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Good data is the roadmap to good policy and the Pacific Island Literacy and Numeracy Assessment (PILNA) is a perfect example of how an investment in data can lead to meaningful change for the Pacific. PILNA was developed by SPC’s Educational Quality & Assessment Programme (EQAP) to provide a snapshot of how Pacific youth are faring in the skills essential to progress through school and life - reading, writing, numbers, operations, measurements and data.

The 2018 assessment is the third to be conducted since 2012, and covers Year 4 and Year 6 students from across 15 Pacific Island countries. PILNA is more than just a report card. With each iteration, we are better able to create a picture of our region’s educational strengths and weaknesses. Each report contains a wealth of invaluable data, which is carefully analysed by educators across the Pacific.

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Vanuatu’s education ministry has successfully integrated the Pacific Community’s cloud-based assessment management module into its information system, an upgrade that is expected to boost the efficient processing of exam results. Yesterday, the ministry launched its revamped data management system, commonly referred to as Open VEMIS (Vanuatu Education Management and Information System).

SPC’s Educational Quality and Assessment Programme (EQAP) assisted with the revamp by helping to integrate its own system’s assessment module into Open VEMIS. The integration means the ministry will now be able to process, store and manage its students’ assessment and exam results all in one place.

EQAP director Dr Michelle Belisle says this latest achievement reflects Vanuatu’s commitment to transform its education system so that it better serves its people.

“This is an achievement that Vanuatu’s Ministry of Education and Training (MOET) should be very proud of,” she says.

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The Pacific Islands Literacy and Numeracy Assessment (PILNA) measures and monitors the achievement of Year 4 and Year 6 students in literacy and numeracy. The Assessment is carried out in select schools across 15 Pacific Island Countries and in 10 different languages.

PILNA will be administered in two days (a day for literacy and another for numeracy) across the 15 countries in the following timeline:

  • 12 – 13 September: Fiji
  • 03 – 04 October: Niue
  • 15 – 19 October: Nauru
  • 16 – 17 October: Cook Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu
  • 17 – 18 October: Palau, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands
  • 18 – 19 October: Tuvalu
  • 23 – 24 October: Samoa and Tokelau
  • 24 – 25 October: Kiribati
  • 25 – 26 October: Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of Marshall Island

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In this blog, the Pacific Community’s Education Quality and Assessment Program explain the way they support governments from across the region in producing national education monitoring reports, and how improved data collection and analysis at the national level is essential for responding to challenges in education. The unique Pacific region is made up of tens of thousands of islands, scattered over an area equivalent to 15% of the globe’s surface, and home to 11.4 million people of which almost three quarters live in one country, Papua New Guinea. Despite their cultural and linguistic diversity, the Pacific Island countries and territories that are members of the Pacific Community share several challenges in their efforts to make progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These include small but growing populations, limited resources, remoteness, susceptibility to natural disasters, vulnerability to external shocks, excessive dependence on international trade and fragile environments.

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Kiribati Education Ministry officials have recently been trained by the Pacific Community (SPC) to use tablets for collecting data that would inform the education sector’s performance.

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Media contacts:
Scott Pontifex, SPC Education Management Information’s Systems Team Leader, [email protected]
Solo Matthewsella, SPC Public Relations Assistant, [email protected] or +679 9360 903

Successful delivery of capacity building and support to education systems, particularly in the Pacific, requires addressing both technical solutions and political challenges. To that end, the Pacific Community (SPC) is currently reinforcing its support to education statistical capacity in the region, The inherently political nature of educational systems sometimes results in difficulties in terms of using data for decision-making. Progress in educational outcomes is more achievable when we consider the intersection of what is both politically possible and technically sound.

Thirteen individuals from four Pacific Island ministries of education are participating in a five-day sub-regional workshop this week to examine the role of education data and the demand for such data to be used in data-informed decision-making in Pacific Island education systems. The Pacific Community, with the support of the Australian Government (DFAT), is working in collaboration with the University of Alberta and participants from Kiribati, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Tuvalu, from 14-18 August in Nadi, Fiji.

The workshop will be an opportunity for SPC to dialogue with national experts and following the workshop participants along with SPC EQAP staff will undertake interviews with some of their senior policy makers and decision makers in their government ministries. In particular, the exercise aims to depict the challenges (political, technical, capacity or cultural barriers) to effective use of data to improve practise and any incentives and motivations around data use for the countries participating in the study. The findings from these interviews then will feed into formulating a set of key indicators of data use which may be used by countries to inform further action and share best practises within the region.

When you open yourself up to transparency and share the evidence, you are able to see the issues and change your mindset, allowing you to change your results. This was just one of the key messages shared this week at the Regional Summit on strengthening the use of education information to inform change hosted by the Pacific Community’s (SPC) Educational Quality and Assessment Programme (EQAP).

