Minister for Education, Rosy Akbar met with her counterpart Hon. Gibb; Minister of State, at the Department for Education headquarters.
Akbar is currently in London to chair the first Education Minister’s Action Group (EMAG) that Fiji is currently administering, as host of the recent Commonwealth Countries Education Ministers (CCEM) meeting that was held in Nadi in February last year.
Minister Akbar was accompanied by High Commissioner Jitoko Tikolevu, First Secretary Paulini Cakacaka and Second Secretary Florieann Wilson to this significant dialogue; and Minister Gibb was supported by representatives from the Dept. of Education and the Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO).
Akbar acknowledged the opportunity provided to meet and briefly discuss issues of mutual interest for both nations, and indicated that Fiji looks to the UK for good practices and to share learning from the respective initiatives that it has successfully implemented.
Amongst the issues was the successful Phonics program that UK has generously offered to be replicated in Fiji. Minister Akbar indicated that the trial has been quite successful, with feedback received from both teachers and students been overwhelming and encouraging. She added that over twenty five (25) schools and one thousand seven hundred (1700) students have gone through this trial, and Fiji looks forward to advancing this program to other areas.
In acknowledging the support provided by UK in the administration of the Phonics program, indicated that Fiji would be more than appreciative of the continuity of this cooperation, particularly extending its reach to rural and maritime areas as well as sharing report on the impact of this program since its inception in 2012.
Gibb expressed UK’s interest in forging a long-term collaboration for this program.
Akbar highlighted that the proportion of the National budget that is allocated towards it the Education sector reflects its importance in Fiji, being the largest at 20% of the overall allocation. This she added illustrates Govt.’s genuine interest and commitment in enhancing and ensuring an educated population.
Minister Akbar in expressing Fiji’s interest in to strengthen relations and cooperation between our two (2) nations, conveyed Fiji’s interest to establish and formalise a Development Cooperation between Fiji and UK. Minister Gibb in responding to this proposed arrangement, highlighted UK’s keen interest in pursuing this; and ensuring that a formal framework between the two (2) countries is established as soon as possible.
Critical mutual areas of interest proposed to be covered in the agreement to include periodic Curriculum development and review, review and promotion of endorsed Numeracy and Literacy program as well as establishing a Teachers exchange and training program.
In addition, collaboration to be established for the development and improvement of teaching and learning facilities as well as that of accessibility infrastructure.
In terms of the successful Phonics program, Fiji looks to UK for support, in enhancing Digital literacy, to enable and ensure connectivity for both rural and urban areas.
The meeting concluded with the two (2) leaders committing to continue engagement and communication, and to embark on establishing a formal arrangement between the two (2) partners.