Education statement by pacific community director-general, Colin Tukuitonga, marking the release of the PILNA 2015 regional results


Member representatives, Partners and colleagues,

The regional results of the 2015 Pacific Islands Literacy and Numeracy Assessment, or PILNA, are being released today.

I‘m taking this opportunity to make a brief statement on education and will then invite New Zealand Development Councillor, Jonathan Rowe, to say a few words.

More than 45,000 Year 4 and Year 6 children from some 700 schools in 13 countries took part in the PILNA in 2015 – administered in 10 languages – making it the largest ever assessment in the Pacific.

It was coordinated by SPC through our Educational Quality and Assessment Programme – EQAP – in partnership with New Zealand.

This significant undertaking was made possible through the collaboration of Pacific Ministers for Education and their ministries, and of course the active participation of students, teachers and parents.

Overall the PILNA 2015 results are positive – they show growth in numeracy performance and some improvement in literacy, compared to the 2012 results.

As would be expected, students at the end of 6 years of formal education are performing at higher levels than those who have completed four years of formal education.


For numeracy, there are more students at the higher proficiency levels and far less students at the lower proficiency levels in 2015 than in 2012.

For example, in 2015, 86% of students achieved or exceeded the expected proficiency level in numeracy at the end of Year 4, up from 74% in 2012.

We can conclude that the focused efforts of ministries, teachers and education sector partners across the region are having an impact on student learning.


Still, there is cause for concern, particularly with respect to literacy, and to the overall performance of boys compared to girls.

The overall literacy results show that more Year 4 students are at the lower levels and greater proportions of Year 6 students achieve the higher proficiency levels, as would be anticipated.

In each case, only 46% of students reached or exceeded the expected literacy proficiency level for their Year.

This assessment shows a clear need to focus in particular on the development of literacy skills, in particular on writing.

Gender differences

Looking at gender differences, the PILNA 2015 results show that girls demonstrated higher levels of proficiency than boys across the region.

In literacy, the gender differences are more pronounced than in numeracy. The mean performance of boys is considerably less than the mean performance of girls.

Of particular concern is the performance of Year 6 boys which is almost identical to that of Year 4 girls, particularly in the writing strand.

This the PILNA points to a need to address gender disparity.


Let me move now to the recommendations and next steps.

  • Educational stakeholders are advised to review PILNA evidence and trends both regionally and nationally, and consider intervention strategies for students performing at the lower end of the proficiency scale, particularly in literacy.
  • Education authorities are advised to expand their dissemination approaches when reporting the results of the study, making certain that results reach the classroom for targeted intervention.
  • Education stakeholders are strongly encouraged to identify intervention strategies that improve the achievement of boys, especially in literacy.

SPC’s role now is to discuss the results with each country and strategise on next steps to develop interventions based on issues specific to each country to make sure unique aspects of country-level results are addressed.

Literacy and numeracy skills provide a foundation for future generations to succeed at school, in life and contribute to growth and prosperity in the Pacific.

Our work in education is a very important part of SPC’s technical support for our members, and for our combined efforts to meet SDG 4 on quality education.

In closing may I state that the PILNA is a Pacific accomplishment that we can take pride in – and I’d like to acknowledge the outstanding work of our EQAP team, led by Michelle Belisle. I acknowledge Dr Fasi who is representing EQAP here.

An exercise of this magnitude would not have been possible without the support of the New Zealand Aid Programme. To our colleagues from the New Zealand High Commission and MFAT, on behalf of SPC and our members, we sincerely thank New Zealand for your meaningful support of the PILNA.

Thank you.

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Pacific Community (SPC)