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Southeast Asia Lecture Hall: Opening Ceremony

Wednesday, 28 July 2021

13.00 – 14.00 WIB


  • H.E. Dato’ Lim Jock Hoi, Secretary General of ASEAN

  • H.E. Nadiem Makarim, Indonesian Minsiter of Education, Culture, Research and Technology

  • Dr. Dino Patti Djalal, Founder and Chairman of Foreign Policy Community of Indonesia

  • + 11 student representatives from all 11 Southeast Asian countries


Speaker Remarks

Dr. Dino Patti Djalal

This is a big day for us because we are launching a new process and academic forum for Southeast Asia. I said Southeast Asia, not just ASEAN because we also include Timor Leste, so 11 countries in Southeast Asia.

I should probably let you know how this idea came about. I'm also the chairman of Indonesian Lecturers Association (ADI) and we have about 20,000 Universities in Indonesia. Whenever I travelled to different universities, I noticed one common complaint or concern: that is the unequal access, unequal quality of the education system. Meaning, if in Jakarta I would say go to Universitas Indonesia for example, or Gadjah Mada University, they have really good lectures there right? But the more I travelled further out, and looked at universities there, the more likely that they couldn't get access to quality lectures and that seems to be a problem, not just for Indonesia but also for Southeast Asia in general right? Unequal access to quality lectures. So this was a problem that we spotted and we thought, what can be done about this? And this is when we came up with the idea of having a Southeast Asia Lecture Hall.

The idea being: let's have a virtual forum that meets every 3 weeks, and every 3 weeks the students would be able to listen to lectures from top scholars from around the world - from Southeast Asia and beyond. The lecture would be free and the students would be receiving e-certificates for joining. So, that was the idea and we began to explore this idea, to sort out this idea to different campuses. Surprisingly we found a number, a great interest from the campuses that we spoke with, they also recognized that this was a challenge for them, because you know if you want to hear good lectures, sometimes you have to go to top universities. And to go to top universities is first, very competitive, and sometimes very costly. Which means what? Not many people are able to listen to good lectures right? So in this way, the formula of SEA Lecture Hall is to give emancipation to everybody as long as they have an internet, telephone, to connect virtually to the lectures then you’re all set. So, we found the answer to the problem and we were able to get the support of friends from around the region, campuses, students, lecturers, and I'm very pleased that the ASEAN Secretary General, Dato’ Lim Jock Hoi is so supportive of this program.

It’s a big day for us and our vision is quite simple, our vision is to see that the Southeast Asia Lecture Hall becomes a Lecture Hall of choice for Southeast Asian students and lecturers, something that they look forward to every 3 weeks. And we’ll also want the SEA Lecture Hall to be a permanent fixture of the Southeast Asia educational community and educational system. Not just a permanent fixture, but something that grows fast and promisingly. I'm pleased to say that for example we’ve gotten I think around 50 campuses from Southeast Asia, and this is something that's going to grow, hopefully to 100, hopefully to 200, 500, and even 1000 universities in Southeast Asia. So, a permanent fixture that continues to grow within the Southeast Asia educational community system. We also want this to be a platform that can advance educational emancipation, so that no matter where you are, how far you are, or how remote you are, you’re still able, with the aid of internet which hopefully would be there, would be able to hear good lectures without even paying for it. And this, I hope would be able to spark greater excellence, sense of excellence, quality of excellence, among the Southeast Asian students and lecturers.

Finally, our vision for this program is to facilitate a community, a Southeast Asia and ASEAN community of academics. Because from this program, you can connect not just to the lecturers but you can connect to each other who are listening to the lectures, and hopefully this will facilitate more introductions, more connections, and maybe even more collaboration. But certainly, a feeling that “Hey you know, we are all Southeast Asian students”. ASEAN identity is a really key part of how ASEAN would grow in the future. So we hope that the Southeast Asia Lecture Hall will help foster this sense of Southeast Asian or ASEAN community of academics, and if that can be achieved, you know that's going to be a good thing for ASEAN.

