Policy Forum Ends with Adept Policymakers Discussing the Future of STEM Education


28 June 2023 ─ SEAMEO STEM-ED with support from Chevron Corporation hosted a virtual workshop on “3rd Policy Forum on STEM Education” with prominent researchers and policymakers conferring on the evolving definition of STEM education as they concurred on the matter of STEM adaptation.

The virtual workshop was the last of its series, “Policy Forum Series”, which is an event to unite Southeast Asian policymakers, researchers, scholars, and public and private organizations to storm on crafting effective STEM policy proposals and exchange effective practices for students.

The first policy forum coined “Pre-Forum” was held on 28 February 2023 as a preparation of the premise and context of discussing efficient policy discussion. The second policy forum took place at Pullman Bangkok King Power Hotel (Bangkok, Thailand), there, participants shared insights and tendencies to utilize megatrends, technology and innovation, and the Internet of Things (IoT) in different Southeast Asian countries.

In the event’s opening remark, Datuk Dr. Habibah Abdul Rahim, Director of SEAMEO Secretariat (SEAMES) pointed out the significance of STEM education in shaping the future of Southeast Asia.

“We are in an era of rapid technological advances and complex global challenges, and we, at SEAMEO believe STEM education will be crucial in addressing these emerging concepts,” the SEAMES Director highlighted while adding that, “we recognized that STEM education will play an important role in steering region towards economic growth.”

As she concluded her remarks, she urged policy forums are important to creating spaces for exchanges that inspire dialogue for future concrete and strategic collaborations.

Welcoming all participants to this policy forum, SEAMEO STEM-ED, Dr. Kritsachai Somsaman underlined the matter of STEM education being a necessity for shaping the future workforce.

Giving an overview of emerging technologies (e.g., artificial intelligence [AI], augmented reality, and other technologies and innovations), he urged “We need to change the way we think and how we can make our future workforce adaptable and embark on a lifelong learning experience.”

In response to organizing this virtual event, a forefront supporter of SEAMEO STEM-ED, Chevron Corporation’s Senior Social Investment Advisor, Ms. Dee Bourbon voiced her gratification towards all participants ─ and that Chevron is excited to witness a force of true changemakers of the future.

Thoughts on global education exchanged in panel discussion

The forum also invited three established individuals who are deeply engaged in countries (such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Vietnam, and Australia) to partake in a discourse where it was moderated by Mr. John Arnold Siena, Deputy Director for Programme and Development at SEAMES and Assoc. Prof. Dr. Frederick Talaue, De La Salle University (Philippines).

In this panel, Ms. Jen Bahen, Counsellor (Education and Research), Australian Embassy, Vietnam said the challenge that loomed STEM education is identifying skills needed for planning future policy. She explained that in Australia, the government has ensured to include STEM in every classroom ─ and this combined with effective data collection could lead to the development of the STEM education strategy.

In addition, the key aspects of her dialogue in implementing a successful foundation were that all students should finish school with strong foundational knowledge and be inspired to take in more challenging STEM subjects.

Dr. Tan Lip Thye, Michael, Education Research Scientist, OER Centre for Research in Pedagogy and Practice, Research Scientist, National Institute of Education - Office of Education, Singapore ─ contributed to the discourse for establishing a collective decision in Southeast Asia.

In this regard, he strongly opined on the intentions and ethics of STEM education, citing “We need to be more confident about who we are and what we do.” Furthermore, it is highly needed to scrutinize the best for society and region.

An Associate Professor at the Department of Science and Environmental Studies, University of Hong Kong, Dr. Li Wai Chin presented his ideas on the likelihood of STEM becoming more important as science and technology progress.

Focusing much on emerging technologies, and digital literacy Dr. Li encouraged a vision for Southeast Asia to be a hub for innovation. He suggested that necessary measures can be through professional development, communication and collaboration, and creativity enhancement.

Although some insights among the panelists are diverse (depending on their backgrounds and experiences), the three agreed on the essence of STEM education is the field to represent interdisciplinary subjects and how it is perceived as organic ─ in such an “adaptable” way ─ depending on changes in the world.

Meanwhile, Madam Hajah Nor’aidah Binti Nordin, Deputy Director, Science and Mathematics, presented her vision of how Southeast Asian students should be equipped with multiple skill sets. She exampled adaptability to change, resilience, creativity, innovation, and effective virtual communication are needed among the students ─ in order to prepare for their future.

“In addition to specific skills, individuals must express certain qualities to thrive in this challenging world. A balanced approach to this is openness to experimentation and comfort with uncertainties psychological, curiosity, fast learning ability and ethics” Madam Nor’aidah, who is also the chair of SEAMEO STEM-ED’s governing board said.

A way forward for Southeast Asian STEM education marked by SEAMEO STEM-ED Director

As the event closed its curtains, SEAMEO STEM-ED Centre Director, Dr. Somsaman underlined crucial points for the centre to proceed in the near future.

The first aspect comprised of the constant evolution in the definition of STEM education. He cited that STEM education serves as an apparatus for students’ development and their careers. In addition, an awareness of STEM education is not individually described as studies of science, technology, engineering and mathematics ─ rather it is an integrated study of such fields.

More to that, data collection (compilation of information to evaluate for policy implementation), and industry involvement will be pioneering forces in embarking on the STEM future.

At last, the understanding of STEM adaptation and more important than STEM adoption, which could resolve in regional collaboration.



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