Conference of Pacific Education Ministers aims to strengthen regionalism among PICs Education sectors

Pacific Heads of Education Systems Steering Committee members, PacREF implementing agencies representatives and donor agencies with the Deputy Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum, Dr Filimon Manoni.

The University of the South Pacific’s (USP) Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Pal Ahluwalia, is counting on Pacific Island Countries (PICs) education ministers and leaders to focus attention on providing leadership at the national level, especially with the integration of the Pacific Regional Education Framework (PacREF) activities in their national education plans.

Professor Ahluwalia remarked as Pacific Islands Forum Education leaders, senior government officials, development partners, civil society organisations, policymakers, students, and educators prepare to meet for the inaugural Conference of Pacific Education Ministers (CPEM) that will be held from the 20-22 March 2023 in Auckland New Zealand.

The conference with the theme ‘Empowering Education for Pacific People” will be hosted by the New Zealand government and is jointly organised by New Zealand Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) and USP through the PacREF Facilitating Unit (PFU).

“The intention of the PacREF is to complement efforts by PICs to realise their education goals, recognising limited capacities and resources. Driven by the principle of regionalism, PacREF provides a mechanism for collaboration between countries, Implementing Agencies (IAs) and Development Partners (DPs) for the collective benefit of the region and individual countries. It is therefore important for all member countries to work together with IAs and DPs in the spirit of regionalism in implementing the PacREF programme,” Professor Ahluwalia said.

“It is through our collective action that PICs would not only be able to meet their local education targets, but the region’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG 4,” he added.

The conference is expected to host over 50 participants and will provide a platform for discussion on key education challenges within the region and how the region is progressing towards the goals of the Pacific Regional Education Framework (PacREF) and 2030 Agenda.

“I look forward to meeting with our education leaders and stakeholders who have been driving the development of education in the region and especially using this opportunity to dialogue and listen to countries share their experiences and challenges,” Prof Ahluwalia continued.

“We can learn from one another and also find ways to collaborate.”

The PacREF Programme supports the Forum Leaders’ commitment to work together to achieve the “Pacific Vision” to build a Pacific that is working towards ensuring economic growth, sustainable development, strengthened governance systems and institutions and security and prosperity for all.

The PacREF programme supports the Forum Leaders’ Pacific Vision by supporting Pacific developing countries in addressing their ongoing challenges to improving the quality of education.

It focuses its activities on quality and relevance, accessible learning pathways, and the teaching profession that will maximise sustainable gains in students’ learning outcomes and well-being.

As the hosting organisation of the Pacific Regional Education Framework (PacREF) Facilitating Unit, Professor Ahluwalia has also affirmed USP’s commitment towards the programme and supports the Forum Leaders’ political commitment to regionalism to attain higher quality education for the region.

“The University as the host of the PacREF Facilitating Unit will ensure that the spirit of cooperation amongst the respective partnering agencies is promoted and sustained for the robust implementation of PacREF.

“USP will continue to work closely with Pacific Island countries, stakeholders, and donors to enhance the quality of education across the region through improved learners’ education outcomes and training of high-quality graduates, who will be better positioned to contribute to their community,” Professor Ahluwalia added.

Conference of Pacific Education Ministers (CPEM) to identify areas of action in the education sector

The Conference also seeks to mobilise resources to address some of the Pacific’s most pressing education challenges due to the impact of globalisation and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The discussions will focus on the sub-themes, quality and relevance, education financing, building resilience, education access, inclusion, and equity.

These sub-themes are specifically chosen to focus discussions around skills-based training and TVET, maintenance of culture and language, Pacific indigenous knowledge and pedagogies, non-cognitive skills, regional education financing and governance, building resilient education systems and teaching for inclusion and equity.

“The Conference of Pacific Education Ministers (CPEM) brings together education stakeholders in the region to discuss emerging issues impacting the region, such as climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, digital technologies, connectivity, and social media, which directly impact the lives of Pacific children and influence their behaviour and lifestyles. Therefore, it is important for the education sector in the region to discuss ways to respond as a region to these issues,” said PacREF Facilitating Unit (PFU) Coordinator, Mr Filipe Jitoko.