So once again, I really thank all of you for joining our launch of the Southeast Asia Lecture Hall. And again, special thanks to Secretary General of ASEAN Dato’ Lim Jock Hoi. I've been to his office at the ASEAN Secretariat and he’s always very warm whenever he receives me, so I want to thank you for your friendship and cooperation as always. And for those of you who know of a friend or university that wants to join this program, please let us know and we’ll be happy to extend this program to anyone who wishes to join, because again, the key is emancipation and equality of access to all of Southeast Asians to a good or even great lectures. I’ll stop there, thank you very much and let's enjoy the rest of the session.


H.E. Dato’ Lim Jock Hoi

Distinguished representatives of Southeast Asian universities, ladies and gentlemen, a very good afternoon, selamat siang. First of all, I would like to congratulate the Foreign Policy Community of Indonesia (FPCI) on the launch of the Southeast Asia Lecture Hall program. I would like to thank Dr. Dino for inviting me to deliver this remark. It is a pleasure to connect with all of you this afternoon. The series of the virtual lecture that will take place under this program is quite timely, I see it as a valuable platform that will connect our youth with global thoughts, leaders on topics and development that are of critical importance to our region especially when ASEAN and the world are navigating a major political shift, demographic changes and of course the COVID-19 crisis.

COVID-19, in particular, has produced challenges that demand a holistic strategy that addresses both the health and socio-economic impact. The crisis also underscores the importance of collective efforts in working towards a resilient, inclusive, and sustainable recovery. ASEAN’s response to this crisis has been comprehensive, the Member States established COVID-19 response fund, finalized the strategic framework for public health emergencies, and adopted a declaration of ASEAN travel corridor arrangement framework. Moreover, in formalizing ASEAN’s commitment to work together on COVID-19 recovery efforts, the leader adopted the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework and its implementation plan. This framework serves as a consolidated strategy for ASEAN to emerge stronger and more resilient from COVID-19 crisis, given the considerations to the hardest hit sectors and vulnerable groups. The framework not only looks to enhance our health system but also among others, aim to strengthen human security and accelerate inclusive digital transformation in the region. These are key issues that are related to our youth today.

Recognizing that the impact of the pandemic can be multifaceted for the youth segment and of affected population, in some countries where lockdown measures are introduced, the impact of social isolation may lead to mental health concerns among youths. Significant numbers of young workers have also been displaced while young entrepreneurs struggle to start and maintain their business ventures. The global survey of youth and COVID-19 by ILO found that more than 40% of young people in the survey sample representing Asian countries including ASEAN member states are mostly affected by anxiety or depression, the effect of mental health found to be strongest among young people whose education or work had been disrupted.

In ASEAN alone, the education and training for over 150 million children and youth had been interrupted by widespread closure of schools. Access to quality digital content and devices to access content and academic material when school had to be closed is another challenge - this is particularly true for our students living in the rural areas. Learning from this experience of the pandemic, now is a good time to prepare students and the youth for an uncertain future. We need to equip our youth with skills for future work, both 21st century skills and technical or digital skills. We need to ensure that our youth have the opportunity to participate and contribute to policy making and community development.

This time, we have the roadmap of ASEAN declaration of human resource development for the changing world of work, which was launched by ASEAN Labour and Education Ministers last year. By guiding our regional cooperation towards developing adaptable and future-ready human resources, this roadmap is another important initiative that will help to build our youth resilience to future disruptions. ASEAN’s dialogue and development partners have also supported quality higher education for students across ASEAN through the scholarships program. This scholarship has been a mainstay in ASEAN regional cooperation and a wide range of valuable scholarships for ASEAN students to access and pursue higher education. In addition, the ASEAN Youth and Education Center have developed their respective post 2020 sectoral work plans in consultation with a wide variety of global regional stakeholders that includes students and youth leaders. This plan has a strong focus on inclusive and equitable quality education, youth engagement in policy discourse and lifelong learning to prepare for future work. All these efforts demonstrate that human capital development is an issue of great importance for ASEAN, particularly as it prepares our youth for the impact of the 4th industrial revolution and other global shocks.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, ASEAN is a young and vibrant community and I always believe that investing in youth development means investing in our future. ASEAN economy is projected to grow to 4.5 trillion USD by 2030, making it the 4th largest economic bloc in the world. We currently have a 223 million youth population aged 15 - 35 years old who are the catalyst of our economic, social, and cultural development. It is forecasted that by 2038 the youth population of ASEAN would be at its peak, with youth making up over 30% of the original population. ASEAN member states are naturally focusing on youth leadership development. Young people of today will play a major role in shaping our region for future generations as leaders and workforce. I’m pleased that education, people to people exchange, and youth development continue to receive investment in creative initiatives from multiple stakeholders.

