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7, Place de Fontenoy
75352 PARIS 07 SP, France


Nurturing the democratic debate.  
23-01-2004 5:00 pm Paris, January 23 – Ministers of Education from the island states of the Pacific will meet in Apia (Samoa) on January 28 and 29 to assess progress towards providing quality Education For All (EFA) and to look at ways of overcoming the many hurdles specific to the region to achieve this goal.
Organized by the UNESCO Office for the Pacific in Apia, the meeting will take place during an official visit to the region by UNESCO Director-General, Koïchiro Matsuura, who will address the gathering (Thursday 29, 9 a.m.). “The small island states of the Pacific face a unique set of educational challenges that must be met if these nations - that are so economically, environmentally and culturally vulnerable - are to build a sustainable future,” said Mr Matsuura, for whom the meeting is a vital part of the worldwide Education for All movement.

The Pacific countries are scattered over one third of the Earth’s surface, or more than 30 million square kilometres, 98 percent of which is ocean. Of the 7,500 islands in the region, less than 550 are inhabited. Total population of the 22* countries and territories in the three sub-regions of Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia, is about 7.6 million.

Over the past two decades, population growth, urban drift and economic difficulties have deepened inequalities between groups, strained traditional support mechanisms, and increased poverty and unemployment, especially for young people. Education is seen as a vital part of the answer to these difficulties and has been given high priority by Pacific governments.

However, concerns remain about the quality of education throughout the region, which will be the main focus of debate at the Apia meeting, along with the development of Technical and Vocational Education Training, a Pacific Qualifications Framework to improve the portability of qualifications by a growing number of Pacific students who leave home for study or work in other countries, and the integration of Pacific Islands languages and cultures into education systems in the region. The meeting will also examine the implementation of national and regional Education For All initiatives, and progress towards the six EFA goals set at the World Education Forum (Dakar, Senegal 2000)**.

After his visit to Samoa, Mr Matsuura will travel on to Tonga and New Zealand.

*UNESCO has 16 Member States in the Pacific: Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu. Tokelau is an Associate Member of the Organization.

For details go to: http://www.unesco.org/education/efa/wef_2000/index.shtml

Contact In Samoa:
Edna Tait, Director, UNESCO Office for the Pacific
Tel: +685 242 76 – e.tait@unesco.org

Source Media Advisory No. 2004-06


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