Good data is the roadmap to good education policy


Good data is the roadmap to good policy and the Pacific Island Literacy and Numeracy Assessment (PILNA) is a perfect example of how an investment in data can lead to meaningful change for the Pacific. PILNA was developed by SPC’s Educational Quality & Assessment Programme (EQAP) to provide a snapshot of how Pacific youth are faring in the skills essential to progress through school and life - reading, writing, numbers, operations, measurements and data.

The 2018 assessment is the third to be conducted since 2012, and covers Year 4 and Year 6 students from across 15 Pacific Island countries. PILNA is more than just a report card. With each iteration, we are better able to create a picture of our region’s educational strengths and weaknesses. Each report contains a wealth of invaluable data, which is carefully analysed by educators across the Pacific.

I am very pleased to see that our region’s overall progress continues to be quite positive in many areas, however, there are two key findings which I think are worth extra attention. The first is the significant gap which exists between boys and girls in numeracy and literacy. It is clear from the data that Pacific girls’ ability to understand numeracy and literacy concepts far outpaces that of boys, a trend that has been visible in all three PILNA reports. A deeper dive into the data may give us better insight into what is causing this discrepancy, and perhaps provide some clues about how we can better approach education through a gender perspective.    

The second finding is the ongoing challenge of critical thinking and problem solving skills. Mastering these skills will be fundamental for the future leaders of the Pacific. I am looking forward to seeing how the data around this issue is analysed, and how we can work with our members in developing responses to ensure our children are able to better apply critical thinking skills for the benefit of our region. PILNA also represents an important contribution to the Pacific’s efforts towards the Sustainable Development Goals. SDG 4.1 aims to have ‘all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes’.

The data which has been gathered in PILNA 2018 provides us with an invaluable insight into where the Pacific stands in regard to this goal, and will help guide our efforts towards effective education policies. Ocean science, biodiversity, health, climate change, each play a fundamental role in driving our development, but if the Pacific wants to be a leader in these fields, it will need future generations to be ready to take on this region’s most pressing challenges. PILNA represents an essential tool for reaching this goal. I wish to thank the Pacific Ministers and ministries of Education, the schools, teachers, and students who continue to support PILNA.

I also wish to acknowledge the New Zealand Government through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade Aid Programme and the Australian Aid Programme who have been an invaluable partners on this project.


The full PILNA Regional Report can be accessed through the following link:


Educational Quality and Assessment Programme (EQAP)




Colin Tukuitonga

Director-General from 23 January 2014 to 22 January 2020