Opening Remarks by Director Policy, Mr Shiu Raj at Pacific Heads of Education Systems Working Group Meeting



28 – 30 JUNE 2016





Director General (Education) of Vanuatu, Chair of the PHES Small Working Group

Heads of Education Systems from Fiji, Cook islands, Solomon Islands and Palau

Distinguished representatives of regional and international organisations


I bring to you greetings from the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Dame Meg Taylor and the Secretariat as a whole.

2.       I welcome you all, including colleagues from the development partners and wish to thank the representatives who are here today for agreeing to be resource persons during this meeting. We have enjoyed a strong partnership with development partners and regional and international agencies who work in the education sector in the Pacific. I am privileged to be here with you for the next three days to discuss some key fundamentals of the way forward for the education sector in the region.

3.       PIFS has had a longstanding role in PHES meetings due to the linkage between PHES and Pacific Islands Forum Education Ministers Meeting (FEdMM). The agenda items listed under PIFS name were prepared and delivered during the PHES meeting last year through the CROP Human Resource Development Working Group who tasked USP to deliver the presentations on relevant agenda items. At this juncture, let me acknowledge the work that our Social Issues Adviser, Mr Filipe Jitoko has done to facilitate PIFS intervention at PHES, and the ground work for this week’s meeting.


4.                 As you are aware, PIFS has been leading political level dialogue on regional education since 2001. The first FEdMM was held in Auckland in 2001 in response to a recommendation by Forum Economic Ministers to Leaders. Since then two regional education plans have been developed and approved by FEdMM; (i) Forum Basic Education Action Plan (FBEAP) in 2001; and (ii) Pacific Education Development Framework (PEDF) in 2009.

5.                 The review of the FBEAP in 2008 confirmed the worth of regional education coordination as beneficial as it adds value to country level efforts in the education sector. The FBEAP review also confirmed the value of FEdMM as providing that opportunity for high level political dialogue by education ministers. Ever since, FEdMM has discussed and approved initiatives which have become permanent features of regional education, and delivered through a regionalism perspective.

6.                 Ministers in agreeing in 2009 for PHES to become part of their ministerial meeting, has established a mechanism where countries have greater ownership in FEdMM decisions, with a stronger sense of commitment to their implementation.


7.                  Most of you may be aware of the Framework for Pacific Regionalism (FPR), a process endorsed by Forum Leaders in 2014 to identify regional priorities focusing on driving regionalism. The process is meant to identify game-changing initiatives that will realise the regional vision of Leaders. A fine example of such regional initiatives in the education sector is the University of the South Pacific (USP). Pacific leaders believed that tertiary level education can be more cost-effective and affordable if delivered through regional collaboration rather than by individual countries.

8.                  I hope in your deliberations on the new regional education framework, you will be conscious of this concept and identify which regional education priorities lend themselves well to a regional approach. I believe that if, in your deliberations, you are able to identify a small number of such regional priorities that can be effectively delivered from a regional level and providing solutions to common challenges faced by countries, we would have done well. The concept of regionalism is about cooperating and coordinating our efforts for joint learning and resource sharing. It can have a deep impact on the lives of our people.


9.                  I must acknowledge the wisdom of PHES in setting up the Small Working Group arrangement to continue the discussions of issues which require further specifics and details. I find this arrangement very practical and hope that it will ensure continuity and progress of PHES decisions, improving its efficiency and effectiveness.

10.            The objectives set out for your meeting are quite challenging but important for regional education development. You have a challenging timeline towards the 2017 FEdMM and I am sure that together and with support from the development partners, we will achieve the proposed outcomes over the next three days. Let us stay focused and committed to the agenda of the meeting.

11.            It is also important that you contribute through your own national experiences and situations to guide and shape the development of a regional education plan that will have the greatest influence and value to the countries. As we consider the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we must place the Pacific context upfront to ensure we are all using the SDG processes to meet our own national education challenges.

12.            I believe we will rely heavily on our technical agencies to support regional monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to ensure we are on track as we implement regional education initiatives. I am happy to read the outcomes of the PHES meeting last year emphasizing the development of an M&E Framework for the new regional education plan.


13.            A number of education related core issues will be discussed over the next three days. We will be provided perspectives from the development partners and resource persons. These presentations will provide important information as to where the region stands against the targets and priorities of regional and global education initiatives such as the PEDF and Education for All (EFA). The information in the presentations will also provide benchmarks into the future, so that we are able to assess progress against these benchmarks as we move forward as a region.

14.            I am particularly excited about the launch of the 2015 Pacific Islands Literacy & Numeracy Assessment (PILNA) Report tomorrow. I was informed that the first run of PILNA was in 2012 and the results tabled to FEdMM in 2014. Ministers agreed that the 2012 results will set the benchmarks against which future results will be compared. The 2015 results will inform us as to where the Pacific nations are regarding literacy and numeracy levels. It will indicate whether we are progressing or regressing in our literacy and numeracy levels as compared against the 2012 results.


15.            There are huge challenges facing education systems in the Pacific. One of the major challenge is relevance, when we think of employability of school graduates. Skills development through both the formal and non-formal education subsectors have become a major consideration for education planners.

16.            I would urge you to consider strategies that would better prepare school graduates. We also need to pay attention to the ever growing unemployed youth population in the Pacific, and help them obtain relevant skills for employment in both the formal and informal employment sectors.

17.            I think the proposed theme for the next FEdMM of “quality and relevance” is most appropriate when we consider the challenges of youth unemployment in the Pacific. The limited opportunities in most of our countries in the formal employment sectors requires serious thinking about employment in the informal sectors and even the global markets. We need to include education portability and labour mobility in our thinking.

18.            I am confident that at the end of the three day meeting, we will have achieved good outcomes that will pave the way forward for the development of a regional education framework that effectively takes the region forward to achieve national, regional and global education targets. I wish to thank our partners, the Pacific Community and UNICEF who have provided funding support for this PHES Small Working Group meeting.

19.            I am privileged to be with you all and I look forward to learning the intricacies of the education sector. I am excited about the three days of good and fruitful discussions and I look forward to contributing to achieving the outcomes that have been set for the meeting.


Thank you and vinaka vakalevu.

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