Statement of The Prime Minister on The Occasion of The Launching of The National HRD Plan
PORT VILA, Dec 2, 2020:: Since independence, successive Vanuatu governments have aspired to the development of a national plan that would provide a strategic framework to guide more efficient investments in education and training. Up until today, that aspiration has not been realized. The National HRD plan being launched today, complements the National Sustainable Development Plan ( NSDP). Its purpose, is to ensure that available resources for post-school education and training are directly targeted to meet NSDP objectives and skills demand in the Vanuatu labor market. At this point it is important to reflect on the goal and objective which guided the government's development of the NSDP.
· A vibrant cultural identity underpinning a peaceful, just and inclusive society ;
· Responsive and capable state institutions delivering quality public services, including health and education, to all citizens;
· A pristine natural environment on land and at sea that serves our food, cultural, economic and ecologic needs;
· Enhanced resilience and adaptive capacity to climate change and natural disasters; areas
The government recognize that within the resources available, the achievement of National Development Goals will not be easy, and that people expect limited government resources to be put to better use.
· Parents expect better quality education for their children, not just formal learning but life skills and vocational training to prepare them for work.
· There is the need to improve the quality and distribution of healthcare facilities, and for better access to essential services and utilities such as modern energy sources, safe drinking water, sanitation, transport and Telecommunications.
· Strengthened institutional capacity is essential and public officials must be equipped to serve the needs of citizens in both rural areas and rapidly growing urban centre, related to this, the term of reference for all technical advisers and consultants must include transfer of skills to ni-Vanuatu counterparts as a key deliverable.
· Vanuatu need to capitalize on the rapid advances in technology and innovation that can complement traditional knowledge and better use our natural assets on land at sea.
· Traditional knowledge and practices, particularly in relation to food production and preservation, need to be maintained.
· Sustainable and equitable growth requires the creation of decent jobs and other income earning opportunities, especially for our young people.
· We must value and grow both the formal and informal sectors of the economy so that no one is left behind.
However, national goals for social and cultural development and economic growth cannot be achieved without concerted, and specifically targeted investment in education and skills development. The National HRD Plan being launched today is designed to guide investments in post school education and training over the coming decade. Based on the comprehensive research included in the technical report which accompanies the National HRD Plan, there is evidence of a clear mismatch between the skills and qualification of the current labor force and the skills and qualification that are needed to meet skills demand in both the private and public sectors.
The research points to the need for more ni-Vanuatu with skills and qualification related to managers, professionals and particularly technicians and associate professionals. While the government's scholarship program has generally targeted these occupation types, the award of scholarship has, until recently, been supply driven. That is, awards have been determined on the basis of student interest, and available university places, rather than on national development objectives and labor market demand. As a result, there is evidence of an oversupply of some professions, and an undersupply of others.
importantly, over many year, a high proportion of the budget available for post school education and training has been allocated for scholarship awarded to USP and other international universities and colleges. While the high investment in international scholarship has generated many benefits for Vanuatu over the years, there remains significant skill shortages in critical areas.
Based on research findings, there is the need for the scholarship program to respond better to the high demand, in both the private and public sector, for people with technician and associate professional level, skills and qualifications. Significantly, with increased investment and capacity strengthening of national providers, there is opportunity to increase the level and type of scholarship delivered locally.
This approach, would not only see the improvement of national capacity to deliver higher level qualifications, it would also reduce the cost of individual scholarship, and enable greater access for more ni-Vanuatu students to benefit from the government's scholarship program. It would also reduce the pressure on foreign currency reserves because of reduced external payments to foreign universities and other international services providers in other words , a form of important substitution.
This is not to suggest that scholarship to international universities will no longer be required. There will be continuing need to provide relevant types of scholarship in areas beyond the capacity of national providers to deliver. But, it is suggesting better, more strategic, and evidence based targeting of government education and training investments. Aligned to national development objectives, the National HRD provides mechanism to guide strategic funding allocation for international and national scholarship, for national PSET providers, and for other support agencies such as the tertiary education directorate in the Department of Education and Training, and the Vanuatu Qualification Authority.
As part of its strategic approach for more efficient and effective use of scarce resource, the government has a long term vision for the establishment of a Vanuatu National University. Works is already well advanced to create enabling legislation that will facilitate the rationalization of all public, post school education and training colleges and institutions, under a single administration.
Based on the research, the National HRD Plan envisages that over the short to mid-term , given the current capacity of public providers, and the high level of skill demand for technician and associate professionals, that the new institute will be more a polytechnic in nature with the capacity to deliver some degree programs ( for example nursing and teaching ) but with a focus more on diploma and higher level certificate qualifications.
The establishment of a new institute, perhaps called the Vanuatu Polytechnic Institute, is a crucial development towards improving the post school education and training system, and capacity to better respond to public and private sector skills shortages. The new institute will reduce costs through efficiencies of a single administration and greater economics of scale. It will improve coordination and mo flexible delivery of programs across multiple campuses. Institutional autonomy will foster better response to incentive mechanism that promote the institute's overall performance.
While it is an outstanding achievement to now have Vanuatu's first National HRD Plan, it will mean little, unless the mechanisms are in place to ensure its effective implementation. In this regards the Board of the Vanuatu Qualification Authority has a pivotal role to ensure that hard question are systematically asked, whenever post school education and training investment decision are being considered.
Chaired by the Director General of the Ministry of Education and training, and comprised of senior representative from finance, economics and all the productive sector departments, together with senior private sector representative, the VQA board has legislated accountability for high level advice to government through the Ministry of Education and training, and for the overall performance of a demand drive post school education and training system.
In conclusion, the government clearly recognizes, through its development of the National HRD Plan, The significance of better targeted investment in post school education and training. The government is committed to work diligently over the next decade to ensure expanded opportunities are provided for ni-Vanuatu students to access and gain the skill and qualification that, will maximize their opportunities for employment and productive lives, while at the same time, contribute to national social, cultural and economic development.
Finally, I would like to acknowledge the work of the department of strategic Policy and Planning for the initiative and leadership that has led to the National HRD Plan that we are launching today. I would also like to thank all those public and private sector individuals and organization who gave of their valuable time, insights and data during the research phase of the plan's development .
Thank you Ministry of Education and training for being a good collaborative partner in the development of this plan. I would especially like of to acknowledge the contribution of the Australian government which, through the resources the Governance for growth program and the Vanuatu skills partnership, provided the resources that have made the preparation and publishing of the National HRD Plan possible.
I commend the National HRD Plan to all relevant agencies and look forward to a coordinated and well considered approach to its implementation in the best interests of the people of Vanuatu over the next ten years. Thank you for your attention