UNESCO Bangkok: The Last Few Weeks

Author: Maggie Appel-Schumacher, M.A. in International Education, GSEHD

It’s hard to believe the UNESCO Fellowship is coming to a close.  What a beautiful summer it has been– for personal inspiration, insightful conversations, meaningful relationships and professional growth.  Thailand lives up to its name for being the country of smiles 🙂 filled with beautiful people, culture and traditions that have made a great impression on me.

Professionally, UNESCO’s reach within the educational realm in Asia Pacific is definitely visible from the Bangkok Regional Bureau for Education.  Across the various units in this office (APEID, APPEAL, EPR, ESD and more) publications are being distributed left and right with featured projects, research endeavors and conference concept notes to be found.  UNESCO Education in Asia Pacific’s Facebook page is very active in sending out announcements, uploading photos and supporting campaigns on education initiatives in the region. (Check it out!)

The beginning of August marked one of the most concrete learning experiences for me during this fellowship as I had the chance to participate and travel to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to volunteer with the UNESCO team at the 2015 Asia Pacific Conference on Education and Training (ACET).  Over 1,000 stakeholders from the ministerial to the teacher level participated in a conference on strengthening Technical and Vocational Education (TVET) systems in the Asia Pacific.

ACET Pic1UNESCO Bangkok staff, along with other UNESCO Representatives from Paris, France, Beijing, China, Kabul, Afghanistan and the UNEVOC office in Bonn, Germany, worked together with the Ministry of Education Malaysia to provide 3 action packed days for participants to address the big questions facing TVET in Asia Pacific:

  • Where are the jobs in Asia-Pacific?
  • Which skills are needed for existing and emerging jobs?
  • How can we bridge the gap through ICT?
  • How can we strengthen partnerships and coordination?

The plenaries, concurrent sessions and ministerial meetings were focused on these themes.  As focal point for note takers and rapporteurs during the conference, I was fortunate to sit in on the majority of plenary and concurrent sessions to hear first-hand from participants’ experiences in TVET.  From recently graduated youth speakers to seasoned principals of TVET academies in Asia, the conversations all came back to the main idea that TVET is critical for economic growth.  We need more people to develop concrete skills that can be maximized in a society that is moving forward as quickly as some Asian Pacific countries are. Overall, I learned a great deal about this topic in education and the conference opened my eyes to new programs, organizations, and experts in the field of TVET that can be beneficial to states beyond the Asia-Pacific region.  You can find out more about the conference here. 

I thank all the staff at UNESCO Bangkok for giving me the chance to dive into these key issues in education and for the opportunity to see UNESCO in action through meaningful conferences and events.  The opportunity to explore a new part of the world in such depths (both professionally and personally) has truly been a life changing experience.


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