Leaders of ASEAN Higher Education Institutions share how to provide quality education amidst global pandemic

By Ms. Erika Marie S. Santelices and Ms. Tun Pa Pa Kyaw, AUN Interns
14 August 2020

The Commission of Higher Education Regional Office 1 (CHEDRO1) of the Philippines, in partnership with the ASEAN University Network, held a whole-day webinar on 12 August 2020 as part of the celebration of the 53rd Anniversary of ASEAN. The webinar ran under the theme “Cohesive and Responsive ASEAN 2020: Strengthening Educational Collaboration Among ASEAN Higher Education Institutions During the COVID-19 Pandemic” where heads of different AUN member universities, along with the AUN Executive Director Dr. Choltis Dhirathiti, shared how their respective institutions have responded to the pandemic in terms of providing quality education.

The webinar was formally opened by Dr. Rogelio Galera Jr, the OIC Director for CHEDRO1, where he welcomed the speakers and participants coming from all countries in ASEAN. He also emphasized the need to enhance the regional bloc’s unity, cooperation, solidarity and also stressed the importance of promoting ASEAN proactiveness especially during this time as the world experiences a health crisis.

The morning session commenced with a keynote address from Atty. Lily Freida Milla, OIC Deputy Director of the International Affairs Staff, where she pointed out that the approach that countries must take towards education is that learning must continue whether or not lockdowns are present. She also mentioned the different ways that ASEAN has been sustaining higher education cooperation amidst the pandemic such as the ASEAN-EU Credit Transfer System. This was then followed by Dr. Choltis Dhirathiti, the AUN Executive Director, giving a comprehensive talk about the history of the ASEAN University Network, its responses towards the global pandemic, and how the AUN has been currently doing things online. He briefly introduced AUN by mentioning the thematic networks, its deliverables, impact indicators, and the areas of activities that the organization holds, stressing on Student’s Skill Enhancement and Experience as this area is the most affected by COVID-19. Dr. Choltis then discussed how AUN has been working amidst the pandemic, mentioning that even if it experienced major setbacks, they are prepared to migrate operations online and that the AUN’s organizing principle is to implement all plans at the same time accompanied with constant assessment by AUN-QA. He ended his talk by re-visiting the idea of a virtual university and presenting the AUN’s framework in engaging with cyber university programs.

The morning session was concluded by a talk from Br. Raymundo Suplido, FSC, President of De La Salle University, focusing on the concept of “wellness” and how this should always be considered amongst the university’s stakeholders. He also provided possible actions on achieving this such as sharing strategies for wellness promotion of different groups of individuals.

The afternoon session of the webinar was conducted under the theme “AUN Academic Response during the Global Pandemic”. Dr Abdul Rahim Aj. Hashim, Vice-Chancellor from Universiti Malaya, opened the afternoon session. He mentioned the measures implemented at Universiti Malaya which included the adjustment of the academic calendar, the implementation of the online teaching and learning mode, and the use of alternative assessment methods. He emphasized the importance of sharing online courses with partnered universities for the selected topics, and online exchange programme as well.

Later on Prof. Panut Mulyono, PhD Rector from Universitas Gadjah Mada addressed the long- term innovations targets. The first target is for researchers to find cures and vaccines for viral infectious diseases, and the second one is the formula of human resource education for the future with readiness to face technological development, such as Biosecurity, Biosafety, and Biocontainment - including One Health and Bioterrorism. He also mentioned the research management and partnership in UGM in the case of medical devices.

Next was Vice-Chancellor, Datin Dr Anita Aziz from Universiti Brunei Darussalam. She first mentioned Brunei Vision 2035, and followed up with the GenNEXT degree programmes. She emphasized how the university changed to fully online learning within the duration of 3 days, and introduced the E-Global Discovery Programme during the webinar. Moreover, she addressed that structured-blended and student-centred learning are used as the new norm of teaching and learning for UBD.

The last talk was delivered by Prof. Dr. Somsy Gnophanxay, President of the National University of Laos. Firstly, he addressed the Covid-19 situation in Laos, and how the government focused on preventive and responsive measures. He also emphasized about having two levels of Covid-19 response operations: the university’s monitoring committee which consists of ‘Faculty level’ and ‘University’s taskforce team’ in order to implement NUOL’s preventive measures.

The Webinar was finally ended with words of gratitude from Engr. Angelica Q. Dolores, the OIC Chief Education Program Specialist for CHED Region 1.

To view the morning session: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tF-H44ydma8
To view the afternoon session: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nOrFPALkWME