Opening Remarks for Deputy Director General, Dr Paula Vivili, Suva
Heads of Education, senior officials, development partners, stakeholders, ladies and gentlemen
Bula vinaka and Pacific greetings from Suva.
Welcome to the 7th Meeting of the Pacific Board for Education Quality (PBEQ). As you all know EQAP is unique in that it is the only SPC programme with a governance board in PBEQ as a specially-mandated subcommittee of our governance body – the Committee of Representatives of Governments and Administrations (CRGA).
A governance board was deemed necessary when SPBEA was merged into SPC as there are certain functions mandated for EQAP that require the authority of a governance board, for example, as an awarding authority of qualifications, and a host of the Pacific Register of Qualifications and Standards.
At this meeting you will be updated on several initiatives and programmes, as well as focus on a number of member education priorities including innovative projects designed in 2021, regional and national SDG benchmarking indicators, the lessons learnt from PacREF so far and highlights from the Regional Teacher Standards work.
Aside from country work planning, which the EQAP team carry out on a country-by-country basis, the 2022 PBEQ will highlight the new Communications and Visibility Strategy that has been implemented within the EQAP team with the aim of increasing the visibility of the division’s work across the region. This strategy was called for at last year’s PBEQ.
You will also discuss new initiatives that have started within the EQAP team, such as the NZQA PACER Plus initiative and the findings from the PacREF Facilitation Unit.
The NZQA PACER Plus project as you know is a new initiative where the NZQA is working with governments who are signatories to the PACER Plus Treaty to improve their systems for qualification recognition for labour mobility and employment. EQAP is working closely with the PACER Plus and is focussing on components of it that deal with quality assurance of higher education and training at the regional level.
As an organisation we continue to be committed in our efforts to improve the quality of learning pathways, regional and national education (as in the PacREF) and works to advance quality education, human rights and good governance, equity, and social inclusion for all Pacific people.
We continue the work we do in PILNA. 2022 will be an exciting year for the PILNA team as the 2021 cycle report will be launched on 8 September during the International Literacy Day celebrations.
Our CRGA and Conference last November endorsed SPC’s new Strategic Plan 2022 – 2031. The Plan was the result of a yearlong process with a member led Sub-Committee and used the innovative Foresight approach in its development. It has 4 goals and 7 Key Focus Areas. Education cuts across all 4 goals but the KFA that links directly to EQAP’s work is Equity, education and social development. The current state is that investments in socio-development systems including education, cultural industries and institutions is still inadequate and has created inequities that are exacerbated by the impact of climate change and COVID-19, particularly for women, youth and people with disability. The Future state that SPC looks forward to in 2031 is that social development systems result in real gains for education, gender equality and social inclusion through a contextualised approach to human rights and good governance that incorporates Pacific cultures and ways of knowing.
One of the key elements of the new Strategic Plan is that a lot of more focus is put into integration across divisions and programmes. We believe we have can accomplish more in working across the organisation to support our work in the countries better.
It will be remiss of me not to mention the challenges we have faced because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Two years ago, we started putting in place measures to address the COVID pandemic. Little did we know then that the next two years would be what it has been. To date in our region, we have had over 300,00 cases with around 3,000 deaths. Both these figures are very likely to be an underestimation of the real burden of disease. Our thoughts go out to those that have lost loved ones. Some of our countries like here in Fiji have seen the worst pass while some of our countries like Cook Is, Samoa, Solomons, Tonga and Vanuatu are only now going through their first outbreak. Others still like FSM, Tuvalu, Nauru and Tokelau are still COVID free. I think there are opportunities to share experiences in how each of our Education systems pivoted and adjusted to deal with COVID and its impacts. COVID has been a disaster on many levels but has also provided significant opportunities. As they say – never waste a crisis.
The authority and leadership of the PBEQ is a key component to the success of EQAP and is critical in pushing and ensuring that the realities of education and social development move from what is the current state in 2021 to the future state in 2031 that has been described.
We look forward to your continued leadership and wish you well in your deliberations.