Ministry of Education officials from 15 Pacific Island Countries shared their experiences and lessons learned in terms of education data. Where they were as a country and how they can move forward learning from one another. Developing a divisional lens to identify evidence determines the strengths and areas required for improvement within education systems was something the delegates agreed.

Identifying the correct tools in gathering data and communication in the process of gathering data are pivotal in making decisions that bring about change. Moreover, the solutions are not in the data but in the individual, that is assessing the data and using education data to help policymakers getting to decisions that are both technically possible and politically feasible.

“Data usage is about people. Having the right people, in the right places with the right skills” Andrew Erbs, ICT for Education Consultant.

The Summit has been a great platform to share knowledge, information and practices among the countries and to discuss how the political contexts in individual countries and across the region factors into how governments use the information to inform education decisions. There has been widespread collaboration through presentations, discussions and storytelling; learning from one another’s experiences along the road to improving education outcomes in the Pacific.

The Kingdom of Tonga representative, Mr Hepeti 'Isoa Takeifanga stated that he agrees with looking for a common ground in understanding and in building a regional mechanism relevant to our context and building capacity of Pacific expertise. Expertise to develop our Education Management Information Systems and to make sure it is applicable to every Pacific context even though we may have different requirements.

Representatives from the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu were represented at the Summit by their ministries of education senior officials. Development partners from the University of the South Pacific (USP), the Government of Australia, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, UNESCO UIS, Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and UNICEF were also present.

Media contacts:
Solomoni Matthewsella, Communications Officer, [email protected]

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Building capacity while collecting important information is a key feature of a sub-regional workshop, involving education ministries from Kiribati, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Vanuatu being held in Nadi, Fiji this week. The initiative involves developing an investigative approach to determining attitudes towards data use in Pacific Education by interviewing senior level decision makers and elected officials.

The training involves development of questionnaires, face to face interviews, and online survey tools to extract crucial details from sources. Like any skill, interviewing takes practice and preparation therefore participants have been simulating role play exercises to test out how they might approach difficult situations that may occur in interviews by acting out a scenario with other candidates assuming the role of senior officials in government such as a Minister or Permanent Secretary of Education.

Past experience suggests that technological solutions may help but are not sufficient. Therefore fostering a deeper understanding of how and why data is used involves asking tough questions about some of the largely ignored political economy factors and challenges on the ground in the four countries such as historical, political, technical, capacity or cultural barriers to effective use of data to improve practise and any incentives and motivations around data use for the countries participating in the study.

The study aims to examine and work within these constraints to improving data use and potentially aim to alter the current incentives for both producing and using good education data.

The project is being implemented by the Educational Quality and Assessment Programme (EQAP) of the Pacific Community (SPC) in partnership with the Australian Government.

Senior Programme Manager at Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Betty Jitoko, said the project was funded by the Australian Government and supported at the national and regional levels. The findings from these interviews then will feed into formulating a set of key indicators of data use which may be used by countries to inform further action and share best practises within the region. These key findings and recommendations will be presented and discussed along with the lessons learned in a summit in November and a final series of reports will be available from December 2017.

Media contact:

Solo Matthewsella, EQAP Communications Officer, [email protected] or +679 936 0903

Scott Pontifex, EQAP Team Leader Regional EMIS facility [email protected]

Vanuatu accords high priority to education. Major efforts have been directed towards enhancing educational opportunities, quality and relevance and Open VEMIS (Vanuatu Education Management Information System) is an important tool for effective decision making towards realising these national goals. Informed decision-making in education requires accurate and timely information which shows the relationships between resource inputs to the teaching and learning process and student achievements. Linking Open VEMIS to agencies and institutions in education and other sectors that are engaged in educational activities is therefore important.

Participating in SPC’s review of data usage in the Pacific signals Vanuatu’s belief that information is crucial for informed decisions on planning, policy and programme development, and resource allocation across government.The emerging demands for high-quality and timely information from a wide range of stakeholders have alerted the Ministry to improve its management efforts to meet these demands.Vanuatu has come a long way and according to high level officials in government, the importance of data cannot be over emphasised.

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Nadi, Fiji – The Australian and New Zealand governments, together with the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER), have formalised a €12.8 million commitment with the Pacific Community (SPC) towards education in the Pacific region. This commitments extends to 2023.

The Australian government has committed €9.8 million ($AUD 15.5 million) over five years and the New Zealand government has committed €2.9 million ($NZD 5 million) for the next three years. This funding, as well as a technical partnership with ACER, puts SPC in a solid position to serve educational needs in the region.

The partnership will directly contribute to the 6 education outcome areas that were identified by SPC and its partners as priorities for the Pacific: raising student achievement in literacy and numeracy; improving teachers’ and principals’ accountabilities; benchmarking factors contributing to educational quality; increasing the education system’s capacity to use high quality data; strengthening national accreditation and assessment systems; and providing high quality programmatic technical services and policy advice.

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