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Development assistance in the Pacific

Pacific regional – education


This page gives an overview of Australia’s work in the Pacific education sector, under Pillar 2 (Stability) and Pillar 3 (Economic Recovery) of Australia’s Partnerships for Recovery: Australia’s COVID-19 Development Response. It also outlines key related initiatives and summaries of programming and related documents.

Investing in education outcomes for all children and youth across the Pacific has been a long-standing objective of Australia's aid program. Our education investments are guided by the Pacific’s Regional Education Framework (PacREF) which outlines a shared, regional education reform agenda among Pacific regional organisations and national education systems up to 2030.

A key focus for Australia’s aid program is supporting education and employment pathways for Pacific people. Through the Office of the Pacific, Australia invests approximately $200 million per year in education and skills partnerships including with the University of the South Pacific (USP), the Australia Pacific Training Coalition (APTC) and the SPC Educational Quality Assessment Programme (EQAP). The regional aid portfolio comprises regional scholarships, investments in regional education institutions, technical support for national education systems, research grants and educational linkages between Australia and the Pacific. DFAT bilateral education programs support the implementation of Pacific island country national education plans in predominantly school and Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) sectors.

Under the Pacific Step-up, Australia is further deepening educational links with the region including through expanded secondary and primary level teacher training and a targeted science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) teaching program. (link to Pacific people to people education page – BRIDGE, Science Circus, Secondary Schools Scholarships)

More about Australia's education partnerships in the Pacific.

The University of the South Pacific (USP) Partnership

$84 million, 2019 to 2025

Australia has been investing in the USP, the region’s pre-eminent tertiary organisation, for five decades. USP is a key source of graduates to industry and government in the region, providing the critical workforce for economic development, particularly in areas of new technology and responding to challenges such as climate change, natural disasters, renewable energy, and oceans, which are important to Australia’s interests. 

Our current partnership is worth $84 million over six years from 2019 to 2024. The partnership provides flexible funding to support implementation of USP’s Strategic Plan, including efforts to meet the tertiary education needs of the Pacific.

The partnership will also support the Pacific to implement the Pacific Regional Education Framework, with a focus on improving the quality of teacher education in the region. Through our partnership with USP we are exploring opportunities to further enhance digital and remote learning in the region, building on the success of USP’s COVID-19 response.

Additional information can be found on the USP website.

Australia Pacific Training Coalition (APTC)

$153.7 million, 2018 to 2022

The Australia Pacific Training Coalition is Australia’s flagship skills investment in the Pacific region. It is focussed on supporting inclusive skills development and ensuring training meets the needs of Pacific employers and those industries hardest hit by COVID-19.

The APTC (formerly the Australia-Pacific Technical College) delivers Australian qualifications at Certificate II, III, IV and Diploma levels to Pacific islanders from nine countries across five campuses (Fiji, PNG, Samoa, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands), as well as skill sets and micro-credentials.

Qualifications are delivered in the automotive, manufacturing, construction and electrical, tourism, hospitality, health and community sectors.

APTC has trained and graduated over 16,900 graduates with Australian qualifications, including over 6,777 women (source-APTC 2021).

Graduates in key sectors include engineering – automotive, industry, electrical (3682 – 2.7% female), education and training (4916 – 62% female), hospitality and tourism (2800 – 68% female), construction – carpentry, plumbing, tiling (2563 -11% female), food industry – cooking, nutrition, catering (1373 –56% female), community and personal services – youth, disability, aged care and health support (1625 – 68% female).

APTC works in partnership with local and national TVET institutions across nine target countries to deliver relevant skills training. APTC also works in coalitions with these institutions and their governments, development partners and other stakeholders to support TVET systems strengthening at the national and regional level. APTC plays a catalytic role, providing TVET and development expertise to progress work on national TVET priorities including supporting national qualifications authorities on the recognition and accreditation of courses, working with governments and TVET partners to develop and implement TVET policies and providing ongoing support to institutional partners to strengthen TVET development and delivery.

