The 5th UNESCO Asia-Pacific Meeting on Education 2030 (5th APMED 2030) was convened in Bangkok, Thailand from 1st – 4th October 2019. I was privileged to be part of the Papua New Guinea (PNG) Department of Education’s (DoE) delegation which was approved by the UNESCO office in Port Moresby. I represented both the Government as the program leader of the PNG NRI’s Universal Basic Education Research Program as well as a representative of the PNG Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) under the PNG Education Advocacy Network (PEAN) being the vice-chair, and as the Pacific Islands’ representative on the Executive Council for Asia South Pacific Association for Basic and Adult education (ASPBAE).

The meeting brought together approximately 250 key stakeholders who were invited from relevant organizations within and outside the Asia-Pacific region. Those of us who were invited included government officials, non-governmental organizations and civil society organizations in Asia and the Pacific who are responsible for Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 planning, monitoring and statistics. In particular, technical level officials, including Education Management and Information Systems (EMIS).
The Asia-Pacific Meetings on Education 2030 have been convened annually since 2015. These meetings serve as a platform for education officials and development partners throughout the region to learn about the latest global and regional developments on SDG4 and to advance the ambitious Education 2030 Agenda. As part of the SDGs, the standalone goal on education, SDG4, aims to ‘ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’. SDG4 is transformative, holistic and inspirational and is at the heart of other SDGs whose focus areas are deeply rooted in and tied to education development including: eradicating poverty and hunger, improving health and well-being, tracking climate change, fostering peace and justice and ensuring full and productive employment and decent work for all.

The SDG4-Education 2030 agenda builds upon the achievement of Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 2 and the global goals of Education for All (EFA), the campaign, which ended in 2015. While EFA concentrated on Basic Education, Education 2030 is more holistic focusing on lifelong learning and universally applicable to all countries regardless of their development stages.

The overarching theme of 5th APMED 2030 was ‘delivering inclusive and equitable quality education in the era of lifelong learning and sustainable development’. The aim was to understand how member states are progressing towards implementing the SDG Targets 4.1 and 4.6 and to facilitate cross-national exchanges and sharing. The meeting was structured into two parts. Part One consisted of technical sessions that focused on SDG Targets 4.1 (ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes) and 4.6 (ensure that all youth and a substantial proportion of adults, both men and women, achieve literacy and numeracy). Participants in the meeting examined and discussed these targets from the perspectives of completion of free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective outcomes (SDG4.1) and youth and adult literacy (SDG4.6).

Sessions were divided into plenary sessions and concurrent breakout sessions for focused discussions and sharing organized around sub-themes identified under each target. Part Two was dedicated to a one-day meeting of SDG4 National Coordinators in Asia and the Pacific where they discussed the plans for (i) the 2nd Asia-Pacific Regional Education Ministers’ Conference in 2020 and (ii) the regional five-year progress review (5PR), among others.

As a member of the PNG DoE delegation, I was privileged to have the opportunity to have my say during one of the Plenary sessions on SDG 4.1 regarding PNG’s compulsory free education policy that is creating a lot of issues in PNG at the moment. During the parallel sessions, I had the opportunity to discuss PNG’s status on SDG 4.6 sharing the dilemma PNG faces with the increasing illiteracy rates among youths and adults.
Recommendations of the 5th APMED 2030 are currently being finalized.

The meeting was organized by UNESCO Asia and Pacific Regional Bureau for Education in Bangkok, UNICEF East Asia and Pacific Regional Office and UNICEF Regional Office for South Asia.