“Sustainability and Resilience: Can Education Deliver?” This is the theme and the big question on which Commonwealth Education Ministers will deliberate at their conference in Fiji next February.
The theme was decided at a steering committee meeting this week at the Commonwealth’s headquarters in London. Iowane Tiko, Permanent Secretary of Education and Jitoko Tikolevu, the Fijian High Commissioner, were among representatives from the Fiji government – the host of the 20th Commonwealth Conference of Education Ministers (20CCEM). Marcellus Taylor, Deputy Director of Education, represented The Bahamas, the former host government.
The officials joined Commonwealth Deputy-Secretary-General, Josephine Ojiambo, education experts from the Commonwealth Secretariat, representatives from the Association of Commonwealth Universities and teachers’ unions for the committee meeting on 19 and 20 June.
Speaking at the opening of the meeting, Mr Tiko said, “This theme is expected to stress and address the important mitigation measures for climate change and globalisation through partnerships; and to build resilience for sustainable development. The theme will set the platform for the development of a policy agenda to address the climate change crisis faced by Fiji and other small island states.”
The education conference includes an integrated partners’ forum for students, teachers, higher education leaders and civil society. For the second time since the conference was established in 1959, there will be a special forum for small states ministers.
Dr Ojiambo said that the 20CCEM will provide an “opportune moment for education ministers”. She continued: “The Commonwealth has made great strides under the millennium development goals, but we still face a staggering challenge. There are still 17 million primary-aged children and 16 million young people out of school and more than 400 million adults are illiterate.
“20CCEM will be a pivotal discussion on what Commonwealth countries need to do to address these education challenges and to realise the sustainable development goals.”
She added: “The chosen theme will ensure that the focus of deliberations remains on how education systems can be better designed to respond to global concerns such as climate change and migration, and deliver skills development, smooth transitions into employment and cultural and traditional knowledge.”
Mr Taylor said: "Over the course of these two days, I think the Steering Committee worked hard to advance the planning for the 20CCEM. I am confident, given the trajectory that we are on, that the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Government of Fiji will be able to deliver an interesting and impactful meeting in February 2018."