VIENTIANE, 15 May 2024 – ASEAN Education Ministers and Senior Officials convened at the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting and the Southeast Asia Regional Forum on Ensuring Equal Access to Quality Early Childhood Development and Care in Vientiane, Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) on 14 – 15 May 2024.

ASEAN Education ministers and representatives participated in the Ministerial Meeting to deliberate on the Vientiane Statement on Equity, Access, and Environment: Advancing Climate Resilience in Early Childhood Settings in ASEAN. The meeting highlighted the critical role of ECCE (Early Childhood Care and Education) in fostering environmental stewardship and climate resilience to cultivate a generation of environmentally conscious citizens.

In his opening remarks, Secretary-General of ASEAN Dr. Kao Kim Hourn stressed the importance of placing environmental education at the forefront of early childhood learning to instil in them a profound sense of stewardship towards the planet. Assoc. Prof. Dr. Phout Simmalavong, Minister of Education and Sports of the Lao PDR mentioned that there is an existing problem of inequality of access to ECCE in the region and how this is closely connected to the ongoing climate change issues that have become one of the obstacles for children, particularly children from vulnerable families.

Furthermore, ASEAN education ministers and representatives emphasised the universal rights of every child to receive high-quality early education, regardless of socioeconomic status. They recognised that achieving this goal requires not only inclusive education but also a robust response to the challenges posed by climate change.

The ministers adopted the Vientiane Ministerial Statement, emphasising the need to integrate climate resilience into ECCE planning and actions. This involves integrating climate literacy and action into the ECCE curriculum, promoting the critical role of parents, communities, and stakeholders in ECCE, innovative financing for ECCE, and strengthening partnerships to foster leveraging resources, expertise, and communication to accelerate ASEAN actions in ECCE. The Vientiane Ministerial Statement on ECCE will be submitted to the ASEAN Summit in October 2024 for notation.

Prior to the Ministerial Meeting, the Southeast Asia Regional Forum on Ensuring Equal Access to Quality Early Childhood Development and Care was convened with over 150 participants from ministries, academia, the private sector, and international organisations from within ASEAN and beyond. During the robust dialogues, attendees exchanged best practices and innovative strategies for advancing ECCE, focusing on strengthening the transition from ECCE to primary education, enhancing the roles of caregivers and parents, securing sustainable financing for ECCE, and integrating climate change into ECCE strategies.

These discussions shed light on valuable lessons regarding the importance of a holistic approach to ECCE, emphasising the need for resilient educational systems that can adapt to both current needs and future environmental challenges. The forum was hosted by the Lao Ministry of Education and Sports in collaboration with UNICEF, Save the Children International, Plan International Lao PDR, supported by the ASEAN Secretariat.