ASEAN Youth Conference 2023 Highlights Need for Better Education Infrastructure

Delegates at the ASEAN Youth Conference 2023. (Photo: Sengtavanh Virathavonerasphone)

ASEAN youths are taking the lead in regional meetings.

In tandem with the ASEAN Youth Conference (AYC) 2023 from 3-5 November, the ASEAN Youth Organization (AYO) marked another milestone by hosting the ASEAN Youth Digital Forum 2023 in Kuala Lumpur from 15-17 November. This conference provided a crucial platform for the convergence of young leaders, drawing approximately 250 ASEAN and international youth leaders and change-makers from 15 countries.

Organized by the ASEAN Youth Organization (AYO), the events centered around the themes “#ASEANYouth: Guardians of the Sustainable Future for a Resilient ASEAN” and “Building Resilient ASEAN Digital Economy: Youth Entrepreneurs and Intellectual Property Rights,” respectively.

As the digital forum approaches its end, the ASEAN Youth Conference (AYC) 2023 unfolded in the hustle and bustle of Jakarta, Indonesia, with a diverse mix of international youth leaders from 3-5 November. Among them was the only Lao delegate, 24-year-old Sengtavanh (Seng) Virathavonerasphone.

Tengku Amir Shah Ibni Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah Alhaj, the Crown Prince of Malaysia, State of Selangor, set the tone by saying: “To truly unlock the immense potential of ASEAN youth, we must create spaces for their active engagement and advocacy.” This was further emphasized by Seng.

The young Lao representative further highlighted the importance of generating platforms such as digital learning hubs and libraries for youths and students. He also pointed out the need to improve Laos’ education infrastructure in the digital age to foster soft and entrepreneurial skills among students.

Drawing attention to Laos’ recent access to technologies, Seng highlighted the urgency to bridge the technological gap for the youth, especially in areas like artificial intelligence (AI), where other ASEAN nations had a head start.

“We need to develop the infrastructure to allow students to take advantage of the learning tools that are available and how to use them,” Seng said. “ChatGPT is a very powerful tool, and most ASEAN nations have had it for a while. They were able to learn and adapt to the situation and utilize it for their benefit. We only had access to it very recently; our youths are falling behind.”

Beyond Seng’s insights, the conference featured three-panel discussions, workshops, and networking sessions exploring various topics, from economic development to political security and socio-cultural progress.

In the collaborative spirit of the event, delegates were encouraged to form international partnerships and devise project plans to address common youth challenges and opportunities.

Seng, in a more down-to-earth manner, encouraged his peers to take advantage of the opportunity to make friends and learn from the experiences of other nations.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to make new friends and learn from other countries about different challenges and how to address them,” Seng ended.

As the conference concluded, Seng looked forward to the next year, inviting fellow delegates to join, especially as Laos was gearing up to chair ASEAN.

Since 2018, AYO has been organizing successful ASEAN Youth Conferences and various forums, providing a practical platform for youth exploration and capacity-building.