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Director Shiu Raj remarks to the Pacific Heads of Education (PHES) small working group 20 March 2017

Opening Remarks By Mr Shiu Raj,
Policy Director (Economic Governance)

On behalf of the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum, it is my honourable task to welcome you to this 3rd Meeting of the PHES Small Working Group. I wish to extend to you also the appreciation of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat in your commitment towards the mandate that has been handed to the group by the wider PHES.

May I express our gratitude to the Director of EQAP, Michelle, for allowing us to convene this informal meeting in the margins of the week long sessions that you all are involved in. It’s a testimony to effective partnerships amongst the regional agencies to share costs and save time for all. Let’s make good use of our time together.

Your participation in this PHES Small Working Group requires time off from your busy national engagements to focus on regional cooperation and collaboration activities. Thank you for your commitment in delivering on the vision of our Leaders, and on the Framework for Pacific Regionalism (FPR), and for working together for the common good of our region.

I vividly remember my first interaction with you in June 2016. I appreciate the passion and energy with which you have supported this work. At your meeting in Suva in November 2016, I believe we have made huge progress in accomplishing the work outlined in the terms of reference. I congratulate you for your commitment and hard work, and thank the development partners for their support that has been crucial to the progress made so far.

The Pacific islands face similar challenges in terms of economic, social and political development and which impact on the well-being of our people. However, as we work towards our common goals, I suggest we remind ourselves of the vision that our Pacific Leaders have embraced: “a region of peace, harmony, security, social inclusion, and prosperity, so that all Pacific people can lead free, healthy, and productive lives”.

In achieving this vision, the role of education cannot be over-emphasised. Educationis a vital investment for human and economic development and is influenced by the environment within which it exists. Changes in technology, labour market patterns and general global environment, all require policy responses which would ensure the vision is realised. Our region is also witnessing a transformative change.

In the development of the new regional education framework (REF), we should explore how regional approaches to education can enable all students and youths to capitalise on various economies of scale opportunities, and prepare for a healthy and productive life, with no one left behind. Appropriate employability should be the main driving criteria so that we are able to support sustainable growth of our nations.

As we approach the ministerial meeting towards the end of the year, we look forward to providing political leaders in education the space to enter into a meaningful debate around the new REF and to make policy commitments to what they believe will be best for the future of our young people. We should allocate sufficient time for robust debates on these issues as we build up to the Ministerial Meeting.

In this respect, we should carry out in-depth research and analysis as we develop the new REF, and provide strong evidence and rationale on political decisions to be made by Ministers. Ministers will need to be presented with critical evidence as to where our region is in terms of education access, quality and effectiveness/efficiency of our education systems as measured by appropriate indicators.

Over the years we have collaborated on a number of regional initiatives such as in literacy and numeracy development (PILNA), Pacific Benchmarking Education for Results (PaBER), Training in Policy and Planning, Teacher Development, which have provided volumes of data on various aspects of education. Maybe a suggestion is to collect whatever evidence/data/information that have emerged from these initiatives that could be utilised to develop regional policy options for discussion by Ministers.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) framework also provide us with the opportunity to invest in critical indicators. The SDG Goal 4 requires us to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education, and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. The new regional education framework needs to factor in the need for effective indicators to track our progress in Goal 4, and other SDGs.

Let me conclude by saying that as we prepare for FEdMM, we will need to provide some substantial analysis of regional education, where we are, what the future holds, and how best to prepare our young people to achieve productive lives within their own communities fulfilling the vision of Pacific Leaders. I strongly suggest that we socialise some of these ideas with our stakeholders as we build up to the FEdMM. Let’s work together, and I look forward to a fruitful discussion.

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