Introduction and Recommendations: Extracts from Tree of Opportunity:
Re-thinking Pacific Education, the edited papers presented at a Colloquium
on Re-thinking Pacific Education
In April 25-27, 2001, a Colloquium on
first two questions, have received little or no
Re-Thinking Pacific Education, funded
at ention. Educational reforms have remained
by New Zealand, through NZODA, and
largely fixated on improving various aspects
hosted by the Institute of Education,
of the quantification of education, but there
University of the South Pacific, became
has been little questioning of the values and
the first joint activity undertaken under
assumptions underpinning formal education
the umbrella of the MOU signed between
or development.
the University and Victoria University,
Wellington. It provided the opportunity for
Research in other parts of the world
a select group of Pacific educators, 19 in
indicates that to achieve quality education
all, who have already begun the process of
it is not enough to improve leadership, train
interrogating the values, assumptions and
teachers, revise and renew the curricula,
beliefs underlying formal education and
provide adequate support resources, upgrade
development, to share, debate and reflect
facilities, widen access, lower costs,
on what they believe to be the main issues
mobilise community support, and change
and challenges in Pacific education today
the structures of schools and systems, unless
and to begin exploring new directions and
the cultures of schools and systems, that is,
alternatives in education and development,
the values and belief systems that underpin
which might prove more meaningful to
the behaviours and actions of individuals and
Pacific people.
institutions, and the structures and processes
they create, undergo fundamental changes.
The Colloquium began with the assumption
Some Pacific educators have similarly come
that the 30 years or so of extensive reforms
to attribute the continuing ineffectiveness
in Pacific education and significant
of education in the region to the increasing
investments by national governments
incongruence between the values promoted
and donor agencies have largely failed to
by formal western schooling, the modern
provide the quality human resources needed
media, economic systems and globalisation
to achieve developmental goals. However,
on the one hand and those held by Pacific
it also noted that, while educational priority
communities on the other.
focused on improving the overall quality of
education, access to schooling and equity
Issues in Pacific Education
of outcomes, the over-riding issues of what
education is, what its purposes are and what
The Colloquium identified the basic
the Pacific visions are for Pacific peoples
issues that contributed to such failure. Not
and communities, which should inform the
surprisingly, the same issues that have
1. Published by the Institute of Education, the University of the South Pacific, 2002.
Pacific Curriculum Network 11 (1) June 2002

challenged the region for the last thirty
key instrument in achieving national visions
years surfaced again: quality, access, equity,
and developmental goals. Because they do
relevance, effectiveness and efficiency.
not own the process, educational visions
These were related to other issues, such
and goals tended to be defined by external
as effective leadership and management;
sources, as is the case today and has been
political commitment; adequacy of human
since the introduction of formal education.
and material resources; planning capacity;
adequacy of data, information and research;
The questions that the Colloquium raised
quality of teachers; relevant and appropriate
relate to these two fundamental issues: What
curriculum; and appropriate language
does education mean in the context of the
policies. The Colloquium noted, however,
Pacific and what are its purposes within
that these variables were insufficient in
the formal school system? How do we deal
themselves to account for the continuing
with the alien/foreign nature of schools
high pushout/failure rate of Pacific students
generally, the curriculum and assessment,
in formal schooling at all levels, not only
the methodology, school structure, culture,
in the region, but also in metropolitan
and management? How do we prepare all
countries, where the quality of the inputs is
students to be successful members of their
much higher.
societies? What are changes that are needed
in education to bring this about? Are we
From its insider perspective, representing
(wrongly) perpetuating western models of
as it were the collective experience of
education? We are educating for failure
Pacific educators who were also successful
― how can we ensure that more/most/all
students of the formal education sector,
succeed? Children are learning in an alien
the Colloquium targeted issues that are
language. How can we ensure that the
most likely to ensure success in formal
advantages to the learning process of their
education, not just for the privileged few
mother tongues are maintained and enhanced
but for all Pacific peoples. Two key issues
and used as the foundation for teaching and
were identified which subsume a number of
learning in English or another language?
related issues.
Education is an expensive process so how
can we ensure that education is affordable
The first is the lack of ownership by Pacific
by all without relying forever on external
peoples of the formal education process.
assistance? How can education take more
It was noted that, while the churches have
account of parents’ and communities’
succeeded in becoming fully integrated with
aspirations? How do we ensure that the
the Pacific way of life, education remains
village economy is sustained and harmony
an alien process and is viewed by Pacific
established with the ‘cash’ economy? How
peoples as something that is imposed from
do we deal with the wastage of the current
outside: an instrument designed to fail,
system, with the increasing numbers of
exclude and marginalise the majority and
pushouts, dropouts and repeaters? The
therefore irrelevant and meaningless to their
numbers of school leavers are increasing
way of life.
but job-creation and opportunities are
diminishing. How do we address this? How
The second follows on from the first, and
do we build on the achievements already
that is the lack of a clearly articulated vision
made? What kinds of research and data do
for Pacific people, which could inform both
we need to assist us in finding answers to
development and education, assuming, of
these questions?
course, that education is accepted as the
Pacific Curriculum Network 11 (1) June 2002

