Pacific Island governments take a step forward in building early childhood education systems – UNICEF

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Nadi, Fiji 12 March 2024 – Today, government heads of education systems from 15 Pacific Island countries, together with UNICEF and as part of the Pacific Regional Education Framework (PacREF) partnership, launched a new Status Report on Pacific Early Childhood Education Systems in the region at a four-day conference in Nadi, Fiji. 

Speaking at the opening of the conference, Tuvalu’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Education, and Chair of PacREF, Dr. Tufoua Panapa said the launch of the Status Report underscored the commitment to transparency, accountability and shared learning.  

“Together we will craft a Pacific regional call to action that resonates with the unique settings of our region ensuring that no child is left behind,” said Dr. Panapa. “This conference will serve as a platform to capture our regional and national visions and priorities for Early Childhood Education under PacREF.”

Over the next four days, the CEOs and Permanent Secretaries of education will be dissecting the findings of the new Status Report and sharing their successes and lessons learnt with each other. The discussions from the conference will enable the CEOs and Permanent Secretaries to work with their governments to address the gaps and create better early childhood learning for children in the region.  

This will be supported by the formation of an early-learning taskforce responsible for providing leadership on ECE to Pacific governments and stakeholders.   

Speaking at the launch of the report, UNICEF Pacific’s Deputy Representative, Ms. Roshni Basu, emphasized the importance of strong and resilient ECE systems that extend from robust policies to increased investments in quality and contextualised early childhood teaching and learning in classrooms as well as communities.    

“Early childhood education is vital to ensure that every child has the opportunity to begin with a strong foundation on the path of learning and education,” said Ms Basu. “It is imperative that strategies aiming to improve learning outcomes and *skills development* focus on the criticality of investments in early childhood.” 

In 2017, UNICEF, in partnership with the then Pacific Regional Council for Early Childhood Care and Education (PRC4ECCE), compiled the first Pacific ECCE Status Report, which highlighted critical national efforts of 15 Pacific Island countries needed to secure the best development of young children for ECE. 

Now, seven years after that report, the Status Report launched today highlights progress, as well as new achievements and challenges. Some of these achievements include improved overall access and attention to ECE in education legislation.  

The report was developed under the guidance of ECE focal points from each of the 15 countries and has benefitted from support from partners under the PacREF. Country representatives and regional partners have again come together at the ECE conference this week to discuss what has been done to support the full realization of ECE, the challenges faced, as well as plan changes needed to make further progress on ECE. 

Meanwhile, PacREF Coordinator, Mr. Filipe Jitoko, said regional heads of education understand the importance of ECE in a child’s learning journey and the four-day workshop has accelerated this progress further.  

“PacREF is delighted to see the strides towards ensuring every child has access to ECE. However, there are challenges which governments face in this endeavour, and we are here to find solutions to these obstacles as one Pacific family,” said Mr. Jitoko.  

The 15 Pacific Island Countries leading the Report and the Conference are the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tokelau, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. 

UNICEF is hosting the conference as part of the PacREF partnership. The conference will end on Friday with the formation of an Early Learning Taskforce responsible for providing leadership on ECE to Pacific governments and stakeholders. 

About PacREF: 

The Pacific Regional Education Framework (PacREF) is a ground-breaking regional initiative designed to support Pacific developing member countries in addressing their ongoing challenges to improving the quality of education, 15 Pacific island countries are active members of PacREF Educational improvements will be achieved through enhanced regionalism and mutually beneficial partnerships with regional institutions who focus on the education priorities agree to by the member countries. 

For more information about PacREF visit  

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