Many challenges remain in the education sector despite the millions of dollars spent trying to provide quality education for all children in the Pacific region.
Speaking at the opening of the three-day workshop for senior education officials from the Forum Island Countries to discuss the review of the Forum Basic Education Action Plan in Nadi, Fiji, today, Dr Helen Tavola, the Forum Secretariat’s Social Policy Adviser said countries in the region need to work together to meet these challenges.
“This review shows us that there are many issues in education that unite us as a region and it makes good sense that we grapple with them together, to combine both human and financial resources where possible,” Dr Tavola said.
The review of the Forum Basic Education Action Plan mandated by the region’s Education Ministers last November has been undertaken in the last several months and held consultations with over 200 people around the region.
“In this region we all have to grapple with the concept of regionalism. What makes us a region; what can we do at a regional level that adds value to the national level; and how we can fit in with the broader regional mandates of the Pacific Plan. This is not easy,” Dr Tavola said.
“Many people have an underlying fear of regional initiatives; especially if there is a perception that funding might go into regional endeavours rather than country level ones. It can be quite difficult to think beyond the national level but regionalism is a reality that we all must live with.
”We should remember, however, that regional activities do not limit the sovereign right of countries to determine their own national goals and priorities; neither do they restrict bilateral development programmes and activities. Regional activities must enhance what is done at the country level,” she said.
Dr Tavola pointed out that education does not exist in a vacuum and education systems tend to reflect the societies that they exist in.
“When there are crises in countries, education systems also often undergo crises. Many countries have what I call ‘lines in the sand’ referring to before and after significant events: states of emergencies; coups; economic crises; economic reforms; ethnic troubles; riots; hurricanes; pre and post Compact etc. The converse should be of course, that when countries are stable and prosper, education systems should flourish and to an extent we see that happening.”
Dr Tavola told the participants that the Leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum adopted a Vision in 2004 and despite education not explicitly being mentioned most of the high ideals in the Vision cannot be achieved without education, without an educated population.
“We are here to work together to find a way forward for supporting education at a regional level so that these goals articulated by our Leaders can be realised.”
The workshop is part of the review process which is being funded by the New Zealand Agency for International Development (NZAID).
For more information, contact Dr Helen Tavola at the Tanoa International Hotel in