Phase I

“Comparative study on 21st Century Skills in education policies in 6 countries* in the Asia-Pacific Region and development of a participatory education policy database” (April 2013 – March 2014)

Project Overview (Phase 1)

* The project started with the six countries (Japan, republic of Korea, China, Mongolia, Malaysia and Thailand), however, the four countries and economies participated in later (Australia, India, the Philippines, Hong Kong (SAR)). Eventually, the comparative analysis included 10 countries and economies eventually.

The phase I included the following four activities:

  1. Comparative study on “21st century skills” in education policies among 6 countries in the Asia-Pacific region;
  2. Sharing the research framework for preparation of the comparative study;
  3. Development of a participatory education policy database; and
  4. Organization of a Tokyo Tech-UNESCO regional symposium


1. Comparative analysis on “21st century skills” in education policies in 6 countries in Asia-Pacific region

The comparative research consisted of the following three components:

  1. Country reports on inclusion of 21st century skills/non-cognitive skills in education polices;
  2. E-contest for youth and teachers in Asia-Pacific region regarding ideas and experiences on 21st century skills/non-cognitive skills; and
  3. Regional synthesis report.

Country reports included policy review and survey with stakeholders such as policy makers and teachers to explore how 21st century skills/non-cognitive skills are adopted in education polices in each country. E-contest aimed to collect voices from teachers and students in the classroom complementing country reports,. This e-contest asks teachers and students to present their thoughts and practices on transversal competencies through essay or video. Regional synthesis study complied findings from 10 country reports, addressing the policies and national strategies for promoting 21st century skills/non-cognitive skills.

The research started with the six countries and economies (i.e. Japan, Republic of Korea, China, Malaysia, Mongolia and Thailand). After the detail of this research project on “21st century skills” was announced on UNESCO Bangkok website, four more countries (i.e. Australia, India, Thailand and the Philippines) showed their strong interest in the research project. Eventually, the comparative research included 10 country reports.

1) Country reports

Country reports analyzed and discussed from the multiple angles including the following points:

• Situation of education reforms, focusing on improving learning outcomes;
• Policies and strategies on integration of non-cognitive skills in education;
• Analysis of curricula in relation to integration of non-cognitive skills in education; and
• Achievement, challenges and recommendations.

Figure: Mapping the 10 research participating countries and economies

  • Country reports

2) E-contest

From August to December 2013, Tokyo Tech and UNESCO Bangkok organized the e-contest “Skills for a Better Life”. This e-contest is for students and teachers reside in Asia-Pacific region in order to understand how students and teachers in schools perceive “21st century skills” and practice these skills in their daily life by collecting their ideas and actual experiences in their schools. Entries for this e-contest could be made in two categories: Videos (Type A) and Written articles (Type B) so that people could join this e-contest according to their ICT availability. When the e-contest closed on 15 December 2013, 196 submissions from 20 countries across the world were received. Seven winners were selected for Type A (Videos) and three winners for Type B (written articles). The differences in the numbers of Winners were reflecting the higher number of submissions in Type B. The results were announced on the UNESCO Bangkok website on February, 2014.

Figure: E-contest flyer

Contest result page

3) Regional Synthesis Report

Based on the 10 country reports, a regional synthesis report was prepared with the assistance of an expert ( Dr. Kai-ming Cheng, from Hong Kong University). In the synthesis report, the findings from the 10 country reports were compared and analyzed form the multiple aspects such as rationales for introducing 21st century skills, way to integrate 21st century skills into the existing curriculum and similarities and diversities of 21st century skills in the education polices. Key findings from the synthesis report included:

  1. Similarities and diversities in “21st century skills” found in education polices in the participating 10 countries and economies and
  2. Although the importance the possibility of the gap between education polices that promotes “21st century skills” and the actual implementation in schools.

Integrating Transversal Competencies in Education Policy and Practice (Phase I)


2. An expert meeting for sharing the research framework of the comparative study

As a preparation of this project, Tokyo Tech and UNESCO Bangkok jointly organized a 2-day expert meeting in Bangkok, Thailand on 7-8 March, 2013. A total of 45 experts from 10 countries (Australia, China and Hong Kong SAR, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mongolia, the Philippines, Republic of Korea, Sri Lanka and Thailand) participated in the meeting. During the meeting, the experts

  1. Shared the common agreement on the working definition of the “21st century skills” for the comparative analysis;
  2. Finalized the research plan at the country level from the national experts’ perspective;
  3. Discussed the research methods including a research framework and questionnaire; and
  4. Agreed on the common work plan.

Based on the discussion and agreement of the meeting, overall research framework and timeline were finalized.

Related information:
ERI-Net Expert Meeting 2013
UNESCO Bangkok Newsletter


3. Participatory education policy database

Importance of information sharing was repeatedly raised during the UNESCO expert meetings. UNESCO Bangkok has developed an information portal for education policies (National Education Systems and Policies in the Asia-Pacific Region – NESPAP). However, NESPAP has not been fully utilized due to several usability issues including less user-friendly login process. Acknowledging this, Tokyo Tech team worked with UNESCO Bangkok to develop a participatory education policy database to realize the effective information sharing. The database was designed to integrate the existing databases and portals of UNESCO Bangkok using the Drupal CMS system, which was used for the NESPAP.

Tokyo tech team successfully developed individual functions required for the participatory education policy database. However, integration of the individual functions was not completed. Main cause of the integration incompletion was the little interoperability among the basic modules, which required an intricate development. It is highly possible that the weak interoperability between the Drupal modules will cause technical problems in the future management and maintenance. Thai is, phase I clarified that the development of the database needed different approach to ensure the sustainability of the future maintenance.

Basic principle for the next phase was summarized into the following two aspects:

  1. To explore system platforms other than Drupal, and develop a system which would require a minimum amount of maintenance cost; and
  2. To consider two possible approaches.

First is to integrate external correspondent web services into one interface (Mashup). Second is to implement all the functions on a Content Management System (CMS) using plugins.


4. Joint regional symposium

In collaboration with UNESCO Bangkok, the regional symposium was organized to share and discuss the preliminary results of country report from the 10 research participating countries and economies in Asia and the Pacific region (17-19 October, 2013). A total of 52 researchers, practitioners and policy-makers and UNESCO Bangkok staff attended the symposium. 12 countries and economies were represented, including Australia, China, Hong Kong SAR, India, Japan, Malaysia, Mongolia, the Philippines, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Thailand. The regional symposium was conducted as an annual meeting of the Education Research Institutes Network in Asia- Pacific (ERI-Net) that is a research net-work hosted by UNESCO Bangkok.

At the symposium, the representatives of the research participating countries and economies shared the situation of integration of “21st century skills” in their education policies. They reported that each country and economy had experienced education reforms in order to response the new education needs in line with the globalization and expansion of ICT. While each country and economy positioned “21st century skills” as important factors in their education policies, researchers raised the issue that there might be a gap between policies and practices. Participants agreed on to explore this issue in the phase II, that is, the situation of “21st century skills” in school level practices.

Also, participants agreed to introduce the new term, “transversal competencies”, for this research acknowledging “21st century skills” are not limited in an area or a subject but should be recognized as something transverses knowledge and skills in multiple areas.

ERI-Net Meeting (Source: UNESCO Bangkok website)

Meeting summary and outcomes


Related information:

Outcomes of the phase 1

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