On September 15, 2022, a special parallel session convened over 40 key policymakers, educators and practitioners from the Pacific to review the progress of open, distance, and flexible learning (ODFL) in the Pacific, share lessons learned and discuss a way forward. This was also an opportunity to share information on the ‘Partnership for ODFL in the Pacific’ Project. This event was co-chaired by The Hon. Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, Prime Minister of Samoa and Professor Asha Kanwar, President and CEO, Commonwealth of Learning.
Speakers at the lively and informative event included,
· The Hon. Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, Prime Minister of Samoa
· Prof Asha Kanwar, President and CEO, COL
· Dr Rajni Chand, Director, CFL/PACFOLD, USP
· Dr Tony Mays, Education Specialist: Open Schooling, COL
· Ms Frances Ferreira, Acting Director: Skills, COL
· Mr Robert Okinda, Adviser: Skills, COL
· Ms Peseta Noumea Simi, CEO, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Samoa (on behalf of the Minister of Education, Samoa)
· Dr Anjeela Jokhan, Perm Secretary, Ministry of Education, Heritage and Arts, Fiji
· Ms Kirsty Pelenur, Deputy High Commissioner of New Zealand in Canada
The Prime Minister of Samoa said, “ODFL is an important channel for increasing educational opportunities and outcomes, and relevant especially for the Pacific region, given the small and dispersed remote population and limited access to secondary and post-secondary opportunities. Despite the importance of ODFL in the region, there’s been a limited investment; more investment is needed for education in multiple ways.”
The CEO, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Samoa, recommended strategies going forward to ensure uninterrupted access to high-quality education for all, which included: 1) adopting a multi-modal delivery of education across the region; (2) planning for access to devices and the Internet for students and teachers; (3) providing technical support and training; (4) monitoring staff and student engagement and developing a community of practice.
Dr Anjeela Jokhan explained the importance of teacher training in using the Open Educational Resources (OERs) and building resilience in the educational sector.
Ms Pelenur spoke about the value the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, New Zealand places in working with national and regional priorities within the context of ODFL. She said achieving educational outcomes is not just about supporting ODFL. It requires consideration of context and ability for a programme to adapt and be responsive to progress and outcomes.