Southeast Asian Studies Regional Exchange ProgramSEAS Bulletin
Vision: 2005-2014
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10 years of SEASREP-and on the next ten

      In 2005 the SEASREP Foundation marks 10 years of life. From the expansive ten-point blueprint prepared by the Council in its first meeting in Kuala Lumpur in 1994, to the three major grant programs that have focused on language training, postgraduate study and research, SEASREP has exceeded its initial expectations. The early informal screening process for grant applications was replaced by a formal procedure independent of the Council, with a guide for Selection Committee members prepared by one of the Councilís longest friends, Dr. Ruth McVey. On the other hand, the university network, which held great promise at the start, faded as university administrators changed and the burden fell on the Council membersí own network of colleagues, scholars and students. That network has grown over the years and as a result, new and young faces have entered the scene just as the Council had wished.

      Of the Councilís grant programs, only one failed to meet the Councilís expectationsóthe visiting professorsí program. Without a directory of scholars in the region, interested institutions had difficulty identifying potential lecturers, thereby relying on (limited) personal networks of colleagues and acquaintances. In contrast, the other programs received more applications than could be accommodated, and the quality of applications improved vastly over time. The external review of the Council in 2002 confirmed these findings and supported the current emphasis of the grant programs.

      Participation by country varied between 1995 and 2005 as the grant programs were opened to all countries in the region (from the initial offering confined to the network of universities). Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand have contributed the highest number of applicants and grantees, while Vietnam, Myanmar and Singapore have had the fewest number.

      In addition to the regular grant programs, the Council initiated its own projects: a large international conference in 1998 on Southeast Asia in the 20th century; the traveling classroom from 1999 to 2002; various textbook and bibliography projects; the Asian Emporiums course which commenced in 2004; the teacher training seminar in Ayutthaya in October 2003; and the two-part ongoing Mekong project.

      SEASREP intends to retain its present programsólanguage training, MA/PhD research, and regional collaboration grantsóand will pursue, in addition, new directions in its next 10 years. The research thrust of SEASREP will remain and so will its target audience of scholars in the humanities and social sciences. The new directions, however, will enrich these features and broaden the beneficiaries of SEASREP programs and activities.

  1. More Vigorous Participation in Formal Education

          The inauguration of the teacher training seminar in 2003 and the Asian Emporiums course in 2004 signal SEASREPís entry into the teaching of Southeast Asian studies. Participation in the formal education sector not only complements the research orientation of the present grants program but also strengthens the field of Southeast Asian studies and develops a larger pool of applicant scholars and researchers necessary for the further development of the field and the sustainability of the organization.

          SEASREP will work for the adoption of the Asian Emporiums course by other major universities in the region.1' By so doing, the organization achieves two things: (a) it implements the spirit and substance of the memorandum of understanding among Southeast Asian universities without having to go through administrative bureaucracies; and (b) it enlarges the SEASREP audience by bringing in undergraduate students. The networking function is also enhanced, and the body of graduate and postgraduate researchers whom SEASREP has primarily addressed is complemented by the growth of an undergraduate student component. Another undergraduate course could also be developed to complement the introductory course.

          SEASREP also envisions the teacher training seminar as a regular (annual) activity, a recommendation that emanated from participants in the pilot seminar in Ayutthaya in 2003. By addressing university teachers directly, SEASREP hopes to amplify the impact of the seminar since the teachers are expected to apply the knowledge and materials gained from the seminar in their own classrooms. The topics, lecturers and participants will vary year to year. Thus together with the Asian Emporiums course, the advanced seminar will comprise SEASREPíS training program, one distinct from the core grants program described earlier.

  2. Contribution to and Dissemination of Knowledge

          SEASREPís projects on pre-university textbooks and a bibliography of indigenous works, including those on the Mekong region, highlight the importance of disseminating knowledge of the region through print and other media. In collaboration with academic publishers in the region, SEASREP will initiate the publication of works or anthologies by local scholars, including the translation of important indigenous works so that these can be accessible to students and researchers in the region and the world. Rather than publish works it supports, SEASREP will offer manuscripts to academic publishers for review and publication.

          This direction will support the teaching of Southeast Asian studies, for part of the present difficulty stems from the inaccessibility to works written in indigenous languages. Published anthologies will fill in the gap in reading lists of courses at graduate and undergraduate levels. At some point, SEASREP will also support the development of multimedia instructional materials, initially for the Asian Emporiums course and eventually for others

          Part of the ten-year vision is a series tentatively titled The SEASREP Reader, each representing a cluster of papers on related themes. The themes will either be drawn from researches funded by SEASREP or commissioned outright to new researchers. The objective of The SEASREP Reader is three-fold: to bring out the best of Southeast Asian scholarship, to make such scholarship accessible to the region and the world, and to deepen understanding of the region.

          Support for publications will strengthen SEASREPís networking component since publications require collaboration among individual scholars, language experts and institutional publishers in the compilation, translation and dissemination of studies of the region. More importantly, the publications will achieve the mission of SEASREP to support Southeast Asian studies by Southeast Asians in the region.

  3. New and Active Partnerships Outside SEA

          In addition to its networks in the region, which are crucial to the generation of knowledge about the region, SEASREP envisions meaningful and lasting collaborative relations with scholars from other parts of the world. In 2005, new initiatives with SEPHIS, a south-south exchange program based in the Netherlands, and the Korean Institute of Southeast Asian studies, were launched. These initiatives hold promise for continued collaboration in the years to come.

          Partners outside the region will strengthen SEASREPís programs in several ways. First, the partnership can assist Southeast Asian researchers working on topics that involve cultural and other interactions between the region and areas outside it. Second, the outside world will come to know about SEASREP and hopefully patronize its publications and take part in its other activities. Finally, in collaborating with scholars from outside the region, SEASREP could meet potential support agencies and broaden its network of institutional partners.

          On the part of potential partners, the benefits would be access to SEASREPís considerable network within the region and participation in an interesting range of activities that call upon the expertise of scholars across disciplines in the humanities and social sciences. Co-publication arrangements for papers resulting from these joint activities could also be entered into between SEASREP and its new partners.

  4. Improved and Enhanced Organization

          The expanded mandate of SEASREP requires a reinvigorated organizational structure. A new nine-member Board of Trustees in place of the Council, that will set policy and future directions, will steer the organization toward the achievement of its vision in the second decade. Henceforth, the Manila Secretariat will be known as the SEASREP Foundation and will run the entire grants program

Footnote:
1' At present, the University of the Philippines, Thammasat University, University of Gadjah Mada and University of Malaya have formally instituted the course with credit.

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