Industry Spotlight: The Rise of Education in Southeast Asia

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Education has become one of the most sought-after investments due to the role it plays in redefining the way that we look the world and society. As the world progresses into the 21st century, many countries have been allocating a significant amount of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to the development and reinforcement of better education systems.

ASEAN is also known as one of the emerging global economies that has been investing a considerable amount in the long-term scheme of fostering the nation development progress. Nonetheless, the percent of the GDP that each ASEAN member allocates to the educational sector varies from nation to nation. According to the UNDP Human Development Report, in 2009, Vietnam topped all other ASEAN countries on public expenditure on education – allocating 7.2% of GDP, while Myanmar had the humblest distribution of only 2%.

Here is a quick glance at 5 ASEAN members’ commitment to strengthening their national education status, highlighted through the amount of investment each country placed on education.

1. Singapore

Singapore is widely known for its excellent dedication to the educational sector. The Singaporean government commits to uphold their superb educational progress by endowing a heavy figure of their overall national budget to not only education, but all the associated activities that comprise art, sports and extracurricular engagements.

The Singapore Ministry of Education caters to the primary, secondary, and tertiary levels of education by enhancing the standards delivered to school faculties, curriculum, institutional settings, and even the educational notions. Singaporean government distributed a national budget of 10 billion Singapore dollars in 2010 alone. With the rising figures over the years, Singapore has spent nearly 12 billion Singapore dollars on education by the end of 2015.


2. Malaysia

Largely applauded for its world-class universities, Malaysia is undeniably one of the best educational destinations, not only in Asia, but across the globe. According to the US News and World Report’s 2017 rankings for Best Countries for Education, Malaysia ranks at #43 in the world, coming after Ukraine and before Mexico.

Although the education as a whole is primarily overseen by the Ministry of Education, the individual regions of the country are given great care to preserve the best education quality possible in every local sector. With modern classrooms at all levels of education fully equipped with top-notch facilities and inspiring atmosphere, Malaysia spent MYR 15 billion, an equivalent of 3.8 million USD, in 2015 on ‘higher education’ alone. Moreover, the Ministry of Education spent a total of MYR 56.63 billion in the year 2015 and MYR 52.4 billion last year (2017) and the figure is projected to rise in the years ahead.


3. Thailand

Thailand is largely known for its expatriates and their families opting to ‘invest’ their children’s education just as the government does. The relocation of many foreigners into Thailand had a considerable impact on its education since a lot of expats including those who migrated from European countries with superior education standards might wish to enroll their children at institutions that provide first-rated schooling systems. Thailand’s best universities in Asia (including Mahidol University, Chulalongkorn University, Chiang Mai University, and Thammasat University) also make it possible for both the locals and the expats to be reassured by the education standards of Thailand at all levels.

With a lot of private schools and bilingual schools, Thailand’s government has endowed a sizeable portion of their national budget to fortify the education from primary to tertiary levels of studies. Thailand spent as much as 19.35% of 2.58 trillion Thai Baht, the government budget of the year 2015. This translates to 16 billion USD, which was considerably larger than the educational budget that Singapore spent within the same year in 2015. Despite having certain shortcomings within the educational regime, Thailand continues to be one of the countries that government allocates a decent amount of budget on education.


4. Philippines

The Philippines did inherit some extent of social and cultural elements from the Americans and the Spanish. The integration of foreign attributes into the educational system is one of the factors that helped shape their schools and universities. Nevertheless, in some cases they tend to pack some of their public schools by overloading their classrooms to over 100 students per class. These circumstances prevent the students from acquiring effective schooling experiences. That being said, it cannot be denied that the Philippines is one of few countries in Asia that produces the most outstanding students eligible for international scholarships and world-class recognitions.

The government of the Philippines spent up to PHP 543.2 billion, a currency equivalent of 10.97 billion USD within the year 2017 alone. According to Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) issued last July, the Department of Budget and Management (BDM) of the Philippines announced that for the year 2018, the highest allocation of PHP 691.1 billion, a 27.2% increase from the previous year 2017, will be assigned to the educational sector.

Related: 5 Things You Must Know Before Pursuing a Double Major


5. Indonesia

Over the years, Indonesia has developed a good record of education structure and components. The Indonesian education system encompasses over 50 million students, nearly 3 million teachers, and over 250 thousand schools distributed across the country. Having the 4th largest education system in the world (behind China, India and the United States), Indonesia reflects the cultural diversity and immensity in its core curriculum delivered to the students of all education levels.

Within the year 2007, the Indonesian government spent as much as US$14 billion on education alone, the largest budgetary distribution among all national development sectors. Having said that, Indonesia also has certain critical issues within the realm of education and skill development – one of the most prevalent issues being the unequal distribution of teachers across the country and the inferior quality of the nationwide pedagogy. Regardless, Indonesia prides itself in successful attempts to make the fundamental education accessible to every student of school-going age and to improve the overall educational standards.


Final Thoughts

ASEAN is inevitably on a progressive track to advance our national education standards. The governments of the respective nations are striving harder than ever to foster the best educational experiences by introducing pioneering methods of teaching and accredited education providers, complemented with a pragmatic, comprehensive curriculum. With a sizeable amount of government budget being allocated to advancing education, ASEAN continues to grow as a fierce region of countries with exceptional talents who intend to build a better society through educated attempts.

Related: Why Studying at Top Local Universities Can Be Better Than Studying Abroad?


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