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Cook Islands principals upskilled

18 April 2005

Media Release

Cook Islands principals upskilled through University of Auckland

Cook Islands principals are participating in a leadership programme developed for them by the Faculty of Education at the University of Auckland, along with New Zealand school leaders.

The Cook Islands Prime Minister and Minister of Education Jim Marurai
launched the Graduate Diploma of Education in Educational Leadership today (18 April) at the Ministry of Education in Rarotonga, for the first group of 12 Cook Islands principals. A second group starts the programme in October, which runs from 2005 to 2007.

The wide-ranging programme covers management and leadership in education, change management and school innovation. It will be taught via the internet with some face-to-face teaching in the Islands. The Faculty has offered the diploma since 2003, but this is the first time it has been available for flexible on-line study in any country.

Having New Zealand and Cook Islands principals work together as a group was seen to have real benefits, says Linda Selby, Head of Postgraduate Studies at the Epsom Campus.

“The Cook Islands Ministry of Education was interested in twinning with New Zealand principals, for the sharing of experience and pool of knowledge. While each country has its unique features it’s fair to say that Cook Islands principals face similar challenges in the implementation of curriculum and development of quality teaching in schools as their New Zealand counterparts.

“New Zealand principals in turn can benefit from international comparisons, and if they are working in schools with Pacific Island children, learn more about teaching in Pasifika contexts. They may also benefit if they are anticipating working in the Cook Islands at some point,” she says.

The Cook Islands has a total of 23 government-run schools, eight of which are on Rarotonga and 15 of which are spread out among the nine outer islands of Aitutaki, Atiu, Mangaia, Manihiki, Mauke, Mitiaro, Nassau, Penrhyn, and Pukapuka.

The Faculty of Education’s involvement in Cook Islands education has grown since the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with the Cook Islands Ministry of Education in October 2004. Initiatives include project support for the Cook Islands Numeracy Project, early childhood education strategy development, and secondary teacher education qualification development. Dr Airini, the Faculty’s General Manager Pasifika Development is helping the Ministry of Education to write the Cook Islands Education Plan (2006-2020). This project spans early childhood to compulsory education and has a potential budget value of $124 million. Cook Islands educators and advisors will also attend the conference for the New Zealand Association of Science Educators this month and undertake ESOL & language education training in the Faculty aimed at supporting bilingual education & education in Cook Islands Maori.

“The initiatives with the Cook Islands are exciting & inspiring,” says Dr Airini. “ Something we want to work on as a Faculty is building strong relationships with Pacific Nations. The memorandum with the Cook Islands Ministry of Education opened the way to work out what we each can do for mutual benefit. It was about committing to doing specific and strategic things that are relevant. The programme with Cook Islands principals is just one example of what is now possible.”

Planning the Graduate Diploma of Education involved Peter Etches, Director of Audit and Quality in the Cook Islands Ministry of Education, Dr Linda Selby, Dr Airini, and Dean of Education at the University of Auckland, Dr John Langley.


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