Fiji has reached out to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization for support in implementing its curriculum development for schools across the country.
This call was made by Fiji’s Ministry of Education, Heritage and Arts’ Permanent Secretary Alison Burchell at the Policy Debate of UNESCO’s 40th General Conference currently underway in Paris, France.
During this debate, the Permanent Secretary presented the challenges facing Fiji’s education sector, in particular, the impact of climate change. She highlighted the direct impact it has on Fijian children and their ability to have access to education in the face of rising sea levels, community relocations and cyclones. Despite these challenges, the Ministry is using education to create awareness amongst Fijian children with the assistance of the United Nations agencies.
‘Mr President, throughout all this, we have also worked to educate our young people on climate change. We have developed a disaster risk reduction manual for schools with support from UNICEF and UNDP. Our young people have said: “we can see climate change, we can feel it but we do not know what to do about it” and this is part of our answer to them. We are happy to share this resource with other SIDS’.
An area that Fiji is keen to develop and hopes to closely partner with UNESCO is the evolution of education through technology and relevant resources. According to Burchell, Fiji will address the 4 pillars of education – literacy, numeracy, physical and digital literacy.
‘In this, we believe that there is a role for UNESCO to play in facilitating the exchange of curricula across nations. Many nations here today have revised their curricula to be contemporary and compatible with an overlay of technology. We do not want to re-invent the wheel as many aspects of the curriculum can only be presented in a limited number of ways and here I mention the STEM subjects and indeed languages – Hindi, Urdu, Mandarin and English for example. These are all subjects which are offered by experts from particular nations and the curricula can easily be shared. Physical education can be added to this list with expertise from Cuba as an example. There is space for us to share on a more systematic basis and UNESCO can facilitate this process.’
An area that Fiji is also looking to partner with UNESCO is the promotion of physical education, physical activity and sport to prevent future non-communicable diseases amongst young Fijians.
‘In Fiji, at least 80% of deaths can be attributed to NCDs. In 2015, following research undertaken by UNDP, it was estimated that NCDs cost the Fijian economy up to US$180m a year. In this context, it is important that we get the nation to move, to exercise and this begins with physical education. Again, we are not alone in facing this crisis and again, we believe that UNESCO, as the custodian for sport, physical activity and education can play a central role in supporting nations to develop PE curricula which will embed an ethic of life-long activity in all our citizens’.
As the UNESCO General Conference continues this week, PS Burchell is also expected to participate in high-level meetings and side events. She is supported at this event by Fiji’s Ambassador in Brussels and Permanent Delegate to UNESCO, Ambassador Deo Saran.