Meeting of Presidents (AsTEN): The Role of Social sciences and Humanities in Teacher Education

On April 18th 2016, in the University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Vietnam National University based in Ho Chi Minh City, the meeting of Asian universities’ presidents was officially hosted. To stress the role of social sciences and humanities in teacher education, the pivotal event was collaborative work of USSH VNU HCMC in association with AsTEN (the Association of Southeast Asian Teacher Education Network). On full schedule, the meeting lasted from 18 to 19th April 2016. 


It was a tremendous honor for USSH VNU HCMC to gladly welcome distinguished guests to this event. It extended a rapturous welcome to Dr. Ester B. Ogena, the Chairperson of AsTEN, and to universities’ presidents including Brunei, Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, as well as other universities’ ones nationwide. To the host countries’ institutions, there were Prof. Dr. Duong Anh Duc, the Vice President of Vietnam National University HCMC, Prof. Dr. Vo Van Sen, the President of University of Social Sciences and Humanities VNU HCMC, Dr. Ngo Thi Phuong Lan, the Vice President of University of Social Sciences and Humanities VNU HCMC, Dr. Nguyen Ngoc Tho, the Head of USSH’s Office of Scientific Research and Project Management, MA. Bang Anh Tuan, the Head of USSH’s Office of International Cooperation and Project Development, Dr. Tran Cao Boi Ngoc, the Deputy Head of USSH’s Office of International Cooperation and Project Development, Dr. Hoang Mai Khanh, the Dean, Dr. Nguyen Thi Hao, the Vice Dean of USSH’s Faculty of Education, as well as a good many academics participating in the event.

Photo: AsTEN member representatives. 

Generally, the AsTEN’s meeting is held biennially and taken in turns by ASEAN universities that are members of AsTEN. In the beginning, AsTEN was officially established on Sep 17th 2014 based on the original idea that was first put forward by the Filipino Normal University. There are 10 members in AsTEN, each of which represents one Asian country.

Founding fathers of the AsTEN as follows. 

1. The National Institute of Education, The Kingdome of Cambodia
2. Universitas Pendidikan Indonesia, the Republic of Indonesia.
3. The National Univeresity of Laos, Lao People’s Democratic Republic.
4. Universiti of Pendidikan Sultan Idris, Malaysia
5. Yangon University of Education, the Republic Union of Myanmar.
5. Philippine Normal University, Republic of the Philippines.
7. The National Institute of Education, Republic of Singapore.
8. Kasetsart University, The Kingdom of Thailand.
9. Vietnam National University HoChiMinh city, Vietnam
On this occasion, the event expressed special congratulations to the 10th member of AsTEN Kolej Universiti Perguruan Ugama Seri Begawan Brunei that has just joined in the association.

Dr. Ester B. Ogena, the AsTEN’s chairperson, and Prof. Dr. Vo Van Sen, the President of Social Sciences and Humanities VNU HCMC, were members of the event’s presiders. 

In his presentation, Prof. Dr. Vo Van Sen pointed to the importance of establishment of AsTEN. He noted that the AsTEN was extremely vital, and USSH VNU HCMC had a great honor to be one of AsTEN’s founding fathers. Since there is a fairly wide gap of development among ASEAN educational institutions, AsTEN’s founders are firmly committed in narrowing down it in series of different education activities such as ones promoting research work among scientists, lecturers and students. In addition, to spearhead the full development of a research-based university, USSH VNU HCMC aimed at publishing more international scientific journals and articles. The rector also expected that the school would receive knowledge and experiences contributed by other members of AsTEN for its further development.

Within the framework of the AsTEN meeting, Dr. Ester B. Ogena, the AsTEN’s Chairperson, the Rector of the Philippines Normal University, gave an opening speech to warmly greet representatives of the association. She hoped that these representatives could share great experiences and have affirmative actions and bring about strategic pedagogical reforms of the ASEAN educational system in the global context.

