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Addressing the region’s education gap: The role of a youth council in ASEAN and Australia

This op-ed is part of AASYP’s Digital Dialogues 2021, which is a programme that aims to provide a platform and forum for future leaders from across the region to contribute to the policymaking and diplomacy sphere by engaging in issues relating to Gender and Diversity, Green Recovery, and Emerging Economies.

The term ‘balancing diversity’ is broad but has a clear aim to succeed in combating imbalance in society. Currently, there are many cases across the ASEAN and Australia region that illustrate inequality, which among other factors, has unfortunately been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, these examples serve as a great opportunity to identify gaps in our society, such as the education gap for children in indigenous and rural communities who lack enough access to adequate digital services, thereby hindering them from pursuing remote education. 

One of the ways in which this issue could be addressed and rectified, is perhaps through the establishment of the Australia and ASEAN Youth Council (AAYC). The primary objective of this proposed council aims to raise awareness and promote education through information dissemination in various formats, including but not limited to workshops, seminars, training, and e-learning. Moreover, it would also seek to create an official blog as a platform to develop campaigns that engage with public opinion, promote education, and encourage youth engagement and empowerment. The proposed AAYC will also establish relations, cooperation and partnerships with government, international organisations and non-governmental organisations (NGO) in relevant fields to help young people pursue better and fair education. 

First phase: Establishing the structure of the AAYC

The AAYC will consist of two primary branches; the first being the executive branch which is composed of 11 members, all of whom would be selected each year on a rotational basis, based on the alphabetical order of Australia and ASEAN countries. The second is the youth council branch which also consists of 11 members, reflecting one representative from each country. Under this mechanism, the AAYC will serve as a channel for Australia and each ASEAN country to be fairly represented and the voices of its youth heard, particularly with regard to matters on education. Asides from this, the recruitment process of members will be based on their application, interview, and further review by the selection committee. 

Second phase: Launching of the official blog and activities

Following completion of the first phase, AAYC committee members would promote the council to gain exposure and presence in the region. As part of its requirement, members will be responsible to initiate a project which would be implemented in their country, such as convening education workshops. The primary objective of these activities is to raise awareness and promote rights in access to education that are youth-led.

Third phase: Establishing and expanding networks

Finally, the AAYC will seek support from other reputable bodies and institutions such as the government, international organisations, and NGOs in relevant fields through outreach activities. The purpose of this is to secure ample resources, in order to be able to conduct activities in a regular, sustainable manner. 

The establishment of the AAYC and its subsequent activities are expected to produce three important results which specifically target the youth demographic. Firstly, ASEAN and Australian youth will be in a better position to better understand the issue of the education gap and the importance of promoting rights in access to education. Secondly, when young people have greater understanding and have a platform to express their voices, they would be in a better position to implement projects which generate meaningful impact and outcomes through more effective means. Thirdly, the AAYC will inspire youths in the region and encourage them to participate in expressing their thoughts on current issues, thereby providing them with a sense of community and belonging. Finally, its impact may manifest in various means across different countries. However, a lot of technical and physical support is needed in order to realise this goal. Additionally, willingness and cooperation from the youth and other relevant parties is required to make this a successful endeavour.

This article was written by Tharyka Sambonn, edited by the Diplomacy Team, and reviewed by the AASYP Publications Team.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this op-ed are solely those of the writer and in no way represent nor reflect the position of AASYP and members of the AASYP Publications Team. The AASYP Horizons Blog provides a platform for the free expression of opinions and intellectual discourse.

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