On that note, I commend Foreign Policy Community Indonesia (FPCI) for organizing this series that promotes intellectual exchanges between ASEAN youth, international scholars, and policy makers. I’m also heartened to see the participation of many of our region's universities in this initiative and student representatives across the ASEAN countries. I’m confident that this lecture series can provide important knowledge and inspiration for all ASEAN youth to succeed in the ever changing and post-pandemic world. With that, I wish the Southeast Asia Lecture Hall program a very success. I'd like to thank you for your attention.


H.E. Nadiem Makarim (Fireside Chat Session)

Q: Southeast Asia Lecture Hall program aims to promote education emancipation for Southeast Asian students, and to also allow universities, whether big or small, the opportunity to access high-quality lectures from around the world. How important is that in Indonesia and to the region?

To answer your question, I think it is exceedingly important for Indonesia and Southeast Asia. I would say it's exceedingly important for all higher educational systems in the world now to kind of accept the changes that are coming and start to understand that we have to, whether we want it or not, no matter how uncomfortable. And maybe we have to unbundle higher education, to democratize it and to emancipate it. I love that your question mentions the word emancipation. For those of you that, I don't know if you've heard, but the entire educational reform platform that we have in Indonesia today is called “Merdeka Belajar”. The direct translation is “emancipated learning”. So, it's very, it's an apt question because that is the entire philosophy of what we are trying to do in the Indonesian education system.

Absolutely, it's extremely critical that students can learn from any form of content. We've been actually moving a lot of our policies to the quite transformational policies in higher education. Whereby for the first time in history now, any organization or any high quality organization whether it's a company, whether it's a research institute, a nonprofit, can effectively become a university that can give full accreditation for a full immersive semester with one broad stroke we allowed students in higher education in Indonesia to take up to three semesters out of like, for undergraduate, there would be eight semesters. So three of those eight semesters that they could take outside of their major and two of those semesters outside of campus.

They can do entrepreneurship projects, they can do social projects, they can go do certified internships at companies or nonprofits, they can teach at a school, perform all kinds of social projects, they can do research and so we've really opened up the menu of what it means to have a higher education in Indonesia and I think that, you know what, the program that is happening now with the Southeast Asia Lecture Hall is very much in line with that concept of being able to learn from anyone, from anywhere and digitizing those lecturers are a fantastic way of actually increasing access. We made this concerted push also in universities to move towards project-based learning and towards building more critical thinking learning processes.

So we're very much against this whole concept of coming to university, hearing someone lecture and then getting a test at the end of the semester. We do not believe that, we believe this is an outdated mode of higher education and so providing access to all these lectures available online and digitizing them and then taking that precious time in class for discussion, debate, and project-based teamwork, we think, is the direction to go in higher education. So I've been saying this since I became Minister: I'd like to see all universities in Indonesia post their lectures online so that students can consume it at their leisure and then come to class ready to do some work, ready to do some group work, ready to do case-method discussion, ready to debate, ready to talk and participate. There's absolutely no need to use that time to only listen.

We should use that time to discuss and interact and engage, which is far more closer and typical to the relevant skills that will be required once they step out of academia. So we're basically trying to challenge the ivory tower of academia to include a far bigger ecosystem because of the combination between academics and kind of real-world experiences. We believe it to be the best combination. I think that you know, I don't think this is a problem specific to Indonesia. I think that all of Southeast Asia can benefit from some bold policies in moving to redefining what higher education is, we're not just putting students into companies. We’re also putting professors into companies and to research institutes. We want them to come out of campus as well. We're kind of pulling practitioners to campuses as well.