The Challenge
As practical steps to achieving this vision,
the Colloquium recommends that …
The main challenge, then, is to reconcep-
tualise education in a way that will allow
Pacific people to reclaim the education
process, which will, at the same time, allow
for the articulation of a Pacific vision for
education. The Colloquium agreed on ‘The
1. Existing formal educational services
Tree of Opportunity’ as the most appropriate
(primary education, the first 6 years of
metaphor for Re-Thinking Pacific Educa-
formal schooling) be consolidated by
tion, as depicted on the facing page.
upgrading and improving the factors,
structures and processes that impact on
educational performance and outcomes.
This is to be done by embedding and
The Vision of Education, symbolised by
integrating Pacific values, beliefs,
the ‘Tree of Opportunity’ is about survival,
knowledge systems, skills, attitudes and
transformation and sustainability and its suc-
behaviours in these existing elements:
cess is measured in terms of performance and
appropriate behaviour in a particular context.
Pacific Curriculum Network 11 (1) June 2002

• legislation and policies, including
8. The proposed model be used as a basis
language policies;
for vision building, dialogue, discussion
• curriculum, pedagogies;
and debate on education.
• teacher education and training;
9. Strategies and plans be developed to
• assessment and evaluations;
reflect the vision at each level and in dif-
• management and administration;
ferent programmes (teacher education,
• resourcing of education.
curriculum development, etc.).
These could be addressed almost imme-
10. Caretakers of indigenous knowledge be
diately; in some places, they are already
mobilised, and their support and contri-
being addressed.
butions recruited.
2. Awareness campaigns be developed,
11. Trial case studies with selected local
targeting the public, politicians, policy-
communities be administered and used
makers and communities on the need to
for on-going development.
develop a national vision which should
inform both development and educa-
tional reforms. All stakeholders must
be involved in the process.
12. Political commitment to the concept of
‘Tree of Opportunity’ be ensured, as
This meeting is an important first step.
well as the need for indigenisation of
education in the Pacific.
13. A Research Centre for Pacific Education
3. An inventory of human and institutional
attached to IOE, USP be established.
capacities on the indigenising of Pacific
14. A network be developed of existing Re-
education be established.
search Institutes, such as the University
4. A network of key educators and institu-
of Hawaii, PREL, Guam University,
tions be established to support and facili-
Goroka University, Auckland Univer-
tate national and regional developments
sity, Wellington University, University
arising from this initiative.
of the South Pacific, National University
5. Leadership and advocacy be provided
of Samoa, Solomon Islands College of
for this initiative with politicians, senior
Higher Education, Tonga Institute of
policy-makers and donors.
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
6. A national vision, which would inform a
could be coordinated by IOE, USP.
national vision for education, be debated
Their mandate would be Research, Data
and defined.
Collection and Dissemination. Their
7. A vision for education and its implica-
individual roles are to encourage:
tions for educational practice based on
Pacific research at both informal
the national vision be discussed and
and formal education levels;
defined with stakeholders, particularly
the establishment and support of
local communities.
Pacific Curriculum Network 11 (1) June 2002

Pacific research institutes where
16. Curriculum Reform
they do not already exist;
The development of indigenous
iii. the establishment of publishing
knowledge, worldviews, philoso-
houses for Pacific writers;
phies, arts, crafts, beliefs, etc. be
training in research methodolo-
supported so that these become
gies, including indigenous meth-
integral foundations of the formal
ods, which must be carried out
in all Pacific institutions of higher
Indigenous pedagogies become
learning; and
a part of all formal education
the active networking of these
institutions, including regular
iii. The development of vernacular
meetings, progress reports, and
languages as the medium of
exchanges of data and staff.
instruction in early childhood
education and primary education
The following recommendations require
be supported.
regional support for national institutions and
Alternative assessment tech-
niques to reflect changes in the
15. Educational Policy Formulation and
curriculum be developed.
17. Teacher Education
Indigenisation of knowledge,
The development of national
skills, attitudes etc. be assisted.
educational visions and policies,
Indigenisation of curriculum,
based on a collective national vi-
pedagogies etc. be assisted.
sion defined by all stakeholders,
iii. The status of teachers be raised
be supported.
through education at higher edu-
Educational outcomes be broad-
cation institutions, and their con-
ened to reflect the new national
ditions of service be improved.
Experts on Pacific cultures be
iii. Wide consultation among all
accorded status.
stakeholders in the process be
18. Financing Education including, Foreign
Policy decisions be disseminated
Dialogue with and between part-
to all stakeholders.
ners in education be facilitated.
Research capacities of Pacific in-
The use of Pacific peoples as
stitutions be built and appropriate
consultants be promoted.
research to support educational
iii. Minimal strings be attached by
developments be undertaken.
donors to aid.
The development of effective data
Existing networks eg. PATE be
and information management
promoted and utilised to advocate
systems be supported to provide
for the indigenisation of educa-
a sound basis for policy decisions
and practices.
Appropriate research on educa-
tional aid be undertaken.
Pacific Curriculum Network 11 (1) June 2002