The Pacific Islands Forum represents Heads of Government of all the independent and self-governing Pacific countries, together with Australia and New Zealand. Since 1971 it has provided member nations with the opportunity to express their joint political views and to cooperate in areas of political and economic concern. The administrative arm of the Pacific Islands Forum, known as the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS), is based in Suva, Fiji. It undertakes programmes and activities under guidelines decided by the Forum leaders.
The Forum meets each year at Head of Government level, and in November 1999 at its meeting in Palau there was considerable debate about human resource needs and the failure of most education systems to satisfy them, thereby perpetuating the region's dependence on highly paid employees from rim countries and beyond. Schools and their curricula were criticised for not providing relevant life and work skills, for being too focused on academic success in external examinations, and for not graduating young people who could become productive members of their own villages or urban communities. Accordingly the Forum directed the secretariat to bring together the Ministers for Education of the region, asking them to deal with its concerns.
The Forum Education Ministers Meeting was held in May 2001, in Auckland, New Zealand, deliberating on what Ministers referred to as "basic education", which they defined as all educational provisions for children and youth, both formal and non-formal, except for higher education. The major outcome of the meeting was the development of the Forum Basic Education Action Plan (FBEAP), a short but significant document setting out visions, goals and strategies for the future of education in Oceania.
Its vision for education is clearly specified:
Basic education as the fundamental building block for society should engender the broader life skills that lead to social cohesion and provide the foundations for vocational callings, higher education and lifelong learning. These when combined with enhanced employment opportunities create a higher level of personal and societal security and development.
Forum members recognised that development of basic education takes place in the context of commitments to the world community and meeting the new demands of the global economy, which should be balanced with the enhancement of their own distinctive Pacific values, morals, social, political, economic and cutural heritages, and reflect the Pacific's unique geographical context
The Ministers requested the PIFS to facilitate the implementation of FBEAP, and recommended that they themselves continue meeting on a regular basis to monitor and support this process.
Following this first meeting discussions took place with representatives of the European Union (EU) and a provisional agreement reached that funding for a project to implement FBEAP might be made available under its 9th EDF Pacific Regional Indicative Programme. By the time the Ministers came together for their second meeting in December 2002 these plans were well developed, and a sub-committee of Ministers was formed to finalise a submission. At the same time it was noted that UNESCO had made significant progress in implementing Education for All (EFA) in Oceania, all Forum countries having completed their EFA Action Plans. The Ministers made clear that they expected FBEAP and EFA activities and programs to be mutually supportive.
The sub-committee of Ministers, under the leadership of the Samoan Minister of Education, the Honourable Fiame Naomi Mata'afa, developed a proposal that was accepted by the EU for funding of €8 million over a five year period for a new project to be called 'Pacific Regional Initiatives for the Delivery of Basic Education', abbreviated to: 'The PRIDE Project'.
The University of the South Pacific (USP) agreed to manage the Project on behalf of PIFS, and the New Zealand Government, through NZAID, agreed to join as a funding partner with an initial grant of NZ$5 million over three years. Essentially the Project is designed to implement the Pacific vision for education (above) in the fourteen Pacific member states of PIFS, together with Tokelau.
In November 2003 a signing ceremony took place at the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, in Suva, Fiji. This saw the signing of the Financing Agreement and Contribution Agreement for PRIDE, by the PIFS, USP and the EU. PRIDE was the first programme of the 9th EDF Regional Indicative Programme to be signed . In his speech at the signing The Head of Delegation of the European Commission for the Pacific, Mr Frans Baan, said
develop and strengthen comprehensive strategies for the Education Sector, which include formal and non-formal education and
implement some priorities of those strategies.
It consolidates the strategic basis on which country-led development operates and this in a sector that is crucial for the future development of the region: Education.
PRIDE will be implemented through two phases, phase one (the operational implementation) and phase two (closure phase) will end on December 31, 2010. The implementation of The PRIDE Project is governed by the General Condition and the Technical and Administrative Provisions in the Financing Agreement.
During the latter half of 2003 the Institute of Education took responsibility for start-up of the PRIDE Project, including recruitment and initial collection of data and documentation. The Project Director commenced in January 2004 and was able to attend the third meeting of Ministers of Education in Apia in January 2004. The Pride Project moved into a newly renovated building on the USP Laucala Campus in March 2004. All staff were in place by August 2004. The PRIDE Project was officially launched by the Honourable Afioga Fiame Naomi Mata'afa, Minister of Education in Samoa, on 14 May 2004 in conjunction with the first meeting of the Project Steering Committee.
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