I think it is relevant for the ASEAN context, we’re actually hugely putting resources into sending kids and students to do semesters abroad. So if it's only degree programs, you’re not really democratizing the people that can do full degree programs abroad, but if you do one semester programs and if you unbundle those foreign exchanges, I think you can achieve a huge amount of synergy in the region, a huge amount of collaboration. So we really look forward to our ASEAN partners actually opening their institutions, their companies up for these one semester exchanges in neighbouring countries, and I think that can foster lots of interesting pathways for how the region can grow together.

Q: You touched briefly earlier about how you are transforming the higher education system in Indonesia. Can you share how they can actually also play a key role to unlock the vast human capital across Southeast Asia?

I think most people know and will agree on what are the deficiencies of the current education systems around the world. I don't think that's the problem. I think the problem is what it takes to change. It requires a lot of courage. It requires a huge amount of courage because it means changing something that we've been comfortable doing for the past 50 to 100 years that has been largely unchanged while the world has dramatically changed. I think we need to question significantly how high stakes testing can impact negatively on how we manage our educational system. I think that needs to be challenged in a very big way. I think we need to really reassess the value of project-based learning versus just theory and testing. What is that and how do we make project-based learning and the act of making things, creating things as groups and putting a greater emphasis on teamwork and collaboration, which will be the most important currency in the knowledge economy. How do we do that? And we have to think of a kind of frontier policy of how to achieve that. I think we need to redefine what the concept of a teacher is and how a teacher can be a lot more impactful in getting the students to participate where they can use a variety of tools, including digital tools, to actually direct participation and engagement from students.

I think that there's a lot of things that education systems can support to unlock vast human capital but to do that you're going to have to make some drastic changes both in higher education and lower education to really focus on the foundational competencies that will actually be used in the workplace, whether it's entrepreneurship, whether it's a job, so it's something that I think requires structural changes. Some of which may be politically difficult to do so when you have such entrenched systems in place, so I think that Southeast Asia is in a very unique position, whereby we kind of get to choose where we want to jump and instead of just trying to kind of, you know, catch up with more developed countries, I think Southeast Asia has this really important and limited time opportunity to kind of leap frog to what the future educational system could be like. Where the curriculum is far more flexible, where teachers are able to move up and down the curriculum as they see fit based on particular competencies of the child, a much more open concept of majors and a much more, I guess, similar to the liberal arts, a much more passion first or interest first focus, and more freedom for the students to decide what it is that they want to do and of course, this opening up to actually off-campus activities and working on that.

These are all things that are not easy to do, but we have to try as government officials. And there's no other choice but to bring together all the organizations outside of academia to kind of participate and provide those incentives and also lobby those organizations to understand that this is within their best interest as well. So that's going to be the link to total factor productivity in the economy. Without that, it's very hard. Having said that, I think we all need to realize that there's no such thing as a kind of low GDP economy whereby suddenly the educational system is amazing. This doesn't happen. These two things are correlated and causated, both of them. So your economic development as a country, you know, caps the quality of education as well. So these two things have to go hand in hand. The other thing is that it's also naive to think that everyone who graduates from the university will have enough jobs for them. So you have to create a system whereby self-employment and entrepreneurship is a critical foundation of any higher education as well. There simply aren't enough jobs to actually absorb all the top graduates of Southeast Asian universities, and there won't be. The students have to be prepared to actually be self-employed, to do entrepreneurship and to even create jobs. That is also a huge challenge where the shift needs to happen.

Q: On this last question, I'd like to give you the opportunity to give a message to our 11 student representatives joining from across Southeast Asia as to how they can best prepare to embark upon this educational journey within the Southeast Asia Lecture Hall.

