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Global Strategic Planning Meeting
on Teacher Training in Human Rights Education

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Comparative Survey of Teacher Training in Selected ASEAN States

A Comparative Survey of Teacher Training in Selected ASEAN States:
Implications to Human Rights Education

by Felice I. Yeban, Philippine Normal University


There is a general perception that there is a marked change in the context of education in general and teacher education in particular.  In a world that increasingly values specialization, teachers were found to be lacking in expertise in their respective fields of specialization.  It is also recognized that there is a shift in educational emphasis from what to learn to how to learn brought about by an accelerating pace in the production of knowledge triggered by the intensifying and pervading scientific and technological revolution. But studies show that teachers do not have the appropriate learning tools such as communication, problem solving, and thinking skills to respond to such trends.

New imperatives are forcing teacher education institutions to re-visit and re-think their assumptions, theories, and practices about the kind of teachers that must be produced. The current curriculum is deemed insufficient to address these concerns. Issues such as the growing gap between theory and practice, failure to make teachers reflective practitioners, overlapping of courses, and the need for teachers to be independent and scientific thinkers and research driven in their instruction are among the push factors that make revision of the current teacher education curriculum an urgent undertaking. It is curious to note that inclusion of human rights education in the curriculum is not one of these factors.


1. According to UNSECO, “in most ASEAN countries, the graduates of Upper Secondary or Post-Secondary must take a certificate or diploma course to become primary school teachers. Those with Baccalaureate degree in education are qualified to be appointed as secondary school teachers. Those with University degree not related to Education must take a 1-year diploma course to teach in secondary level.

In Thailand, private colleges are not allowed to confer degrees in teacher education while in Malaysia, private colleges cannot confer any degree; they can however offer certificate programs in teacher education. The diploma programs offered in Indonesia are either integrated into the Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science program or offered as one year diploma in Education after a degree is earned.

The Philippines is the only ASEAN country that requires the completion of a degree program as pre-service education for primary teachers. The rest continue to offer certificate programs. It may be noted however that the Philippines is the only ASEAN country with 10 years of basic education (6-4), Singapore has 12 (6-4-2), Indonesia 12 (6-3-3), Malaysia 12 (6-4-2), Thailand 12 (6-3-3) and Brunei 14 (1-6-3-2-2).

2. Thailand and the Philippines require passing a teacher examination prior to occupying a teaching assignment in government schools. In Malaysia and Indonesia, teachers are required to pass the civil service examination.“

3. Some countries are restructuring their curricula after several years of following an unchanged curriculum, as in the case of Vietnam and Thailand which are preparing to introduce major reform. These countries are in the process of gradually redesigning their entire curricula; establishing new aims, purposes and goals; and redefining content. Pre- and in-service training of teachers and school inspectors is a major priority. Some countries are engaged in an evaluation and monitoring phase and are searching for methods and tools to assess the outcome of the reforms implemented.  A country such as Malaysia has indicated an established system of ongoing curricular renewal and adaptation in order to incorporate new areas of content and teaching methods as demands arise, particularly in response to the new challenges of the twenty-first century (i.e. globalization, scientific progress, technological evolution, environmental awareness). While the dominant structure of curriculum development among the ASEAN countries is centralized, there seems to be a genuine concern for both decentralization and wider participation in curriculum change. 

4. ASEAN countries tend to emphasize in-service training in English, Mathematics, and Science teaching.

5. The multitude of teachers who need to undergo continuing education makes it imperative that individual countries pursue some innovative ideas in delivering in-service programmes. In Indonesia, the “administrator-supervisor-teacher support system in in-service program is used. This establishes the “mentoring system” approach. In Malaysia, learning modules for teachers were developed to minimize time away from school. In Thailand, twinning with Universities abroad is adopted. In the Philippines, the creation of centers of excellence in teacher education facilitates the development of a variety and a number of in-service training. Generally, the trend among ASEAN countries is the adoption of cascade system, distance learning, and mobile training unit. The cascade system is the conduct of national training whose participants will in turn re-echo to their respective division, district, or schools the in-service training at the national level. Distance learning is usually conducted through radio programs, learning modules, and ICT materials.

6. In both the Philippines and Indonesia, the private sector is a strong partner of the government in education. In Malaysia, there no private Universities but only colleges.

7. The policies relevant to pre-service and in-service training are formulated by the Department of Education and/or the Commission for Higher Education. (See table of comparison). In the case of Thailand, however, the National Education Commission concentrates on the policy planning and policy making. It is a separate and distinct body from the Ministry.


          The Philippines, Indonesia, and Thailand have made some headway in including human rights education in teacher training. A critical mass of educators engaged in human rights education can be found in these countries.

          The presence of national human rights institutions has generated enough space for human rights educators to integrate human rights in teacher training both for pre-service and in-service. In the Philippines, the inclusion of human rights in teacher licensure examination has forced teacher education institutions to integrate human rights in the teacher education curriculum.

In general however, there seems to be very little systematization and institutionalization of human rights in pre-service teacher education. Human rights training in the in-service training seem to be minimal. This is probably due to two factors namely the general perception that human rights is about activism, being leftist, and anti-government and the global trend of emphasizing Mathematics, Science and English and de-emphasizing the social sciences as among the general knowledge that teachers must possess.


The following are some strategies that can be pursued to effectively institutionalize HRE in teacher training in ASEAN countries:

1.     Work towards making human rights part of the licensure examination for teachers and civil service examination.

2.     Work towards making attendance to human rights in-service training a pre-condition for teacher promotion.

3.     Identify a teacher training institution that can be made as a center for excellence (COE) in human rights education. The COE will be expected to conduct annual in-service human rights training.

4.     Work towards allowing teacher education institutions to allot 5% of their Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses for the conduct of HRE.

5.     Create a national/regional human rights educator award

6.     Create a human rights education research grant

7.     Adapt the use of radio programs, learning modules, and ICT materials for human rights education

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