Re-thinking Pacific Education Initiative by Pacific Peoples for Pacific Peoples (RPEIPP)

RPEIPP began as an idea in the inaugural Symposium on Researching the Delivery of Aid to Pacific Education of the Research Unit of Pacific Education of the University of Auckland in December 2000. The Symposium noted that despite some 30 years of heavy investments in education by the Pacific countries and by donor organisations, Pacific countries were still struggling with the same issues in education today.

Professor Konai Helu Thaman and Dr Ana Taue’ulungaki of the University of the South Pacific (USP), Dr Kabini Sanga of Victoria University, and Tricia Nally of NZAID in an informal discussion resolved that it would be ideal if Pacific educators could meet without any donors or outsiders to re-think education from Pacific perspectives and world views to complement those promoted by formal education, which in most cases are borrowed from outside the region and are often irrelevant and inappropriate for Pacific contexts and peoples. Thus, was born the Re-Thinking Pacific Education Initiative (RPEI) now re-named RPEIPP, which is still generously funded by NZAID.

The first activity of the Initiative was a meeting of selected Pacific educators, which was held at USP and hosted by IOE in April of 2001. The recommendations of that first meeting were presented to the Forum Education Ministers in May of the same year and the book ‘Tree of Opportunity’ was also one of the main outcomes of that meeting.

From 2001 to 2004, RPEIPP was under the inspirational leadership of Dr Kabini Sanga and Victoria University and during this period many milestones were successfully achieved. In 2005, RPEIPP moved to the Institute of Education (IOE), in the belief that IOE and USP are central to the development and achievement of quality education for Pacific peoples.


RPEIPP Symposium 2008 Group Photo

RPEIPP - Research Capacity Development Activities

Re-thinking Pacific Education Symposium 2011 Group Photo

  1. In the first meeting of Pacific educators to discuss the RPEIPP in 2001 several key recommendations were then made including the following for the development of research capacity activities:
  • Develop and establish a research Centre for Pacific Education attached to IOE, USP.
  • Develop a network of existing Research Institutes, such as the University of Hawaii, PREL, Guam University, Goroka University, Auckland University, Wellington University, University of the South Pacific, National University of Samoa, Solomon Islands College of Higher Education, Tonga Institute of Education, and other national institutes of the USP region in Vanuatu, Marshall Islands, Cook Islands, Niue, Kiribati, Tokelau, Tuvalu, Nauru, and national institutions in the French and former US territories of the Pacific. Such a network could be coordinated by IOE, USP. Their mandate would be Research, Data Collection and Dissemination. Their individual roles are to encourage:i. Pacific Research at both informal and formal education levels.
    ii. The establishment and support of Pacific research institutes where they do not already exist.
    iii. The establishment of Publishing houses for Pacific writers.
    iv. Training in research methodologies, including indigenous methods, which must be carried out in all Pacific institutions of higher learning.
    v. The active networking of these institutions, including regular meetings, progress reports, and exchanges of data and staff.
  • Additionally, the colloquium also put forward recommendations that national countries are supported to ensure that their educational policy formulations are based on research within context. This also meant that the RPEIPP would also encourage and develop the research skills of national counterparts. Furthermore, the colloquium was also concerned with the methodologies of donor aid engagement, and had also put forward recommendation to conduct research into the nature of foreign aid and its impacts on Pacific educational development.
  1. There are several strands within the RPEIPP’s Research Capacity Development activities; Research studies, Research workshops, Research publications, Research conferences, and theorising Pacific research.
  2. The Research activities as with other strands under RPEIPP were managed by Dr Sanga from Wellington between 2001- 2005 when the initiative was moved to USP/IOE. Within the early years, there were key research capacity building activities that were successfully implemented including the Vanuatu research workshops and research study. Additionally, it was also during the early years, that significant publications were put out by the RPEIPP that included the Rethinking education series and the ‘Tree of Opportunity’.
  3. Since the RPEIPP moved to IOE/USP, Mr Henry Elder has been coordinating the initiative with Dr SJ Fua as the Fellow for Research and Leadership for IOE taking responsibility for most of the activities within the Research strand. Some of the key outputs since moving the initiative to USP, has included research training in the Cook Islands, Samoa, Tokelau and Tonga, conducting the Values Research for Cook Islands, Samoa and Tokelau and also the production of the ‘Ta Kupesi’ as the result of research work by Tongan teachers.
  4. RPEIPP has funded research studies in the following countries: PNG, Vanuatu, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, New Zealand, Solomon Islands, Kiribati, RMI, Cook Islands and Tokelau. It is planned that before the end of this year (2008) an additional study funded through the RPEIPP will be conducted for RMI. To date, there have been a total of 33 studies funded through RPEIPP with some of them from the Pacific Education Research Fund (PERF). Of the 33 studies that have been conducted only 3 studies have not been published either in a scholarly journal or book – these studies being published only through technical reports and made appropriate for their various Ministries of Education’s own needs. It is expected that by the completion of the RPEIPP contract in September 2008, a total of 34 studies over 11 Pacific countries will be completed.
  5. RPEIPP funded research studies have also ensured a wide pool of Pacific researchers is trained both in traditional western research methodologies as well as emerging Pacific research methodologies. Key research trainings funded by RPEIPP have been offered in the following countries; Vanuatu, Tonga, Cook Islands, Samoa and Tokelau. It is planned that a research training workshop will also be completed in the RMI before September 2008. Research training under the initiative has included practicing teachers, policy advisers, educational administrators, educational consultants and community participants. A total of 103 Pacific educators have been trained in research methodologies under the RPEIPP Research strand.
  6. From the first colloquium in 2001, two key purposes for research were identified; to support educational policies and also to better understand impact of aid on educational development. In 2003 the RPEIPP commissioned several national studies on educational aid in PNG, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji, Tonga, Kiribati, RMI and Samoa. These have been subsequently published in the ‘International Aid Impacts on Pacific Education’ also funded by RPEIPP. In order to support the development of educational policies, a series of Values Research were also set up to assist national Ministries of Education in identification of data that may assist in clarifying vision, mission and principles that may guide educational policies. The Values Research series were taken up by the Cook Islands, Samoa and Tokelau and soon by the RMI. The results of these studies have been produced in technical reports for each participating Ministries of Education.
  7. The processes involved in the operation of the Research strand has been reflective of RPEIPP philosophy in that it is responsive to the needs of Pacific countries, works to ensure skills are transferred, ensure ownership of participants in the process which subsequently also supports sustainability. When research training is given, it is also accompanied with support during data collection and the facilitators being available to support the research assignment to a point where it is ready for publication. A clear example of this process is the result of the Tonga research workshop with the production of the ‘Ta Kupesi’. Teachers were invited, trained, supported during the data collection and data analysis, given mentoring support during the writing stage until the papers were ready for publication. Sustained, consistent and deliberate support is vital to ensuring that research projects are completed and published at the end of the process.
  8. The following are list of reports, books and conferences linked to RPEIPP Research activities:


