21 from Asia and 30 from Europe) and two institutional partners (the European Union and the ASEAN Secretariat). The Leaders (Heads of State or Government) of ASEM partners meet biennially for ASEM Summits, held alternately in Asia and Europe, to discuss issues of common interest. The last Summit (ASEM13) took place in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on 25 and 26 November 2021 under the theme “Strengthening Multilateralism for Shared Growth”.

In addition to the Summits, Ministerial and Senior Officials’ Meetings in different political areas take place. In Berlin (Germany) in 2008ASEM Ministers of Education met for the first time and since then have been meeting regularly (every second year) to develop the ASEM Education Process (AEP) and to create an ASEM Education Area. The ASEM Education Process is organized at two levels: the political level includes ministerial commitment with representation at ministerial meetings. At the stakeholders’ level, dialogue continues between stakeholders, policy makers and experts within different cooperation platforms, events and projects.

The ASEM Education Ministers’ Meetings (ASEM ME) held to date took place in Berlin, Germany (ASEM ME1, 2008), Hanoi, Viet Nam (ASEM ME2, 2009), Copenhagen, Denmark (ASEM ME3, 2011), Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (ASEM ME4, 2013), Riga, Latvia (ASEM ME5, 2015) and Seoul; Republic of Korea (ASEM ME6, 2017); Bucharest, Romania (ASEM ME7, 2019); Bangkok, Thailand (ASEM ME8, 2021, virtually held).


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Four thematic priorities and two transversal themes of the ASEM Education Process

Since the First ASEM Education Ministers’ Meeting (ASEM ME1) in Berlin (2008), topics related to higher education have been the centre of interest and discussions in the ASEM Education Process. During ASEM ME3 in Copenhagen (2011), Ministers agreed on four thematic priorities for the ASEM Education Process, with a focus on Higher Education. These priorities are the following:

  1. Quality Assurance and Recognition
  2. Engaging Business and Industry in Education
  3. Balanced Mobility
  4. Lifelong Learning including TVET

More information on these priority themes can be found on this page.

The four thematic focus areas have been maintained until today. The Chair’s Conclusions of each Ministerial Meeting include initiatives and projects related to the four priorities and proposed by ASEM partners and stakeholders. According to ASEM ME5 (Riga, 2015), initiatives can be either dialogue-oriented (first pillar of AEP cooperation) or result-oriented (second pillar of AEP cooperation).

The ASEM ME7 Chair’s Conclusions (2019) contain 31 actionable initiatives and projects and most of them result-oriented. The progress and the outcomes of these initiatives and projects are analyzed in a bi-annual Stocktaking Report, compiled by the ASEM Education Secretariat. The last Stocktaking Report ‘From Seoul to Bucharest’ can be found here.

During the ASEMME7 in 2019, the relevance of the 4 priority themes was again confirmed. However, the Ministers underlined the importance of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals with a focus on SDG4 and agreed that the ASEM Education Process can contribute to realizing the SDGs. Therefore, the Ministers confirmed their commitment to contributing the implementation of the SDG4 in order to achieve inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all. The Ministers welcomed the suggestion to link the ASEM Education Process more explicitly to the Sustainable Development Agenda 2030 by introducing Sustainable Development as a transversal theme within the 4 priority areas of the ASEM Education Process. Furthermore, the Ministers underlined that ‘Digitalization’ creates opportunities to support connectivity and collaboration between Asia and Europe, but also that the ASEM Education Process should adapt itself to the opportunities and challenges of digitalization and the 4th Industrial Revolution. Therefore, the Ministers endorsed the recommendation to include Digitalization as a second transversal theme (besides Sustainable Development) within the 4 priority areas of the ASEM Education Process.

During the ASEMME8 in 2021, the Ministers re-confirmed their commitment to contribute to the implementation of SDGs (with a particular focus on SDG4) in order to achieve inclusive and equitable quality education and Lifelong Learning opportunities for all. Moreover, the Ministers reiterated that ‘digitalisation’ can create opportunities to support connectivity and collaboration between Asia and Europe. The Ministers acknowledged that incorporating digital tools in education has been vital in ensuring continuity of support to learners during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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 How does the ASEM Education Process work?

The AEP operates at two levels: the political and the stakeholder level. At the political level, the ASEM Education Ministers’ Meeting (ASEM ME) is held once every two years. It is chaired by a host country and prepared by the Intermediate Senior Officials’ Meeting (ISOM) and two Senior Officials’ Meetings (SOMs) with the help of the ASEM Education Secretariat (AES). During the Ministerial Meetings, Ministers set the political and practical AEP agenda by agreeing on the policy orientation of the AEP and initiating the implementation of initiatives, programs and projects.

Most of these initiatives, programs and projects are coordinated and implemented at stakeholder level. Between the political and the stakeholder level, there is a lively interaction. Policy makers take part in initiatives, conferences, working and expert groups organized by stakeholders while stakeholders contribute their views and expertise to the policy debates and are invited to attend policy meetings (e.g. I/SOMs, ASEM ME). More detailed information on how the ASEM Education Process works, can be read in the Stocktaking Report from Bucharest to Bangkok, 2021.

