KUALA LUMPUR – Former Malaysian senior cabinet minister Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz has proposed that a subject on ASEAN be conducted in the regional grouping’s schools on a weekly basis.
“To shape the ASEAN identity, we must begin in school. I suggest that every school in ASEAN strive to have a subject on ASEAN once or twice a week,” said the former International Trade and Industry Minister when addressing The ASEAN+ Young Leaders Summit (AYLS 2015) here today.
Noting that the future of ASEAN depends on the youth, she emphasised the importance of giving them the basic exposure of “what ASEAN is all about” and to encourage them to participate in student exchange programmes.
She said ASEAN’s youth must be exposed to the opportunities of what the regional grouping could offer them.
“We cannot expect them to accept ASEAN if they do not know what is in it for them,” said Rafidah, who is known as Malaysia’s ‘Iron Lady’ and has her finger on the pulse of global affairs, especially on international trade and investments.
Rafidah said while economic integration had been the catalyst of ASEAN, the people agenda must also be highlighted to create the ASEAN identity.
“When we talk about the ‘ASEAN community’, it does not only mean ASEAN Economic Community. Most of the time, the focus is on the economic pillar while the people agenda is still not there,” she said.
Moving forward, she said there should be greater inclusiveness in the ASEAN processes by reaching out to those who were not yet on board of the integration process.
“We need to create that ASEAN identity as fast as possible before people forget about ASEAN,” she added.
The 10 members of ASEAN are Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
The three-day AYLS 2015 starting Wednesday themed ‘Youth Driving the ASEAN Community’ is organised by the Youth and Sports Ministry.- BERNAMA