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The Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Vietnam, Indonesia, Myanmar, Malaysia, and East Timor continue to face challenges in reaching and educating out of school children (OOSC). The EAC-UNESCO Asia Pacific Regional Bureau for Education Strengthening Education Systems for Out of School Children project seeks to enrol and retain 50,000 out of school children in quality primary education programs in the sub-region.

The goal of the Strengthening Education System for Out of School Children project is to enhance institutional capacity of education systems to provide learning opportunities for OOSC in southeast Asia. Strategies are targeted towards creating a supportive atmosphere for the schooling of OOSC through a sustainable system and consistent program delivery. During the project period, an estimated 50,000 OOSC will have opportunities to participate in flexible learning programs that are equivalent to formal education. Many of these children are children in poverty, children with disabilities, migrant children, stateless children, girls, children in remote areas, and children of ethnic minorities. Specific objectives include: conducting an in-depth review of current legislation, policies, systems, and programs for OOSC; forming a joint commitment from Asia-Pacific countries to address OOSC by working together to prepare and endorse the ASEAN Declaration ensuring learning opportunities for all children regardless of their nationality or citizenship; strengthening capacities of the government and NGOs through regional networking, seminars, workshops, and two regional summits; and improving and expanding flexible learning programs in Lao PDR, Myanmar and Thailand. The knowledge and experience accumulated as a result of the project will be disseminated through portal sites, events, media, and publications.

The project has been designed to enable governments and partners to sustain and expand programs for OOSC. The project’s advocacy and capacity development, in particular, will help sustain the governments’ commitments to, and programs for, OOSC. The project will involve collaboration between the ASEAN Secretariat, governments of the nine countries, NGOs, and private sector representatives.

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EAC partnered with UNESCO to help realise Sustainable Development Goal 4 (ensure inclusive and quality education for all), as well as the former Millennium Development Goal 2 (achieve universal primary education). To that end, the two have joined in partnership to implement education interventions in 11 countries to reach OOSC in Asia and the Middle East.



The Kingdom of Cambodia has, over the last decade, enjoyed robust economic growth – GDP is estimated to have grown at approximately 8 percent between 2000 and 2010, and at least at 7 percent since 2011. As such, the government envisions Cambodia entering the realms of lower-middle income country status by 2030 and achieving developed country status by 2050.


With a population of around 250 million spread over seventeen thousand islands, across five thousand miles, Indonesia’s people are ethnically diverse as can be witnessed through their use of 300 different local languages. EAC partners with UNESCO in Indonesia to help out of school children overcome barriers to education.

Lao People’s Democratic Republic

Landlocked in south-eastern Asia, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) was a French colony from 1893 to 1953, until a power struggle between rival factions eventually led to the overthrow of the country’s monarchy in 1975 by communist forces. The period that ensued heralded years of isolation in Lao PDR, which only began to relent with the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. At that time, the country started to open its doors to the outside world and introduce economic reforms. However, Laos is still in relative economic straits and dependant on foreign aid. The majority of Laotians live in rural locales, with approximately 80 per cent of the country’s people working in agriculture. The Lao Government aspires to utilise its capacity to generate hydroelectric power to become the “battery” of the region and its primary source of revenue by 2025.


This upper-middle income country has witnessed successful economic growth where each year for 30 years, between 1967 and 1997, it managed 7% growth. According to the World Bank 50% of Malaysia’s population lived below the poverty line in the 1960’s compared to less than 2% today. EAC, in partnership with UNHCR and UNESCO are working to increase access to quality primary education for out of school children in Malaysia.
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Myanmar, the largest mainland country in Southeast Asia, is home to more than approximately 130 ethnic groups with distinct cultures and languages. The country has known periodic spells of armed conflict and inter-communal violence, particularly in border areas, which trigger flows of refugees and internal displacement. In addition, poverty is a formidable development challenge in Myanmar. According to the 2009-2010 Integrated Household Living Conditions Survey in Myanmar, 26 percent of the population lived below the national poverty line and poverty incidence was concentrated in Ayeyarwaddy, Chin, Rakhine, Shan and Tanintharyi.


Philippines is home to more than 98 million people who live across more than 7,000 islands in South East Asia, much of which is mountainous and prone to earthquakes and eruptions from any of its 20 active volcanoes - as well as being subjected to typhoons and storms. Forecasters say that the birth rate is so high in this country that its population could double within three decades (BBC). EAC has partnered with UNESCO to strengthen education systems for out of school children.


Facing the Strait of Malacca to its West and the South China Sea to the East, the Kingdom of Thailand shares land borders with four other countries in South-east Asia. Unlike other countries in the region, Thailand was never subjected to colonial conquest. The Buddhist religion predominates and the monarchy and the military have played formidable roles in shaping Thai society, culture and politics. Since 1947 Thailand has largely known military rule with a few intervals of democratic governance. Demographically, the country has an aging population and growth rates in that respect have begun to slow. The Thai Government has acknowledged the demographic shifts and prioritised the rapid development of human resource capacity, so as to position the country for successful competition in the global market economy of the 21st Century.


As one of the poorest nations in Asia, it is said that Timor-Leste (formerly East Timor) will rely on outside Aid for many years to come. This country has a well-known recent history of how its independence came about; the people of this country were met with very high levels of atrocity and violence. Over the past decade and post-independence, however, Timor-Leste has begun to benefit from the foundations of successful development. EAC, in partnership with UNESCO, aims to support the primary education in this country through policy advocacy that considers the needs of out of school children.


Vietnam is emerging from decades of colonialism, war, and an impoverished command economy. Because of extreme poverty, children often must work before and after school to support their family, usually by peddling something, working in factories, and offering other goods and services. EAC and our partner UNESCO are aiming to provide support to Vietnamese children to overcome the barriers to education.