I think well, congratulations for being part of this program. I guess my message to you is to take as much risk as early in your life as possible. Follow and learn from the experiences of your parents and a lot of the mentors out there, but listen to your heart for career advice. Learn from anyone and everyone that you can and be very daring in the ability to listen to people that you need not agree with initially. I think that's a very important factor in building critical thinking and yeah, and I guess, don't overvalue the noise around you and don't undervalue the kind of the voice inside your heart that usually tells you to go in the right direction of where you want to go. I think that would be my message.


Student Representatives Messages

Brunei Darussalam

Universiti Brunei Darussalam - Alaf Redawan

  • Alhamdulillah, we are very fortunate in Brunei for not having any communities prior to Covid-19 case for more than a year now. All credit to His Majesty's government, front-liners and all the volunteers to help contribute to this achievement. Currently, Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) blended learning is being held to adapt with the Covid-19 pandemic situation. Lectures are being held online, while tutorials are physical. It gives the students the flexibility to have their lectures in the comfort of their own home and have the option to choose the tutorial state. Students have to enforce their self-discipline, which I believe is a core value in life. Not only will it help to ace academically, it will improve their lives by not relying on motivation freely.

  • We must strive for more collaborations and partnerships from all member states to promote teamwork and sustainable development in partnering for our goals.


Paragon International University - Bunley Ek

  • Based on my perspective and research, the current learning conditions in Cambodia are quite well in terms of virtual learning. So currently we are on virtual learning platform, meaning that all students are required to learn from home. And this is ideal having both positive and negative points.

  • So for positive point is that students can access the education platform at home safe from the Covid-19, and are able to keep up with the grades and all their lessons and instructions and all that. But for the challenge of this, as Dr. Dino has mentioned, is an unequal access of education.

  • So in spite of this Covid-19, we see both advantages and disadvantages from this outcome and lastly I would like to thank Southeast Asia lecture hall for this precious opportunity and this opportunity for me to be able to connect with others, at least Asian students that has the same and diverse perspective from my own.


Universitas Indonesia - Cathlin Rosemarie

  • As a student, I saw first-hand the educational challenges Indonesia has to face. Indonesia as a large archipelago struggles in unequal distribution of resources, and hence resulted in severe inequality. The evidence can be seen from a stark difference in learning achievements, as students in big cities are able to thrive, whilst students in remote areas struggle to fulfill even the minimum competencies of the learning standards set by the government.

  • Southeast Asia Lecture Hall is the ideal program to solve the resources and information disparity among Southeast Asian countries. Providing a series of classes prepared by world-class scholars, it will open access to quality education for all. On top of that, we can also gain valuable connections from students coming from other countries and therefore strengthening our bond as Southeast Asian countries.


National University of Singapore - Genevieve Yong

  • As we all are finding our footing amidst the pandemic, I think that this program comes at an opportune time to discuss issues that are critical to our recovery and provide a platform for Southeast Asians to foster relations as a region and I'm sure that we will benefit by emerging as a mobile-oriented and enlightened citizens.


Far Eastern University - Lheann Jinelle Doxi

  • I would like to quote our former National Economic and Development Authority during his public statement on July 5, 2021 on forming our education system in the Philippines: Our learners are stunted and undernourished, our learning materials are sub-standard, our curriculum is impractical, our teachers are overworked, and our schools are underequipped. With the risk of climate change and flood, the storm has destroyed tens of hundreds of schools in the rural provinces and this led students from the mountain region to trek in order to go to school. Students in lower socio-economic classes have to juggle their academic responsibilities with part time work and family duties. Investment in social sciences and arts are still undermined, vocational courses are limited offers.

  • The sudden shift to the online learning system is only for a number of schools in the Philippines. This is due to a lack of resources such as gadgets, conducive learning environments, and stable internet connection. These challenges will only result in long lasting effects in literacy, innovation, and intergenerational poverty. Activities such as this forum, are alternative avenues to supplement the learning divide during this pandemic. With this opportunity, we can achieve our global goal of education for all.


