Noting that all protocols have been observed, may I begin by adding my own congratulations for the launch of the 2021 PILNA report, recognising in particular that the field research for the report was undertaken during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Pacific.
As you’ve heard, the PILNA report was developed by the Pacific Community’s Educational Quality & Assessment Programme (more commonly referred to as EQAP) in 2012 to provide a snapshot of how the Year 4 and Year 6 students across 15 Pacific Island countries are faring in essential skills for school and their life journeys.
The 2021 report covered over 40,000 students, helping to ensure the credibility of the assessment given the significant number of students involved. The areas covered in the report include assessments in relation to reading, writing, numeracy, operations, measurements, and data. Each section of the digital report contains a wealth of invaluable data, which was carefully analysed by educators across the Pacific.
I’m very excited about the fact that, unlike previous reports, the entire 2021 report will be on-line and there will be an opportunity later this afternoon for us to view it via the laptops which we have here. With the migration of PILNA to an online platform, we’re in a much better position to share information on our children’s educational strengths and challenges and you as our stakeholders are in a better position to access and use the information to help improve educational outcomes for the region. This move to the online platform is aligned with the SPC policy of transparency, accessibility and accountability when it comes to our work.
The report notes that our region’s overall progress continues to be quite positive in many areas. Having said this, there are a few areas still require our further collective attention.
First, I think we can all agree that there is ample space to improve the use of the assessment data and other information from the PILNA to inform targeted and tailored interventions in our schools.
Second, the contextual questionnaire which accompanied PILNA has confirmed that the COVID-19 pandemic had a direct negative on the performance of primary school students across the region, especially those at Year 4 level. The challenge for all of us to design and implement targeted and tailored interventions at the national level to bring students performances back to satisfactory levels, noting these interventions may be multi-dimensional and over a multi-year period.
And third, the contextual questionnaire also identified high stress levels in school teachers and leaders as a result of disruptions caused by COVID-19. Again, the challenge is to design and implement targeted and tailored interventions at the national level to reduce these stress levels in school teachers and leaders – with them working at optimal levels, our children will not receive the quality education which they deserve.
The PILNA results feed into the Pacific Regional Education Framework (PacREF) which is the region’s shared commitment and priorities for improvement in education. We at SPC are extremely proud of the work we’ve undertaken through the PILNA and honoured that the PILNA will inform the PacREF as well as the activities which are implemented under that Framework.
In closing, may I thank Pacific Ministers for Education 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 as well as consistent and deep investors in the education space in the Pacific.
With these few remarks, may I again say ‘congratulations’ on the launch of the 2021 PILNA report, and vinaka vakalevu for joining us this afternoon.