I’m currently looking at the lifelong learning policies of several international government bodies, and have been struck by the fact that only the European Union involves a significant pooling of national powers. Of course, this is constrained in the EU, but it still looks very different from UNESCO, the OECD, or the Council of Europe, let alone other standing intergovernmental bodies.
As an example, we can contrast the EU with the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), whose ten member states have agreed to cooperate in matters political, economic and cultural. It has a number of defining principles, which include moving towards free trade and non-aggression; but nothing like the degree of political integration that has characterised the EU.
Separately from ASEAN, the education ministers of eleven countries (ten of them members of ASEAN) meet on a regular basis to promote regional cooperation in education, science and culture in the region. The Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO) has a number of activities, including a network of R&D centres, one of which is concerned with lifelong learning.
CELL, the SEAMEO centre for lifelong learning, is based in Ho Chi Minh City. Its functions are to provide research, information and training on lifelong learning, and its very existence is an impressive testimony to the seriousness with which the member governments treat lifelong learning.
ASEAN and SEAMEO are relatively little known in Europe and North America. Closer connections seem to me highly desirable, even accepting that the structures are very different from those we have come to love or loathe in Europe. But here’s a thing : in an effort to generate togetherness and solidarity between nations, SEAMEO even has its own song. A lesson there for the European Commission?
Let us take a stand
For our visions of hope
Making future plans
For the people to grow
In a life filled with happiness and glee
Here at SEAMEO building the future is our legacy
The chorus of the SEAMEO song