This would be the first time that other stakeholders such as civil society organisations, teachers, and students would be part of the CPEM.

“Their contribution to the roundtable discussions would be greatly welcomed, especially since they are important stakeholders in steering education forward for the region.

“The conference will be an excellent opportunity to share knowledge and good practices globally and regionally, identify areas for collaboration and explore innovative approaches in education that member countries can learn from as they develop their education systems to deliver educational programmes that empower people of the Pacific to make their own decisions regarding their future,” Mr Jitoko continued.

Fiji to share learnings on the PacREF programme

Fiji’s Minister for Education, Honourable Aseri Radrodro, will be attending the CPEM and is grateful for the opportunity to meet with regional education leaders and stakeholders to engage in discussions related to the Pacific Regional Education Framework (PacREF) and the 2030 Agenda.

Hon Radrodro says he hopes the roundtable discussions and networking sessions during the CPEM will provide a space for sharing national experiences and challenges, learning from each other in how they have responded to global challenges such as COVID-19 and climate change, and innovative recovery strategies which could be useful to apply in their own situation.

“This year, there are several excellent topics that have been planned for discussion, and I’m interested to learn more on how other countries have effectively integrated the PacREF key policy areas into their own national education sector plans,” Hon Radrodro said.

Hon Radrodro believes that the input from civil society organisations will provide a wider perspective on the thematic discussions in Auckland.

“It is an excellent opportunity to share learning and to hear ideas from stakeholders about how we can all work together to identify key education priorities in the Pacific. I also look forward to learning more about sustainable regional education financing and ways to build stronger schools and education systems to respond to the impacts of climate change.”

Recognition of Pacific culture and language

“As an implementing agency in the region, it is important for us and for me personally, to have the opportunity to reconnect again with Ministers and officials from the member countries since the global pandemic closed our borders,” says the University of the South Pacific’s Institute of Education Director, Dr Seu’ula Johansson-Fua.

The USP-IOE looks forward to sharing with participants about their work, especially on using classroom data to design context-specific and targeted professional development programmes.

“More specifically, we hope to share our experiences working with teachers and school leaders around the region.

IOE hopes to learn useful lessons from the Conference, especially on recognising Pacific cultures and languages and how to mainstream these into the Pacific’s education system.

“The real empowerment of Pacific people comes when Pacific people’s culture, languages, arts and knowledge systems are affirmed as the foundational starting point for education, for research and for development of Pacific people,” Dr Seu’ula said.

“The ‘relevancy’ and consequently the ‘quality’ of our education begins with recognising our culture and languages in our education systems,” she added.

Prof Pal Ahluwalia and Mr Semi Tukuna at Laucala Campus, Suva. (1)
PacREF programme focal points, Dr. Tangikina Moimoi Steen (Tonga), Ms Danielle Cochrane (Cook Islands), Ms Anna Smeby (UNICEF),Mrs Carol Edwards (Niue), Ms Vau Paseta (Samoa) during the EQAP organised MEL workshop in Nadi.
PacREF Coordinator, Mr Filipe Jitoko.

About PacREF
The Pacific Regional Education Framework (PacREF) is a ground-breaking regional initiative designed to support and address ongoing challenges to improving the Pacific region’s education system. Fifteen Pacific Island countries are participating in the PacREF programme implementation. The adoption of the PacREF 2018-2030 by Forum Education Ministers in 2018 outlined the transformative and sustainable regional education agenda aligned with global agendas such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG4, the education goal and Education 2030: Incheon Declaration on Education for All Framework for Action. The implementing agencies for PacREF are the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) – Educational Quality & Assessment Programme (EQAP), USP – Pacific TAFE, Institute of Education (IOE), Discipline of Education (DOE), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and Australia Pacific Training Coalition (APTC).

For more information, please contact:
Ms Kelera Serelini-Varawa, PacREF Facilitating Unit (PFU), Tel: +679 2729060,