Development & Aid, Sustainability

Good data is the key to a sustainable post-COVID Pacific

Stuart Minchin, is Director-General Pacific Community (SPC)

Oct 26 2020 - Good data and statistics make essential contributions to building resilient and strong democratic societies. Decisions based on empirical data rather than anecdote or opinion are the foundation for good policy and planning. A focus on science and evidence-based data has been the cornerstone of SPC’s work for over 70 years. And as our understanding of the complexities and interconnected nature of our world increases, the need for good data has become ever more critical.

To get a sense of the kind of positive impact good data can have on our region, look no further than the field of education. Despite the clear need, good quality data on education systems has not always been readily available in the Pacific. This gap has had significant implications for the development and monitoring of education throughout the region. To address this challenge, SPC’s Educational Quality and Assessment Programme (EQAP) has focused its efforts on re-developing and enhancing education management information systems.

This has been no small task. Our Pacific nations rich traditions and culture also mean that each approaches education in a slightly different way. And yet, for data to be meaningful it must be consistent and measurable against a common baseline.

A key strategy for EQAP, therefore, has been to assist Pacific Island countries and territories by supporting the coordination and development of their unique national education targets, while ensuring that national education databases can collect data on common themes in order to provide a more complete picture of the trends, struggles and opportunities for the region.

SPC puts a strong emphasis on the importance of partnerships and this publication is no exception to that tradition. The EQAP team has worked with stakeholders across the region to gather and sort the critical information it contains. However even the best regional data cannot be fully utilized unless it is widely used and shared, not only in the Pacific, but as a part of the global knowledge base of education data. EQAP, with the support of Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), has therefore partnered with the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) to ensure that Pacific educational data becomes part of the international conversation.

The culmination of all this work will come with the soon to be released, 2020 Status of Pacific Education Report that will allow Pacific nations to see their progress, find areas of common challenges and inspire innovative ways to reach both national and regional ambitions for education.

Data is about more than just numbers and statistics. Its’ collection, organisation and analysis provide insights and information, but it also inspires cooperation and better communication. These tools will be essential for the Pacific to reach its sustainable development goals, whether in geosciences, oceans, land resources, health or education.

Stuart Minchin

Stuart Minchin
Before he joined the Pacific Community (SPC) on 23 January 2020, Dr Minchin previously served as Chief of the Environmental Geoscience Division of Geoscience Australia, a centre of expertise in the Australian Government for environmental earth science issues and the custodian of national environmental geoscience data, information and knowledge. He has represented Australia in key international forums and has been the Principal Delegate to both the UN Global Geospatial Information Management Group of Experts (UNGGIM) and the Intergovernmental Group on Earth Observations (GEO).

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