18.12.2012 - UNESCO Office in Apia

Tonga Education for Sustainable Development Workshop

ESD workshop © Tonga National Commission for UNESCO

The Tonga National Commission for UNESCO, Tonga’s Ministry for Education & Training and UNESCO hosted a three day workshop on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) from 21-23 November in Nuku’alofa.

Tonga was the first country in the Pacific to formally launch ESD in 2007 and a number of ESD activities have been happening in the formal education sector. This workshop was an opportunity for the Ministry and other education partners to come together and talk about how ESD should move forward in the coming 1-2 years.

The workshop was opened by the Hon Dr Ana, Minister for Education & Training and Chairperson of the Tonga National Commission for UNESCO. The Hon Minister provided an overview of how ESD has developed in the Pacific and some of the key work that has been undertaken in Tonga.

This includes the seminal work undertaken by Dr Seu’ula Johansson-Fua and Dr Stan Manu of the University of the South Pacific’s Institute of Education, which found that Tongans had very clear ideas of what constitutes sustainable livelihoods. They readily identified the values, skills, and knowledge, which are required to achieve sustainable livelihoods in the Tongan context. The erosion of those values, which underpin the life and behaviours of Tongans and communities, also result in material poverty. A full copy of the Minister’s speech can be downloaded from 'Taimi Tonga' (www.taimionline.com).

Workshop participants came from the Ministry of Education & Training, several other ministries who conduct educational and awareness programs, as well as the community and private sector. Key themes for focusing ESD efforts in Tonga were agreed as Tongan language and culture, healthy lifestyles and sustainable livelihoods.

Pacific countries in general all place great emphasis on culture in their ESD programs, and Tonga has already worked to introduce a much greater amount of cultural content into school programs and strengthen the use of Tongan language in education.

Complementing these three focal areas, the participants proposed that Tonga could trial a “whole school approach” to ESD and Principals from several primary schools present at the workshop expressed their interest in this. The schools would develop an annual program based around a series of sustainability themes and work with government, community and private sector partners to develop school activities around these themes including special events, lesson content, competitions and exchanges between the schools.

Other proposals include the development of a Tongan Language glossary for ESD and also ongoing mapping of ESD activities in-country. This will assist to further build and connect the many on-going ESD activities already underway in Tonga.

It was further proposed that the documentation of the trial could be part of the Pacific’s contribution to the Global ESD Conference scheduled for 2014.

The workshop report will be added to the UNESCO website once approved by the Minister of Education & Training. For further information contact apia(at)unesco.org.

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