Terms of Reference for the Asia-Pacific Multilingual Education Working Group, under the Regional Thematic Working Group on Education 2030 + (TWG on Education 2030+)


Over the past several years, there has been a growing awareness of the difficulties that many ethnolinguistic communities face in gaining access to educational opportunities, as well as increased interest in the potential of multilingual education to address lingering disparities.

In 2004, a group of organizations began meeting as the Bangkok Multilingual Education Working Group with the purpose of “identifying the major needs in nurturing a multilingual education movement throughout Southeast Asia and coordinating human and financial resources to help meet those needs.” The founding members included United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO), Save the Children, SIL International, Mahidol University, and Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere (CARE). Given the mandate of the group, it has formally established as “Asia Multilingual Education Working Group (MLE WG)” under the auspices of the Regional Thematic Working Group on Education for All (TWG-EFA) as a thematic sub-group in 2009. Through integration with the Regional TWG on EFA, it has been instrumental in creating a strong regional momentum towards achieving education for all by creating a more vibrant Mother Tongue-based Multilingual Education (MTB MLE) community, promoting positive policies and enhancing MTB MLE knowledge base.

Particularly the MLE WG’s ‘International Conference on Language and Education’ series and high-level policy forum on MLE have provided a unique opportunity for policy-makers, researchers, practitioners, and development actors to share views, good practices, and experiences, as well as to explore issues concerning the importance of MTB MLE and broader language issues in sustainable development. With the five international conferences and the two high-level policy forums, the MLE WG was able to reach over 1,600 participants including 38 high-level government officials in the region. Using over 350 cases presented during the past five conferences, the MLE WG was able to publish key advocacy materials and raise awareness among high-level government officials in the region to support the implementation of MTB MLE activities.

In response to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDG 4), the Asia-PacificS Multilingual Education Working Group (MLE WG) will build on the work of the MLE WG under the framework of TWG on Education 2030+. As one of the subgroups of TWG on Education 2030+, the MLE WG will play a key role in promoting MTB MLE to achieve SDG 4 - “inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.” While the original MLE WG specified a focus on the Southeast Asia region, the MLE WG will cover members from Asia and the Pacific region for the purpose of broadening participation and impact.


The goal of the Asia-Pacific Multilingual Education Working group (MLE WG) is to promote mother tongue-based multilingual education (MTB MLE) and remove language barriers to promote inclusive quality education learning outcomes for ethnolinguistic communities in the Asia-Pacific region.