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By Shoma Prasad and Shivanjani Naidu

SUVA, Fiji Islands (April 25, 2002 - Wansolwara Online-USP Journalism/Pasifik Nius)---Pacific Islanders must keep abreast of the rapidly growing "knowledge industry" or risk being relegated to the lower rungs of the new world economy, warns Professor Rajesh Chandra, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of the South Pacific.

In his opening address for the joint 2002 Institute of Education (IOE) advisory seminar and donors' meeting at the Laucala campus in Suva yesterday, Prof. Chandra said that in order to be globally competitive, the emphasis should be on higher education, with value added activities.

The growth of knowledge societies has major implications for island societies, he said

"The best way to compete with the rest of the world is to collaborate and form a partnership in order to make best use of scarce resources and represent the most progressive ways of operating in a highly networked world," he said.

The seminar, which ends tomorrow, has representation of high level-permanent secretaries and directors of education from the 12 member countries, including host Fiji.

Discussions have centered on IOE'S capability to assist with educational development in the region and decide on high priority issues that will be addressed in regional projects mounted by the IOE.

Other donor organizations from AusAID, DFID, UNICEF and UNDP are to produce a matrix of donor activity in education in the region with briefing from each member countries on current educational projects.

Thanking the donors for the Basic Education and Literacy Support Project -- UNDP, UNESCO, UNICEF, AUSAID, NZODA and IOE -- Prof. Chandra said: "The project was very successful in meeting its objectives.

"The requirements of Education for All are understandably focusing the attention of donors and government on basic education.

"However, the World Bank and UNESCO have recently warned countries that higher education should not be neglected.

"We must pursue a balanced educational strategy in order to ensure that the Pacific Islands can deal effectively with the revolutionary changes in information and communication technologies."

He highlighted the fact that all the major world reports dealing with development in the last five years have been trying to emphasize the transformation of the world economy and society into knowledge societies.

Quoting from the World Bank and UNESCO Task Force, Prof. Chandra said that without human capital, countries would inevitably fall behind and experience intellectual and economic marginalization and the result would be continuing, if not rising, poverty.

In his speech, Prof. Chandra revealed that except for countries like the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu, all the Pacific Islands were meeting the targets set for education, where participation rates for primary and secondary schools were very good.

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