8 August 2020

ASEAN Universities remain vigilant about education quality during COVID by preparing for a new method of assessment

Chawanvit Panprasert
AUN Programme Officer;

When governments act against its own, especially its youth—the future of its state, people are left with questions. Why? And what now? Violent repression of youth acting out against their government is a tale as old as time and one that is repeated far too often. That is why it is important that we revisit some of these old, and some not so old, tales and see what we can learn from them. 

After the closing of a major newspaper in Iran in 1999, student protests erupted in response. The government response was swift with riot police and raids leading to at least two deaths and hundreds more hospitalized. With student leaders put in prison, the movement was put down by 2000. 

Similar incidents have occurred throughout the years including the likes of the Arab Spring in the 2010s which resulted in major conflicts like the Syrian Civil War, the Russian political protests against Putin in which more than 1000 protestors including youth have been arrested pending criminal charges, and the Egypt Crisis in which many students were arrested and/or subject to forced disappearances. 

So what happened as a result of these incidents?

The most immediate impact is brain drain. When students are killed as a result of violent repression, the country is losing many of its young talents that will become productive members of society and help it develop intellectually, economically, and much more. Many remaining youth will also begin seeking to migrate to other more attractive locations where they feel their opinions, whether right or wrong, will be received without violent reaction. Such is the case for many African countries where political dissidence is commonplace and many seek to migrate to find better conditions elsewhere. Even for those who remain, the atmosphere and political environment created by the violent repression will destroy freedom of expression which in turn will hinder youth development, creativity, and participation in society as active thinkers. 

Having already touched upon migration, the movement of talent out of a country will also cause major disruptions domestically and internationally. When people mass migrate into a new country, social discrimination becomes an issue. Immigrants will often be viewed as outsiders that have come to steal jobs and resources. Examples today include the very recent Syrian refugee crisis which Europeans met with a mixed response and the United States’ response to immigrants from Central and South America. The influx of immigrants will also cause a strain on the environment as resources are drained at a higher volume as well as cause a strain on the public facilities, like education and housing which are important resources, of the destination country. 

Finally, this also has political impact. Domestically, this leads to policy changes like South Africa changing regulations and immigration laws in response to it becoming a popular destination for African migrants. To protect citizens from the economic impact caused by immigration, governments also generally impose regulations to prohibit immigrants from owning land or seeking employment outside refugee camps. Internationally, mistreatment of refugees will cause international outcry and a deterioration in political image which may cause adverse effects in many areas, particularly economic development. 

In short, the use of violence against youth expressing their political voice is very detrimental to development domestically and regionally. It will cause brain drain through both loss of life and migration. The resulting migration will then cause regional disruption affecting development of all countries within the region, 
and most probably globally as well.