Dr. Ester N. Ogena- the AsTEN chairperson. 
The Roundtable and Forum session with a theme “The Role of Social Sciences and Humanities in teacher eduction”, Prof.Dr. Feliece I. Yeban presented an informative talk about contemporary issues of social sciencs and humanities in the 21st century. Prof. Dr. Feliece I. Yeban believed that social sciences and humanities could help many communities use new technologies and regulate personal behaviors so that growing global problems could be well cured. According to his research, he used interesting statistics to illustrate different income levels and employment opportunities of those who major in social and humanities sciences, especially the fact that some graduates from social sciences and humanities can earn more than those who graduate from medical sciences, IT, chemistry etc. 

Prof. Yeban said that social and humanities sciences scientists can help communities accept new technologies and change personal behaviors in order to reduce emerging global challenges. Social sciences and humanities also help us understand, explain and respect different communities or differences among societies and peoples. These are crucial for social stability, progress and social understanding. It is also important to figure out the characteristics of social sciences and humanities in ASEAN as they are diversity, identities and sharing interests as well as development among ASEAN countries and cross-bordering problems. As a result, we can figure out an image of an ASEAN citizen besides roles of social sciences and humanities in ASEAN education. 

Then Dr. Hoang Mai Khanh, Dean of USSH’s Faculty of Education, and MA. Nguyen Duy Mong Ha, Head of USSH’s Office of Assessment and Quality Assurance, presented a scientific research work on the Vietnamese education system, in which visions and missions as well as certain requirements for students have changed to meet urgent social needs for education faculty students. Besides, welcoming as many as 3000 foreign students in Vietnamese courses in many years, by implementing varied programs, USSH VNU HCMC helps its students take a comprehensive perspective on culture and other related issues,

Right after the roundtable discussion, a discourse was well presented by Prof. Dr. Vo Van Sen with the aim of introducing an educational philosophy – “A wholly, liberal, multicultural education. Representatives of AsTen agreed with him on this philosophy as it helps ASEAN countries find similarities within diversity rather than differences. After “Doi Moi” (Reform), the Vietnamese educational system was changed, and social and humanities sciences in Vietnam have been applied different approaches from micro to macro levels. These changes made significant contributions to changing the people’s mental life. Hence, facing changes in 21st century, social and humanities sciences still has their own important values. Another presentation received attention of audience was given by scientists Ace Suryadi (from Pendidikan, Indonesia), Prof. Arild Tjeldvoll (from Norway), Surachai Jewchroensakul Dr.(from Education Department of Kasetsart Universiy, Bangkok, Thailand). The issues that these scientists presented covered:

Photo: Dr. Surachai Jewcharoensakul from Department of Education, Kasersart University. 

1. Having deep undestanding of cultural identities to fully cooperate 

The Southeast Asian had many huge differences and similarities; therefore, making cultures connected is really a hard work to carry out unless there is a level of deep understanding about Southeast Asian countries. The multilateral major cultural influences among Indian and Eastern Asia led to the diversity of ethnicity cultures which associates with the virtue of generosity and multicultural integration on the foundation of establishing Southeast Asian cultural values nowadays. By contrast, the characteristic of multi-cultures has additional disadvantages that according to Prof. Dr Vo Van Sen, these disadvantages were in both applying new technologies and building human life. Embracing human being’s diverse culture and appreciating its inestimable values mean fostering human’s development.

Basically, the cultural identities would be special, distinctive and fundamental to make it different from the others’, and distinguishable it from the a similar one. Based on these identities, having deep cross-cultural understanding helps to promote development of a egalitarian, humanistic, sustainable and moral-based society, which is extremely necessary. In the presentation contributed by Dr. Surachai Jewcharoensakul from Education Department (University of Kasetsart, Thailand), he took noticed of such a Southeast Asian cultural identity, and called for joint actions to solve cultural problems of the region, especially in frameworks of AsTEN development. Correctly, his notes made participants absolutely arrive at full agreement. 