The COVID-19 pandemic has provided the opportunity for APTC to explore more flexible learning modalities (distance learning where practical), increased micro-credential offerings and support for workers to move into alternative fields of work. For example, APTC-trained hospitality workers in Australia were reskilled to work in aged care, unemployed hospitality workers in Fiji were trained in digital literacy to support job readiness in the new economic environment, and APTC has expanded its counselling training recognising the social impacts of COVID-19.

DFAT has facilitated a partnership between the Pacific Labour Facility and the APTC to build strong outcomes to meet Australia’s workforce shortages, including job-ready workers and Australian-qualified graduates in aged care and disability services and support Pacific Islanders to become work-ready in the meat processing industry.

Related documents*

Name of document Year published Type
APTC3 Investment Design Document 2017 Design document
Independent Review 2014 Review

Related links

APTC website

Educational Quality Assessment Programme (EQAP)

$18 million, 2017 to 2023 (with option to extend for five years)

Australia’s partnership with EQAP ($18m, 2017-23) provides technical education services to Pacific Ministries, in particular in assessment and using data to inform education policies and planning. EQAP administers the Pacific Islands Literacy and Numeracy Assessment every three years.

Related documents*

Name of document Year published Type
Pacific Register of Qualifications and Standards (PRQS): Strategic review report and management response 2017 Review and management response
Mid Term Review of the Education Quality Assessment Program Business Plan 2019-2022 2021 Mid term review

Related links

Shaping the Pacific's greatest resource through quality education | Educational Quality & Assessment Programme | Pacific Community (SPC)

Pacific Research Program

$23.25 million, 2017 to 2021

The Pacific Research Program (PRP) aims to contribute to the goal of economic resilience, poverty reduction, security and stability in the Pacific region. It supports this goal by undertaking and effectively communicating high-quality research to inform evidence-based policy-making and program design by the Government of Australia and its partner governments and organisations. The Program is delivered by a consortium comprising the Australian National University’s (ANU) Department of Pacific Affairs (DPA) and Development Policy Centre (Devpol), and the Lowy Institute, with DPA as the consortium lead.

The consortium’s research is organised according to five core research programs that focus on: regionalism and geopolitics; politics and the nature of the state; economic development, with a particular focus on labour mobility; gender, social change and inclusion; and urbanisation, land and natural resource management.

PRP’s key research and research capacity building activities include: the Pacific Attitudes Survey, a popular attitudes survey currently being piloted in Samoa; Pacific Track 1.5 Dialogues; the State of the Pacific conference; the Pacific Update conference; outreach events hosted by the Lowy Institute; the Pacific Research Colloquium and Pacific Fellowships program; and faculty strengthening support for the Politics Strand in the University of Papua New Guinea’s School of Humanities and Social Sciences.

The consortium’s efforts in 2019-20, the third year of the PRP, focused on progressing and publishing high-quality research, strengthening existing networks of Pacific scholars and partnerships with research institutions, and communicating its work to policymaking communities in the region and in Australia. The COVID-19 pandemic presented a range of obstacles to delivery of PRP activities. In adapting to these circumstances, the consortium drew on relationships with Pacific research partners to continue its research and conducted analysis on emerging issues, including the economic and social impacts of COVID-19 in the Pacific. Consortium partners moved their teaching and training commitments online and embraced new communications platforms to share their expertise in a world increasingly dominated by online events and virtual communications.

Related links

* The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) is committed to high standards of transparency and accountability in the management of the Australian aid program through publishing information on our website, including policies, plans, results, evaluations and research. Our practice is to publish documents after the partner government and any other partners directly involved in the delivery of the initiative have been consulted. Not all material published on this site is created by the Australian aid program and therefore not all documents reflect our views. In limited circumstances some information may be withheld for reasons including privacy and commercial sensitivity.

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