The term “stakeholders” refers to all institutions, organizations, interest groups, etc. who are involved in the ASEM Education Process or have an interest in its success but are not official members (or partners) of ASEM. The most active stakeholder in the AEP is the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF), the only permanent institution of ASEM. Other stakeholders currently involved in the ASEM Education Process are: ASEAN University Network (AUN) , ASEM LLL Hub Secretariat (University College Cork), ASEM-DUO Secretariat, Erasmus Student Network (ESN), European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (CEDEFOP), European External Action Service (EEAS), European Students’ Union (ESU), European Training Foundation (ETF),  European University Association (EUA), International Association of Universities (IAU), Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization Regional Centre specialising in higher education and development (SEAMEO RIHED), UNESCO, and UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL).

ASEM and the AEP are informal political forums in which policy makers and stakeholders work together based on mutual trust and respect. Policy conclusions and recommendations can be made only by ASEM partners represented by their Ministers of (Higher) Education or Heads of Delegation during the Ministerial Meetings (ASEM ME). The non-binding results of these Meetings are laid down, as a rule, in the respective Chair’s Conclusions. The Ministerial Meetings are prepared by the host of the meeting and the Senior Officials (high-level representatives) of the ASEM Education Ministries supported by the ASEM Education Secretariat during two preparatory Senior Officials’ Meetings (SOM1 and SOM2) and one Intermediate Senior Officials’ Meeting (ISOM) preceding the two SOMs.

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Short term ambitions of the ASEM Education Process

The analysis of the ASEM Education Process in the publication ‘Looking Back and Looking Ahead: The ASEM Education Process – History and Vision 2008-2018′ by Prof. Alexandra Angress and Dr. Siegbert Wuttig and the Stocktaking Report ‘From Seoul to Bucharest’ provided recommendations for the future direction of the ASEM Education Process. The conclusions of the Stocktaking Report were presented and discussed during the ASEMME7 and its preparatory Senior Officials Meetings. The Ministers agreed during ASEMME7 the following  steps:

  • Inclusion of 2 transversal themes within the 4 priority areas of the ASEM Education Process: Sustainable Development and Digitalization
  • Systematic exchange of information and close interaction between the ASEM Education Process and the overall ASEM Process, between the ASEM Education Process and EU’s Asia-Europe Strategy and EU programs and between ASEM Education and other multilateral cooperation programs;
  • Better visibility of the ASEM Education Process: both within the overall ASEM process as within the field multilateral cooperation
  • Developing a strategy paper on the ASEM Education Process:  ‘Strategy and Vision 2030’ and to establish a Standing Working Group to support AES in this development process and monitoring of the ‘Strategy and Vision 2030’.

During ASEMME8, the Ministers invited Senior Officials to use the ASEM Education Strategy 2030 and its accompanying Action Plan as a framework for the further development of ASEM projects and initiatives, as well as for monitoring their contribution to the realisation of the ASEM Education Process’ vision based on these following four Strategic Objectives identified for the next decade:

  1. Enhancing Connectivity between Asia and Europe by Boosting Inclusive and Balanced Mobility and Exchanges
  2. Promoting Lifelong Learning (LLL), Including Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET)
  3. Fostering the Development of Skills and Competences
  4. Creating More Transparency and Mutual Understanding on Recognition, Validation and Quality

In July 2022, Italy took over the ASEM Education Secretariat (AES) for the next four years (2022-2026) marking the end of the previous Belgium mandate.

On 24-25 November, the first post-Covid meeting in person, namely the Intermediate Senior Officials’ Meeting (ISOM) took place in St. Julian’s, Malta. During this meeting, the new work plan 2022-2026 was discussed and approved unanimously. The existing Expert Group on Digitalisation was confirmed and the following new Expert Groups were established:

  • Expert Group on SDGs and Education
  • Expert Group on Recognition and Balanced Mobility
  • Expert Group on Lifelong Learning and TVET

The  Senior Officials’ Meeting 1 (SOM1) and theSenior Officials’ Meeting 2 (SOM2) took place in Malta on 22-23 May 2023 and on 24 January 2024 respectively.

The 9th ASEM Education Ministers’ Meeting (ASEMME9) was held on 25-26 January 2024 in Malta. Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Secretaries of State, Ambassadors and delegates from Asia and Europe have gathered to discuss important topics around education. They held speeches on SDGs & Education, RecognitionBalancedMobilityLLL & TVET and Digitalisation explaining their national policies and involvement in ASEM Education initiatives. These two days of Ministerial Conference were also enriched by two inspirational keynotes on Artificial Intelligence and Innovative Learning Methods in education and a panel speaking with stakeholders about how to leave no one behind in education. The Conference was a crucial moment for ASEM partners and stakeholders to guide the next steps of the ASEM Education Process. 

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