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$11 million boost to education in Solomon Islands

20 October 2003 Media Statement

$11 million boost to education in Solomon Islands

Aid Minister Marian Hobbs has announced an $11 million funding boost to the Solomon Islands next year, to improve access to basic education in one of the Pacific’s poorest nations.

NZAID, the New Zealand government’s international aid and development agency, has committed $11 million to help the Solomon Islands Ministry of Education and Human Resources introduce a number of basic education programmes within the island nation’s strategic plan for education. This funding will be in addition to the Solomon Island government’s contribution to education, pegged at 22 percent of the total budget.

Currently only 20 percent of children in the Solomon Islands complete primary school, and functional adult literacy is as low as 22 percent. Marian Hobbs said access to quality basic education was vital in a developing country like the Solomon Islands, as the downstream effects were greater economic growth and better incomes. But some isolated communities had virtually no access to education.

"Access to even the most basic education is a human right. It is an investment in the future labour force – education and employment go hand and hand," Marian Hobbs said.

"Low levels of education are a constraint to investment and the economic growth and jobs that come out of investment. Education is an asset that we are committed to deliver to this and future generations of Solomon Islanders."

Work plans for 2004 are still to be finalised, but the $11 million funding injection will go toward paying primary school teachers’ salaries, providing basic teaching materials, and updating the education curriculum, which has not been revised for a decade.

"This is NZAID’s single largest commitment to a sector, and one desperately needed in a country where conflict and economic crisis has seen education run down and neglected for years.

"Our commitment has always been to get a qualified primary school teacher into every classroom and all Solomon Island boys and girls into primary school. Through this funding, we can start to see that happening."

Already this year, NZAID has committed to spend $3.5 million to provide basic learning materials and supplies such as wall charts, maths equipment and other learning aids ($568,000); to print and distribute textbooks ($2.2 million); and to pay the salaries of 270 new teachers ($432,000).

Access to quality education is a key priority for NZAID, and the Solomon Islands is expected to receive similar funding packages for education until 2008.

BACKGROUND

What’s the current state of education in the Solomon Islands?

- Only 20 percent of children complete primary school – the lowest rate in the Pacific. Most students are pushed out after year six, and only 4 percent stay on to year 12.
- The school-age population is growing by 3 percent a year, increasing the demand on education services over the next 10 years.
- Education services have been seriously disrupted because of the conflict which rose out of a coup in 2000, and education facilities are deficient and instructional materials non-existent in most schools.
- Trained teachers are in short supply (an estimated 20 percent are untrained), teachers are inefficiently deployed, unsupervised, badly managed and demoralised. The economic crisis meant that teachers were paid only irregularly.

Why focus on basic education?

Quality basic education contributes to economic growth, raises poor people’s income, and helps eliminate poverty, which is central to the core operating principles of NZAID. Education is a key component of the Solomon Islands Government’s National Economic Recovery and Development Plan 2003-05.
Quality basic education also contributes to the achievement of other development goals, such as improved health, better nutrition, improved productivity, improved governance, lower fertility rates, and the elimination of gender disparities in society.

Where’s the funding going this year?

NZAID and the Solomon Islands Ministry of Education and Human Resources (MEHR) have approved a total of $3.5 million on education in 2003, including
- Primary school operational grants, to pay for basic equipment ($568,000)
- Marking of national examinations ($221,000)
- Reprinting, storing and distributing existing basic instructional materials, including the establishment of baselines for learning achievement ($2.2 million)
- A teacher supply and demand study ($11,000)
- Salaries for 270 newly appointed teachers ($432,000)
- Planning for a primary and secondary teacher validation exercise ($5700)
- The National Education Board ($22,000)
- Education Strategic Plan ($44,000)

What are the priority areas for the $11 million next year?

Work plans for 2004 are still being prepared, but the funding will be distributed within the following strategic programme areas:
- Improved funding of primary and junior secondary schools
- Curriculum review, updated and improved student assessment, and achievement and maintenance of student:textbook ratio of 1:1
- Establishing a national teacher management committee, improvement of teacher supply, and teacher recruitment, deployment, management, supervision and development
- Community-managed construction of storage facilities for textbooks, and classrooms for the neediest primary schools.

Where do I find out more about NZAID’s programme in the Solomon Islands?
Visit www.nzaid.govt.nz to view the Solomon Islands fact sheet.

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