Dr. ‘Ana Maui Taufe’ulungaki Speech at Openning of National Workshop on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)

21-23 November 2012

 Anglican Church Hall, Nukuʻalofa, Tonga[1]


Dr. Susan Vize, Officer-in-Charge, UNESCO Office for the Pacific States, Father Joe Leota, Vicar, St. Paul’s Anglican Church.Mrs. Lucy Mafi and Mr. Pone Taunisila of the Ministry of Education and Training.Workshop Participants. Honoured Guests.Ladies and Gentlemen.

I first of all acknowledge God’s presence in our midst.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mrs. Lucy Mafi, the Secretary-General of the Tonga UNESCO National Commission and UNESCO Office, Apia for inviting me to join you this morning in the opening of this important National Workshop on Education for Sustainable Development.

 Sustainable development as we are all aware is the desired outcome of all our development efforts and if it is not explicitly stated in our national or sectoral plans, it is an understood principle that underpin our development strategies.

As we have heard from Dr Susan Vize, sustainable development has been around for some time. I was privileged, indeed, to have been part of the ESD Working Group that began the development of the Action Plan that we are now attempting to implement in our various countries in the Pacific Region.

As you are also aware, the UN declared 2005- 2014 as the Decade for ESD. It was to recognise education and learning as the key to accelerate changes to a more sustainable way of life. The Education for Sustainable Development conceptual basis, socio-economic implications, and environmental and cultural connections, make it an enterprise which potentially touches on every aspect of life.

In response to the UN Declaration, the UNESCO Office, Apia, began the coordination of the development of the Pacific Education for Sustainable Development Framework, in consultation with a regional ESD Working Group comprised of representatives of community, government, regional, international and private organisations from across the Pacific.

The overall goal of ESD is to integrate the values inherent in sustainable development into all aspects of learning to encourage changes in behaviour that would allow for a more sustainable and just society for all.  The ESD approach requires this basic philosophy to be adapted to suit local conditions and culture.

The UNESCO Office, Apia, initially developed the Framework, which was the first step in a Pacific response to ESD, providing an umbrella for coordinated and collaborative action to achieve the region’s vision to integrate and mutually reinforce the three pillars of economic development, social development and environmental conservation. The next steps in the process were the regional and national level adoption and incorporation of the Framework into policy and strategic documents, which attempted to appropriately provide a cultural context for regional, national and local actions.

In line with the eight strategic objectives for sustainable development endorsed within the first Pacific Plan, ESD provided a critical mechanism for achieving long term change to improve environmental sustainability, health, education and training, gender equality, youth involvement and the recognition and protection of cultural values, identities and traditional knowledge. It also complemented the realisation of universal and equitable educational participation and achievement outlined in the first Forum Basic Education Action Plan.

The Pacific ESD Framework included three priority areas:

  • Formal education initiatives for improved knowledge and understanding to implement sustainable development.
  • Community-based activities and training for improved knowledge, understanding and skills to implement sustainable development.
  • Policy development and partnerships to implement ESD.

In 2006, the Education Ministers:

a)       endorsed the Pacific ESD Framework, coordinated by UNESCO, for collaboration and partnership to promote ESD initiatives in the region;

b)       agreed to use the Pacific ESD Framework, and other regional frameworks and action plans as the basis for completing a Pacific Regional Action Plan to guide ESD in Forum member countries; and,

c)       agreed to use the combined CROP Human Resource Development (HRD) and Sustainable Development (SD) Working Group mechanism to take this initiative forward.

The 2006 Forum Education Ministers Meeting also requested the combined CROP Human Resource Development (HRD) and Sustainable Development (SD) Working Group to further develop the Pacific Regional Plan of Action on ESD.

This combined Group met at USP on 21 November 2006, in order to develop a plan of action for the preparation of the Pacific Action Plan for ESD. The meeting reaffirmed/ agreed:

  • that the Pacific Framework on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) was endorsed by the Forum Education Ministers meeting as a platform for consultation and partnership in regional ESD activities;
  • that it is a  living document;
  • that it must include Pacific perspectives which may be missing from the draft Framework;
  • that an action plan is needed which would promote a common platform for all regional organizations and development partners.