  1. Report on the rethinking Pacific education colloquium, 2001
  2. Report on the Vanuatu education conference, 2002
  3. Reports on the Vanuatu research workshops, 2002
  4. Report on the Solomons planning seminar on the educ. strategic plan, 2003
  5. “Rethinking the rethinking of Pacific education” evaluation report, 2004
  6. Report by Critical Friend on the evaluation of the RPEI, 2004
  7. Five/Six research reports from the commissioned studies (Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, Marshall Islands, Solomons, PNG).
  8. Report of the regional conference on educational aid.
  9. Report on the Cook Islands Research and the Teacher
  10. Report on the Values Evaluation study in the Cook Islands
  11. Report on the Samoa and Tokelau Research Training
  12. Report on the Values Evaluation study in Samoa
  13. Report on the Values Evaluation study in Tokelau


Books produced

  1. Edited book “Tree of Opportunity” published by IOE-USP(widely used as a text in Pacific countries & at VUW)
  2. Edited book “Rethinking Vanuatu education Together” published by USP ISP (widely used as text in Vanuatu & VUW)
  3. Edited book “Rethinking aid relationships in Pacific education” (VUW-IOE USP)
  4. Edited book “International aid impacts in Pacific education” (VUW-IOE USP)
  5. Edited Book “Ta Kupesi” (IOE-USP).
  6. Apem Moa Solomon Islands Leadership (VUW but as associated RPEIPP publication)
  7. Edited book “Of Waves, Winds & Wonderful Things” published by IOE-USP
  8. Edited book “Weaving Education Theory & Practice in Oceania” published by IOE-USP
  9. Proceedings from the Vaka Pasifiki Education Conference 2016
  10. Edited book “It Takes an Islands and an Ocean” published by IOE-USP



  1. Re-thinking Pacific Education colloquium, 2001.
  2. Re-Thinking Vanuatu Education National Conference, 2002
  3. Re-thinking educational aid in Pacific countries, 2003
  4. Re-thinking Solomon Islands Education, 2003 (with UNESCO funding)
  5. Re-thinking Teacher Education (IOE & UNESCO funding)
  6. Re-thinking Education in Micronesia, 2005
  7. Re-thinking Pacific Education Curriculum, 2005
  8. Re-thinking Pacific Education Symposium, 2008
  9. Re-thinking Pacific Education Symposium, 2011
  10. Vaka Pasifiki Education Conference, 2014
  11. Vaka Pasifiki Education Conference, 2016
  12. Vaka Pasifiki Education Conference, 2018
  13. Vaka Pasifiki Education Conference, 2021
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