Despite Southeast Asia’s socio-economic progress, GDP variance between nations and income disparities within the countries are considerable. Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam (alongside Myanmar), whose GDP is among the lowest in the region, are struggling to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, including the education goal (SDG4). In national budgets, investments in sectors such as health and infrastructure to meet immediate needs take priority over investments in education typically yielding longer-term impact.
While some countries have increased enrollment, retention and completion rates and decreased gender gaps, educational challenges remain and turn out to be surprisingly – or unsurprisingly – similar in these countries: access to basic education, in particular in rural and remote areas, and the quality of teaching and learning outcomes still need improving, as do school facilities, learning environments and materials. In all countries, too many children are not in school or do not benefit from quality learning because of their socio-economic circumstances, geographic location, disability or health status, ethnicity, language barriers or gender. High rates of poverty, especially in rural and ethnic minority areas, exacerbate these inequalities.
Whereas our teams in the various countries where we work are first and foremost informed by the needs of the local communities and work with these communities to put in place local solutions, similarities between various countries in terms of educational challenges, offer the opportunity to find synergies and implement projects on a regional level.