PRESS RELEASE - 12th August 2010 - The failure to disseminate the reports of baseline achievements in literacy and numeracy in Forum island countries remains one of the challenges facing education authorities in the region.

The Forum Secretariat organised Consultation Meeting on the Pacific Education Development Framework underway in Nadi, Fiji, has been told that over the past several years the South Pacific Board for Educational Assessment (SPBEA) has been monitoring literacy and numeracy standards for use principally at two year groups, namely year 4 and year 6

Ana Raivoce, Director of SPBEA told the meeting reports of baseline achievements in literacy and numeracy have been completed for five countries namely Kiribati, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu for both Year 4 and Year 6 students.

Each report contains comprehensive data, relating to achievements, at national, provincial and island levels, broken down by gender, and by key strands and key skills. The reports also contain a set of recommendations for consideration.

Other challenges facing the Assessing and Monitoring Literacy, Numeracy and Life Skills include:

. Increasingly, the countries are recognizing the importance of their literacy and numeracy monitoring reports for planning and other purposes. Understanding the rationale, purposes, processes and limitations of standards monitoring is a challenge which may result in misinterpretation and misuse of the reports;
. Training of Assessment unit staff, teachers and other key persons to be able to handle monitoring work. Standards monitoring requires a change of mindset and different skills from those used in the regular examinations approach;
. Competing priorities within ministries of education often pose challenge to the implementation of standards monitoring. Standards monitoring requires staffing and funding commitment to a regular testing schedule if the comparison of standards are to be valid; and
. The sustainability of standards monitoring in the medium to long term is a challenge for any system. For monitoring to be effective and meaningful, its existence has to be included in curriculum and/or assessment frameworks and national education work plans.

Some of the recommendations on the Assessing and Monitoring Literacy, Numeracy and Life Skills include:

. The reports are disseminated in a timely manner to appropriate sections of the ministry and key stakeholders for their information and appropriate interventions or actions;
. Key education stakeholders spend time to study, discuss and understand the monitoring reports, and are able to use the report findings to inform decisions related to the standards of literacy and numeracy;
. Assessment units within ministries of education are strengthened in terms of both numbers and skills to be able to deal with the work demand; and
. Standards monitoring is included in national assessment frameworks or policies, is integrated into education action plans and seen to be a core activity of the system.

Assessing and monitoring Literacy, Numeracy and Life Skills is part of the Sub-sector 2: Formal School Education of the Pacific Education Development Framework.

At the 41st Pacific Islands Forum Leaders' Communique in Port Vila, Republic of Vanuatu last week, Forum Leaders endorsed the Pacific Plan priority to "focus education efforts on increasing literacy and numeracy rates in selected Pacific Island countries," for 2010 - 2013.