Pacific Islands Forum
Secretary General, Dame Meg Taylor
Remarks to the 12th Forum Education Ministers Meeting (FEdMM)
Honourable Ministers of Education, Acting Vice Chancellor for USP, Dr Giulio Masasso Tu’ikolongahau Paunga, Heads and Senior representatives of the CROP Agencies, Senior Officials, and, Representatives of Implementing Agencies and donor partners–Good morning to you all.
I would like to thank you for the opportunity to deliver some brief remarks as we convene the 12th Forum Education Ministers Meeting through this virtual platform.
First and foremost, allow me to acknowledge the work of the Pacific Regional Education Framework Facilitation Unit under the leadership of the University of the South Pacific to convene this meeting.
By the same token, may I also congratulate the Unit team and the Council for Regional Organisations in the Pacific, Human Resource Development Working Group, for leading the Implementation Rolling Plan of PacREF and securing funding for the implementation of PacREF for our region.
Honourable Ministers, our region is at a critical juncture in its history and we are faced with unprecedented challenges. The triple threat of climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic pressures we all face are exacerbate systematic uncertainties, economic and social instabilities, and increased vulnerabilities.
In saying so, I must acknowledge and commend you on your ongoing efforts to ensure that in spite of the ongoing pandemic, and its impact on our economies, children all over our Blue Pacific are able to continue with their education, despite the challenges before us.
As some of you may recall, the 2018 Quadrennial Report on the Sustainable Development Goals for the Pacific, raised concerns on the quality and relevance of education and cognitive learning outcomes in our region.
Taking this into account, together with our current challenges, I am encouraged by our efforts to ensure progress towards improved education systems, increased access to education for all children, and improved quality of curricula for better outcomes. Indeed, regional assessment reports over the last few years have confirmed this very fact.
Honourable Ministers, although we continue to see strengthening literacy and numeracy rates across the region, we need to cultivate and integrate innovative learning models that ensure sustainable results for our children.
Challenges still remain around access to early childhood education, varying standards of education between rural and urban schools, limited engagement by parents and communities in their children’s education, and lack of data to drive reforms and improvements in the education sector as reported by UNICEF.
Put simply, Honourable Ministers, we need to see a significant increase in our investment in education – indeed, this is not an investment for our current generation, but an investment in our very future. The answer to our human resource and capacity constraints in our region is long-term investment in our education systems!
In considering our long-term aspirations as a region, our Leaders called for the development of the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent. It will articulate a long term vision of prosperity, harmony, peace and security for our region, including a strategy to work collectively to achieve this vision.
Of particular note, Honourable Ministers, the comprehensive regional consultations undertaken towards the development of this strategy has reaffirmed education at all levels – as a critical enabler for the achievement of our long-term vision and objectives. Indeed, the importance of accessible, quality education at all levels was emphasized by all stakeholders.
It is, now, absolutely essential that in our discussions over the next two days that we consider our education objectives and more-so, how it can best progress and develop our people, as we work towards our Leaders vision for 2050. To ensure practicality in our ambition, we must develop short, medium- and long-term policy options to support our vision.
The adoption and implementation of the Pacific Regional Education Framework (2018-2030) will be key to shaping and driving our education sector.
As you deliberate on your agenda over the next few days, I urge you to remain mindful of one thing – our prosperity as a region rests in the hands of our Pacific people.
Our investment in our people, in particular in their capacity, will guide how we navigate the challenges ahead and seize the opportunities that become available, to progress and sustain ourselves into the future.
I thank you and wish you well in your discussions.– ENDS
-Check Against Delivery, April 13, 2021.