Jakarta, September 8th, 2021: On International Literacy Day, the U.S. Government through the USAID-ASEAN Partnership for Regional Optimization in the Political Security and Socio-cultural Communities (PROSPECT) project reaffirmed its support in ASEAN’s Senior Officials’ Meeting on Education and Development (SOMED) to develop a Training-of-Trainers (ToT) program for educators to counter disinformation and promote media literacy for regional youth.
Today, over 60 representatives from the ASEAN Secretariat, ASEAN-affiliated entities, ASEAN Sectoral Bodies—including from SOMED, ASEAN Senior Officials on Youth (SOMY), ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting Responsible for Information (SOMRI), among others—came together to review and provide technical feedback on the draft ToT program curriculum and modules. U.S. State Department representatives from the Bureau of Counter-terrorism, Dr. Sharri Clarke and Ms. Barbara Paoletti, set the stage with contextual perspective on the importance of education as a preventative approach to countering disinformation and violent extremism, and underscored the U.S. Government’s work and partnership on a number of initiatives globally and within the ASEAN region. Representatives from relevant teacher training centers and other civil society organizations also joined the discussion, bringing in pedagogical and practical perspectives for considerations into the draft ToT program. Stakeholders’ feedback will inform the substance of the ToT module, as well as the planned piloti and roll-out of the program anticipated to begin in early 2022. Participants also had the opportunity to hear about ongoing initiatives in the region from SOMED, SOMTC Working Group on Countering Terrorism (WG CT), Association of Southeast Asian Teacher Education Network, and the ASEAN Foundation related to youth education and countering disinformation.
In his opening remarks, Mr. Wilfredo E. Cabral, Regional Director, DepEd NCR and Officer-In-Charge, Office of the Undersecretary for Planning and Human Resources and Organizational Development, Department of Education, Philippines; Chair of the ASEAN SOMED underscored the significance and timeliness of the activity in the midst of the ‘infodemic’ emerging during the COVID crises.
“We recognize there is a lot to be done when it comes to learning how to navigate our expanding information landscape and become well informed citizens. We support ASEAN’s proactive approach in addressing this global problem…We must keep in mind that our learners are growing in an environment where digital and media literacy is an essential skill… To realize this vision, we educators should be at the forefront of pursuing information literacy by ensuring we ourselves are not perpetrators of disinformation. We will not only be able to teach our learners, but also be good examples ourselves.”
Ms. Julie Chen, the Director of USAID ASEAN Office emphasized the importance of the project in addressing the negative impacts of disinformation amongst youth, saying that as ASEAN’s future leaders, ASEAN youth should be equipped and empowered to better navigate the digital landscape as critical thinkers: “As we celebrate International Literacy Day, we are witnessing here in Southeast Asia, as in the U.S. and throughout the globe, the negative impacts of false or misleading information generated and shared online, from igniting conflict, to stoking violent extremism, to promoting false narratives about COVID-19, disinformation is rampant.”
Once completed, the USAID-supported ToT program will better equip educators across ASEAN with a comprehensive pedagogical framework through which to educate youth on media literacy and empower them to counter disinformation in their communities, both online and in the real world.