2. Spreading comprehensive knowledge throughout teachers is really necessary.

With regard to reaching educational goals as equipping individuals and the whole nation with both cultural identities and thorough understanding, teachers are supposed to have comprehensive knowledge, instead of learning mere teaching methodologies or specialized knowledge. Not only does a teacher have wide knowledge in literature, culture, mathematics, history, geography, but he or she also understands social sciences, especially sociology that is deemed the science of conducting research on our society and easing critical social problems by taking perspectives on relationships, and humanistic understanding of the social interaction, social behaviorism, and social incidences… By sociology scientists have abilities of spoting social problems with its means of quantitative and qualitative research, describing them under micro and macro levels. It help them have social welfare-related measures against class stratification, racial disparity, class difference, religious intolerance, gender discrimination, cultural and linguistic barriers, social norms, crimes and punishment, healthcare policies, family structures, and the mobility of our society as well. 

Especially, majors of sociology carry out many areas of in-depth research in considerable social changes, ties of kinship, educational sociology, systems of conglomeration, legislation, industrialized societies, legislative sociology, health sociology, environmental sociology, disability rights and problems of drug abuses, laws and the state, political problems, racial unrests as well. These majors provide a lecturer with a body of wide knowledge. Similarly, identifying these complicated problems gives him or her thorough social awareness, too. In addition, a lecturer is supposed to have pracitical knowledge about the social work. Despite that the border between the social work and sociology seems a little blur and overlapped, the social work, in particular, focuses on individual matteres or specific problems of communities. It helps to regulate social welfare policies that betters human life. Clearly, Dr. Surachai Jewcharoensakul pointed out that it was important to train teachers in courses with such knowledge just as what have been done in his education faculty of Kasetsart University recently. Considering the idea, a mass audience of the discussion totally agreed that students in the education major should be taught the least fundamental social work knowledge, and some of sociological subjects may be put in their curricula.

3. Extracurricular activities

Cross-cultural exchanges can typically begin with in-group activities that are constructive because they helps to learn and understand cultural identities among AsTEN member countries. Dr. Surachai Jewcharoensakul noticed that universities would concern encouraging development of students group acticititives. He said that these activities were pre-conditions to help students involve in social activities, research-based work and real personal experiences. These series of activities were stressed in policies of Thailand universities; thus, they formulated explicit policies, especially cross-cultural activities. Representatives from Pendidikan Sultan Idris University (Malaysia) highlighted the importance of activities of increasing Asian cultural understanding of social and humanities knowledge. While ASEAN leaders emphasized the cultural diveresity to have peace and prosperity, these above activities are what AsTEN should do in the near future.

The 4th meeting of AsTEN’s Presidents reached some agreement of building educational programmes for student and lecturer to have exchanges in the next time. The meeting unanimously consented that several subjects would be added into training curriculums such as the ASEAN culture, the cultural identies… By doing that, better understanding will improve in the future, and bring prosperity as well as peace. On schedule, the next meeting, the 5th one, is being hosted in Kasetsart University, Thailand in 2016. 

Concept Note on the ASEAN Teacher Education Networl (AsTEN)

The ASEAN Teacher Education (AsTEN) is proposed to be a network of leading teachers. The members will work to address issues, challenges and concerns relevant to Teacher Education programs, practives and policies in the ASEAn region. At the same time, the network will serve as a vehicle for collabortation in both academic and research endeavors within and across member institutions that will benefit the ASEAN nations and peoples.

Some photos taken at the meeting:

Photo: USSH VNU HCMC’s students perform to welcome guests.

Photo: Prof.Dr. Vo Van Sen gives a gift to the Myanmar University’s leader.

Photo: The accession ceremony of the 10th AsTEN member .
Source: The USSH’s Office of Scientific Research and Project Management.

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