International Islamic University Malaysia - Nabilah Abdul Hamid

  • So this unprecedented time has changed our education landscape which has resulted in school closures and many institutions, schools, universities, colleges are now resorting to virtual learning and studying virtually comes with a lot of challenges, especially if you're coming from an underprivileged background and quoting from my technology policy lecturer, Dr. Zainal, if you’re seeing right now, he emphasized that technology should acquire 4 vital elements.

  • The 4 as: affordability, accessibility, appropriateness and availability. So if we fail to fulfill these 4 criteria, it would create a technology gap that will divide the country between urban and rural, privileged and underprivileged kids because chasing new laptops and internet subscription in order to cater for virtual learning is undeniably burdensome.

  • As I have seen some of my friends had to drop out, had to take a study leave, this shows the glaring skill of social segregation and massive economic disparity between the rich and poor and this pandemic actually exposes existing frailty and flaws of the education systems across the world and in Malaysia specifically.


Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam - Quynh Nga Phan

  • After years of striving, Vietnam has basically and comprehensively renovated higher education towards standardization, modernization and international integration. University students are better trained with professional skills and foreign language proficiency, making it regionally and internationally competitive.

  • However, the territory's education still has some weaknesses; first, there remains a gap between students in big cities and those in small provinces in access to good facilities and lectures. Another issue centers on the quality of standards, especially in research.

  • Granted the access to lectures by prominent scholars, and to connect with fellow students from Southeast Asia will definitely help Vietnam to enrich our perspectives and partially overcome their current limitations.


Savannakhet University - Souksakhone Vongsoudthi

  • With the New Normal adaptation, Laos has come back to study face to face. However, with the implementation of health protocols to prevent containment, such as interacting with masks, the learning environment is not the same as before.


Thammasat University - Taratan Intarachatorn

  • Certainly, the current learning condition in Thailand is majorly affected by the pandemic situation. Apart from that, there are three major educational challenges Thailand also faces right now; Firstly, the deep rooted seniority culture in lower education in Thailand which produces students who are less vocal, lack critical thinking skills and are obediently conformed to the system. Secondly, there is also insufficient support for non-mainstream vocational courses in higher education, generating opportunity costs for new talents in our country. And last but not least is this structural problem of the system concerning the quality of the teachers. When teachers neglect to properly cultivate students’ knowledge they then make academic courses in school impractical, students then would find themselves in expensive tutoring institutions, making the educational inequality gap widen.

  • Speaking of inequality in access to education, the Southeast Asia Lecture Hall, I believe, is a great platform for students across ASEAN to have access to quality lectures from around the world.


University of Mandalay - Than Than Htet

  • I truly believe that education and sharing knowledge, in other words discussion, are the only thing that can connect people deeply from one place to another and it is the right and the easiest way to learn about one’s values, norms, culture, good manners, and even bad experiences. Communication and understanding each other will give us empathy and bring us closer as one, which way I said to be a strong ASEAN in the future.

  • In Myanmar, the political instability due to the military taking power has increased the chances for young people not to have any access to education, even from the local educators, let alone the world class lecturers.

  • During the dark times I hope the ASEAN community and the people of ASEAN will help each other, consider each other, and hold together to survive through the difficulties.

  • I hope this Lecture Hall would be an example of what we can achieve as one, as the people of ASEAN. The lecture from other parts of the world as well as discussion from different parts of the region will definitely, in my passionate view, give a great answer to the questions that the policy makers cannot answer. Because afterwards, the ASEAN is about the people and the answer lies within us and not on the fancy project papers.

Timor Leste

Institute of Business - Epi Orleans

  • COVID-19 has changed the lifestyle of people around the world since 2020 where we all have to follow the health protocols to keep social distance in order to keep ourselves from the virus. This situation has directly affected the education system particularly in Timor Leste, where the basic infrastructure is still lacking especially in the rural area and then the telecommunication area. So, when the government starts to introduce the online school, not all students have the same condition to study as we have to have access to the internet.

  • We hope that this online learning can promote a closer link among the students and bring more fresh ideas and find some good strategic model to fill the gaps in our society, as well as to find a better education program to promote the equality of the education to all the citizens without leaving anyone behind.


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