16 June 2016
From the High Commissioner's Desk -Basic Education: the Foundation of a Nation
As I watch my children practice their spelling or listen to them recite their times tables, it often reminds me of my own early years in school. Of course my memories are somewhat hazy, but I can still recall learning many of the same basic skills that I see my children learning now. And although I’m sure I didn’t appreciate it at the time, those basic skills gave me the capacity to operate successfully in the modern world.
There was once a time when most men and women could get by with little more than some practical skills plus rudimentary literacy and numeracy. But those days are long gone in Australia and other developed countries. And as Solomon Islands develops, so too will its people need to be capable of operating in the modern world. Those without basic literacy and numeracy skills will increasingly be left behind and locked out of opportunities.
That’s why Australia invests heavily in basic education in Solomon Islands. We provided $42 million in funding last year to improve access to quality education for children across the country. Australian funding goes directly to the Solomon Islands Government budget to invest in priority areas including teacher training, literacy and numeracy books and materials, classroom refurbishments, school library buildings and learning assessments like the SISTA reading tests.
And our partnership is delivering some good results. Seventy per cent of teachers are now trained (up from 50 per cent a few years ago) and last year 225 classrooms were built or upgraded and 106,000 new books were provided. Literacy and numeracy rates are steadily increasing at both primary and secondary level.
And it’s not just Australian funds that are at work in the education sector. Importantly, the Solomon Islands Government is investing in education as a priority sector with more than 22 per cent of the national budget allocated to education services. It is an example of good public policy that the Government has increased school grants direct to schools.
Our education dollar extends beyond just basic education. Australia provides around 35 scholarships every year for Solomon Islanders to undertake tertiary study in Australia and the region. And we are supporting technical education and training that aligns with labour market needs through our new Skills for Economic Growth program. These are important elements of any education system. But basic education remains the crucial foundation that prepares children for future learning and the pursuit of a fulfilling and prosperous life for them and their families.
A final reminder to all Australians in Solomon Islands that you can vote in the upcoming Australian federal election at the Australian High Commission. We’ll be open for pre-poll voting on weekdays from 20 June to 1 July, between 9.30am and 4.30pm. All you need to bring is your current Australian passport.