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USP program includes 700 Pacific-wide scholars

NUKU΄ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Jan. 30, 2010) - THE Institute of Education (IOE) of the University of the South Pacific (USP), has found a new home at Tonga's USP Campus, at 'Atele, on Tongatapu.

In a special ceremony on Thursday, January 28, the Director of the Tonga USP Campus Dr. 'Ana Koloto formally announced the relocation of the IOE from the USP Suva Campus, and welcomed Dr. 'Ana Taufe'ulungaki, as the new director of the Institute of Education.

Dr. 'Ana Taufe'ulungaki a Tongan academic who has been working under contract with the World Bank, advising Tonga's Ministry of Education, was chosen by the USP to take over from Associate Professor Kabini Sanga from the Solomon Islands who has just completed a three-years term as the Director of IOE.

The new IOE office is on the top floor of the USP Tonga Campus administrative building and Dr. 'Ana Koloto expressed her joy at having the IOE and Dr. 'Ana Taufe'ulungaki as a neighbor.

Dr. Koloto has been the director of the Tonga Campus for a year and said she was very happy with some of the latest developments at the campus, which included a three year Master of Education program that has been launched and with an unexpected very high enrollment of 31 students, mostly high schools' teachers from both government and church schools.

Mana Latu, a former director of Tonga's Ministry of Education and an adviser to the USP Tonga Campus in a speech during a special luncheon to mark the occasion, recalled when he used to visit USP campuses in other island countries which hosted USP institutes or schools. He said he used to look at these institutions with envy for Tonga to have something like that, "and today we have Dr. 'Ana Taufe'ulungaki and the Institute of Education."

Dr. 'Ana Taufe'ulungaki promised that there will be radical changes to the role of IOE on education systems in the region, saying that the vision of the IOE is "to be a regional hub of excellence in Pacific education."

Dr. Seu'ula Johannson Fua, who assisted Dr 'Ana Taufe'ulungaki said that the core activities of the IOE are to carry out research, give advice, offer training and to publish works.

Seu'ula elaborated on the radical changes that Dr. 'Ana Taufe'ulungaki mentioned, that it was an ideal that scholars, including the late Prof 'Epeli Hau'ofa and Pro. Konai Thaman had been talking about since 2000.

"The Vaka Pasifiki philosophy. The idea is to bring Pacific and Tongan culture into the classroom, and make education more relevant. After a kid finishes Form Five in Tonga he can't get a job, so the effort is to make education relevant."

Dr. Seu'ulua Johannson Fua said that the IOE had been self funded since 2000, and with about 700 Pacific island scholars networking they were setting up themselves as the only institution in the region that can carry out quality research and consultation work.

He said that some of the income that the institution gets from the research and consultation work that they have carried out is used to fund other projects. He was optimistic that there was a lot of work to be done but the IOE must maintain a quality standard.

Already one of the local research work that the institute had carried out was for the compilation of the Tonga Police Force's new Strategic Plan 2009-2013. Siu'ulua said that for this task they hired Dr. 'Ana Koloto and 40 field researchers from the USP.

Another new local project that they had signed up for is a research into diabetics in Tonga, which is funded from a Coronation Fund that was set up with earnings from the coronation.

Dr. Seu'ulua Johannson Fua believed that the IOE will benefit Tonga in many ways. "There will be regional meetings, which can bring many visitors to Tonga and we can also recruit Tongan scholars to carry out either consultation works or research work. The most important point here is that we have to maintain a very high standard. We would not hire a scholar to do a certain task simply because he is a Tongan. We will bring in the best person for the job."

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