Press Release - 30th August 2011 - As the 18th Consultation Meeting of the Pacific Heads of Education Systems (PHES) ended in Koror, Republic of Palau on 26th August, there was a general feeling of renewed commitment towards fast-tracking reforms in education in the region for the benefit of all Pacific children.

In her closing remarks, the Chairperson of the meeting, Emeli Pouvalu, the Tonga CEO for Education reminded her fellow colleagues to ensure that no Pacific child 'misses the boat' which is carrying children the world over into the future.

"Pacific children will only miss the boat if education systems are not responding appropriately to changes that are evident throughout the region. Those who miss the boat will be left behind adding to the statistics of illiteracy and poverty within the region," Ms Pouvalu said.

The PHES made a renewed commitment as they concluded their deliberations, to work together in a spirit of true regionalism for their common and individual benefits. They clearly understood the enormous task that they face and the urgency in which they need to act if they are to bring about hope and confidence to children in the Pacific. They were informed of the impact of climate change which is no longer a myth but a reality in the region and is threatening the future of most of the island states.

The meeting discussed the issue of climate change with some serious concerns and how the education sectors in the region should respond through the school curriculum. One of the outcomes of the meeting was the agreement by PHES for a more substantial paper on Climate Change and Education to be tabled at the next Forum Education Ministers Meeting. The paper will be developed through the partnerships between SPC, the Pacific Resources for Education and Learning (PREL), USP and UNESCO.

Participants were also reminded of the need to strengthen their commitment to the adoption of regional initiatives as the tools to assess Teacher Performance and Competencies, the Benchmarks for Assessing Literacy, Numeracy and Life Skills, which are regional efforts to make available to education systems in the region tools that will assist in the development of quality in education. The general spirit of the meeting was a true Pacific one and overall the objectives of the consultation meeting have been well achieved.

In his closing remarks, the Director for Education for the Republic of Palau, Emery Wenty echoed the appreciation of their President in his opening remarks in once again thanking the organizers for allowing the meeting to be held in Palau. He thanked the UNESCO Apia Office, PREL, the Forum Secretariat and the Government of Spain for their financial support to the meeting.

The PHES were overwhelmed with the Palau Education System which in certain aspects, differ substantially from that in the countries of the South Pacific. It was a learning experience for everyone and they strongly agreed that bringing the PHES meeting to Palau this year was a truly valuable experience and investment. They expressed gratitude and appreciation to the Government of Palau for hosting the meeting.