“Inclusive Education is about everyone”, says Professor Ann on Building Teaching Capacity for Inclusive Education workshop

Regional Project Manager Professor Ann Cheryl Armstrong

A three-day co-design workshop programme for building teaching capacity for the Inclusive Education Initiative began yesterday at the University of the South Pacific (USP) campus in Paliati. The purpose of the workshop is to report back on the outcomes for 2022 when the Inclusive Education Initiative began.

The main focus and goal of the initiative is “Building Teaching Capacity for Inclusive Education so that education professionals (teachers, school leaders and teacher aides) in five Pacific Island countries more effectively engage every child in learning, to increase equitable learning outcomes for children in the participating countries.”

Two of the facilitators arrived on the island last week, including Professor Ann Cheryl Armstrong and Seu’ula Johansson-Fua who are based under the University of Auckland consortium Institute of Education, USP and Uniservices. 

BCN News was able to speak with Professor Ann yesterday who shared some of the key aspects of the programme.

“We’ve had what we call talanoa sessions with groups of key stakeholders in every country. This is important because we want to get the voices of the people and not just teachers and principals and people from the Ministry. But we are also talking about community leaders, church leaders, parents, health ministries, transportation ministries, and interested parties. So when we get that information we develop a report, called a contextual analysis.”

“It is important that this analysis is understood within the context of each country. So the Niuean report would differ from the Cook Island report and would differ from the Tonga report etc etc,” says Professor Ann. 

When asked to define what Inclusive Education means, the Professor said that it’s about everyone.

“Inclusive education is like how far I can spread my arms and envelope everybody. Inclusive education is about everyone…It’s about society and how we can provide quality education for all people in our communities.” 

Professor Ann explained that all children are included. From those with physical disabilities, to children with a gap in their knowledge due to prolonged illnesses that affect their attendance to school and learning and also children who are highly and naturally intelligent. 

BCN News also spoke with the Director of Education Birtha Tongahai where she explained that once they have finalised and reviewed the report, they are looking to submit the final report to Cabinet. 

The initiative extends over a period of four years and is funded under New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT). The programme only includes five Pacific countries including Niue, Tonga, Samoa, Fiji and Vanuatu. 

The third and final day of the workshop will take place tomorrow before the two facilitators leave the island on Friday.

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