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The ASEM Meeting of Ministers for Education has just launched a new programme for innovative competencies. Senior official Jørn Skovsgaard from the Danish Ministry of Children and Education tells us why the ASEM Education Process needs this new programme.


By Claus Holm,


In 2011 researchers from the Republic of Korea visited Denmark. They had become aware of the fact that Danish students were not only happy to go to school but they were also quite outspoken in relation to their teachers. Such happiness and boldness are prerequisites for being creative and innovative, argues Jørn Skovsgaard, a senior official from the Danish Ministry for Children and Education and one of the founding fathers behind the ASEM LLL Hub. Its establishment in 2000 has led to a large number of exchanges in the domain of research and policy development in lifelong learning related to adults.

Now Jørn Skovsgaard is the man behind another proposal to develop a new lifelong learning initiative: a programme related to children. This programme for improving innovative and entrepreneurial skills from an early age, called “Innovative competencies for primary and secondary schools”, has been launched by the Danish Ministry for Children and Education. The programme was proposed at the Fourth Asia-Europe Meeting of Ministers for Education held in Kuala Lumpur on 13–14 May 2013. Not only the Republic of Korea and Denmark endorsed this proposal, but also Brunei Darussalam, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Malaysia, Norway, Singapore and Vietnam.

But why does Jørn Skovsgaard think that the programme has attracted so much attention?

“The world needs new solutions” is Jørgen Skovsgaard’s answer and he continues: “If you take climate change and the global economic crisis, you have two persuasive examples of why we need a programme that contributes to sustainable solutions. Challenges such as these require the national school systems in Asia and Europe to play an active role in how their societies can embark on a progressive and sustainable development of employment, business and community at all levels. This calls for new and unproven educational solutions and teaching strategies, and it calls in particular for a strong focus on how to improve the innovative capacities of all students and increase their potential to play an active role in their community.”

But what can the national education systems in Europe and Asia learn from each other?

“Of course you have to be aware of the major cultural differences between Europe and Asia. If we compare Denmark and the Republic of Korea, for example, it is obvious that we in Denmark have a very democratised relationship between teachers and students. This means that Danish pupils are used to having their say about how the teachers teach while Danish teachers often encourage the pupils to express themselves independently and critically. You find the same kind of tradition in the Danish labour market, which internationally is considered as innovative because employees are allowed and encouraged to find solutions themselves instead of waiting for their employers to tell them what to do and how. This is very different from the Republic of Korea which has Confucianism as a cultural as well as a spiritual heritage. One of the implications of this heritage is that the Korean pupils do not ask their teachers so many questions, but they wait for the teachers to give them directions and they obey them,” says Jørn Skovsgaard, who emphasises, however, that both sides can learn from each other.

On a personal level, Jørn Skovsgaard is impressed by how countries such as Singapore and the Republic of Korea have invested in getting well-trained teachers. He explains: “In Denmark we currently have no doubt that you in Singapore and the Republic of Korea have teachers who are better trained than ours in classroom management. It gives the pupils a much better chance to be able to learn than we are able to provide in Denmark. Lack of peace destroys the joy of learning, and in my view it is this joy that we should treasure and develop as a prerequisite for being innovative throughout life. And this is an insight that applies whether you are a pupil in Asia or Europe.”

Read the full proposal put forward at ASEMME4 in Kuala Lumpur. May 2013.