McKinnon Details South Pacific Educational Assistance Package

  • Don McKinnon
Foreign Affairs

Details of five South Pacific education projects funded under the new Education Initiatives programme foreshadowed in the 1996/97 overseas aid budget in May were announced by Foreign Minister Don McKinnon today.

This years Budget provided $2.5 million in new funding to support education and health initiatives in the Pacific Islands in 1996/97.

The projects are the first approved under the new regional programme and involve proposals prepared by the regional UNESCO office in Apia and they will cost about $340,000 this financial year. They are:

Associated Schools Project: The UNESCO Associated Schools Project (ASP) is well established in many countries around the world. It assists primary and secondary schools which they can carry out to promote international cooperation and understanding and has a long history of networking successfully across cultures and regions. In New Zealand a group of schools in the South Island are ASP members. One, Greymouth High School, successfully completed an environmental studies project in 1995 and a group of students participated in the First UNESCO World Heritage Youth Forum in Bergen, Norway in June last year.

There are no ASP schools in the South Pacific but this project is the first step to include several schools in Tonga, Western Samoa, Niue and Cook Islands under the scheme. Schools in other Pacific countries will be included depending on how successful the scheme in the region proves. Under the project selected New Zealand ASP schools will be invited to twin with the Pacific schools for support, sharing ideas and possible exchange of students in shared ASP activities. Schools and students participating in the scheme may select activities from four different study themes - environment, human rights and democracy, intercultural learning, and world concerns. The scheme is an excellent way of encouraging students to learn skills such as problem solving, creative thinking, independent research and time management.

Science Education: This is a three year programme to upgrade the teaching of science subjects in Pacific schools, with particular emphasis on science education for girls. The project will link in with a multi-donor funded Basic Education and Life Skills programme aimed at improving the literacy and numeracy levels of primary school children in the region. The science education project will set up curriculum development and teacher in-service programmes to improve the knowledge, skills and confidence of teachers involved in science education in several Pacific island countries. The project will also promote increased interaction between local communities, their schools and various agencies involved in science education and will make available for the first time a systematic collection of information about traditional science knowledge in the region.

Desk Top Publishing: This computer training project will be trialed in several Polynesian countries to provide groups of out-of-school girls and women community leaders with marketable computer skills. The project will help them obtain the necessary skills to enable them to generate income from such activities as niche printing for tourists and community groups, greeting cards, public notices, and the like. Participants will be taught to pass on their skills to others after the workshop. Depending on the success of this pilot project it will be expanded to cover unemployed youth (both girls and boys) and other countries in the region.

Alcohol Prevention and Awareness Programme: New Zealand assistance will support a UNESCO project to combat alcohol misuse which is a major factor in crimes, motor vehicle accidents and deaths and community health problems in the region. The project will be piloted in Cook Islands and if successful there could be extended to other countries in the region. The project has several specific objectives; to set up health promotion programmes to develop knowledge and understanding of alcohol related problems; to develop favourable attitudes and behaviour towards the consumption of alcohol so as to encourage and motivate people to adopt healthier lifestyles and behaviour; to assist with the local production and dissemination of alcohol related information and education materials; and to develop research on local knowledge, attitudes, behaviour and practices concerning alcohol to determine how best to direct future efforts in alcohol education programmes.

Secondary Teacher Training: This project will provide opportunities for secondary school teachers in several Pacific Island countries, especially Western Samoa, Niue and Fiji, to work with New Zealand teachers on innovative but practical teaching and assessing techniques. Directors of Education in the region have expressed interest in developing the skills of their secondary teachers in curriculum and assessment management strategies. New Zealand teachers have access to new curriculum and assessment frameworks and many are experienced in this new approach to promoting students learning achievements. The project will bring together in a series of workshops in several of the Pacific countries New Zealand teachers as resource people and a selected group of local teachers to share the classroom practicalities of unit teaching by objectives and by achievement and criteria referenced assessment.

In making this additional assistance available we hope to relieve some of the problems of professional and physical isolation which New Zealand MPs noticed last year on our tour of the Pacific Islands, Mr McKinnon said.