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


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 begin on Monday, 20th March 2023 in Auckland New Zealand.

The University of the South Pacific jointly organises this year’s CPEM through the PacREF Facilitating Unit (PFU) and the Government of New Zealand, with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) serving as the lead agency in partnership with the New Zealand Ministry of Education.

“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,” Prof Ahluwalia said.

“It is therefore important for all member countries to work with IAs and DPs in the spirit of regionalism in implementing the PacREF programme. 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.

This high-level conference with the theme ‘Empowering Education for Pacific People” 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, especially using this opportunity to dialogue and listen to countries share their experiences and challenges.

“We can learn from one another and also find ways to collaborate,” Prof Ahluwalia continued.

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.

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 Leader’s 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,” Prof Ahluwalia stated.

“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,” he added.

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). The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) is a regional partner to the PacREF.

Global Partnership for Education (GPE), the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) and the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) jointly fund the programme.

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