The Group agreed that the Pacific Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development (PACE-SD), with its mandate within USP, will coordinate the development of the Pacific Regional Action Plan for ESD. However, the UNESCO Office, Apia, was a key development partner, since ESD is one of its core mandate. We are all grateful to the UNESCO Office, Apia, for it has been instrumental since, then, in advancing the work on ESD across the region, providing Technical Assistance and key training activities, such as the one we have this week.

It was also agreed in 2006 that a Technical Working Group would work with PACE to develop the draft Action Plan for consultation with countries, involving Ministries and Department of Education, Department of Environment, Planning and whichever government agency is responsible for human resource development. The Action Plan was completed in 2007 and was endorsed by the Forum Education Ministers in 2008.

Since this period, implementation of the Action Plan at national, sectoral and community levels has been variable. Countries included various aspects in their National Strategic and Development Plans. In Tonga’s latest Strategic Development Framework (TSDF) 2011-2014 sustainable development is explicitly stated in Outcome Objectives 6 and 7 relating to health services and the environment, but as already stated, are understood to be underlying principles in the other seven Outcome Objectives. As stated in Outcome Objective 7, sustainability is a core principle that is integrated into all programmes.

In Education, for example, sustainability has been incorporated into our curriculum programmes for the first eight years of basic education, Class 1 to Form 2; in the Teacher Education programme, and will be integrated into the secondary and post-secondary school curricula, which are currently under reform.

The seminal study on education for sustainable development was undertaken by Dr. Seuʻula Johansson-Fua and Dr. Stan Manu of the Institute of Education, University of the South Pacific in 2005-2007. It was a study to investigate the relationship between poverty and education. They found that the Tongans define ‘education’ as moʻui fakapotopoto or sustainable livelihood, which is the outcome of educational development. They define ‘poverty’ as faingata’a’ia or hardship, which, in their view, is only a temporary situation. Masiva, which is the word they use for poverty, is only used to refer to the loss or erosion of the core values fundamental to Tongan culture and society. The Tongans also define what constitutes wealth or koloa in the Tongan context. It is not money or material possessions but the acquisition of the Tongan values of ‘ofa, fakaʻapaʻapa, mamahiʻi meʻa, lototō, feveitokaiʻaki, and the ability to fulfil one’s familial, social, religious, and cultural obligations.

The Tongans had very clear ideas of what constitutes sustainable livelihood. They readily identified the values, skills, and knowledge, which are required to achieve sustainable livelihoods in the Tongan context. Interestingly, they also found very obvious correlations between the possession of strong values and sustainable livelihoods. The erosion of those values, which underpin the life and behaviours of Tongans and communities, also result in material poverty. In other words intangible poverty, which is the loss of our Tongan values, correlates highly with the inability of individuals and communities to materially sustain themselves within their particular circumstances.     

 In Education, we have embedded these values, skills, and knowledge in the curricula of basic education, forming the foundation of the new programme for primary education, and they will continue to be integrated into the secondary and post-secondary curricula, and Teacher Education Programme. These values, skills, and knowledge, identified by the Tongans are central to the outcomes of education, have been integrated into the attributes of the Faiako Maʻa Tonga, the teacher for Tonga and the Tongan school leaver. It is now the Ministry’s responsibility to monitor and evaluate progress to ensure that these attributes are achieved by all teachers and school leavers in the next five years.

It is my hope that this Workshop will raise awareness and understanding of these attributes and that others, outside of the education sector, will adopt them for the long-term sustainability of Tongan society within the Tongan context. Their acquisition will ensure sustainable communities, and people who are strong in themselves, and from that base of strength, they can move on to interact more meaningfully with others at the regional and international levels. The key to our sustainability as a society and a nation lies within ourselves and our ability and willingness to determine and control our own development and destiny.

I wish you the very best during these three days and I look forward to a most constructive and fruitful outcome.

Malo ‘aupito


[1] Speech given at the Opening of the above workshop