24 November 2021 0 Representatives from the PacREF Implementing Agencies listening in as the virtual PacREF learning event progresses. They were among the participants who attended in person at the Pacific Community's Nabua campus where EQAP is based. Good morning or good afternoon as the case may be. I am Michelle Belisle, Director of the Educational Quality and Assessment Programme of the Pacific Community and it gives me great pleasure to welcome you to the first-ever PacREF Sharing Learning event which will unfold over the next three days. The PacREF has been in the planning and starting stages for what feels like an eternity. From the time the ministers approved the plan in principle to now has been three and a half years. In that time, plans and timelines have been written and rewritten, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the face of how we work together, and we have spent countless hours, days and weeks planning, prioritising and revising a host of PacREF activities. It has only been a few months but the funding for the initial pieces of work has started to flow, first from MFAT and more recently through from GPE through the ADB channels. As a result, PacREF activities are getting underway in various forms. But you might ask yourselves, if we are just finally getting started, why on earth would we have a learning event now, before much has been done? I would argue that actually, a great deal has been done. The PacREF is unique, as we all know, in very many ways. It provides a road map for 12 years of work towards achieving education sector priorities and it is the first regional education plan in the Pacific that incorporates a costed work plan along with the identification of the priorities to be addressed. It also depends on partnership and collaboration among an incredible number of organizations, governments and individuals. In the year and a half from March 2020 until now, we have all started to get a real sense of what working collaboratively on an effort of this size really means. It has often been said that experience is the greatest teacher. I don’t know about the absolute truth of that, but I do know that when confronted with a new problem that requires action, we frequently think back over similar situations we have faced in the past and try to pull solutions together based on what worked and avoiding what may have failed. This workshop is full of individuals with experience related to all aspects of planning and beginning to implement the PacREF so, what did we learn about ourselves, about our relationships, about the context within the education sector in the Pacific, and about our efforts? More importantly, how can we take what we have learned, positive or negative, and apply it to our collective work? As we join in the various workshop activities over the next three days, I encourage you to think about what you have experienced over the time that you have been involved with the PacREF. When we share information and experiences, a number of things happen. Frequently, we learn that we are not alone in what we are experiencing, the challenges that are faced and the discoveries we make in overcoming those challenges. We also get a much clearer idea of perspectives that are different from our own which helps in creating a better understanding of what the data are telling us and why things are going the way they are. We also start to work collaboratively to suggest approaches to challenges. By doing so we are intuitively taking what we have collectively learned and applying it to make changes to be better able to implement the PacREF. This is a Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) event, and throughout the sessions we will be addressing each of those components – from the collecting of data to the evaluation of the evidence against indicators and finally to learning from what has transpired. When we ask ourselves the question, what might we have done differently?, it is not merely a reflection. PacREF activity is described in an Implementation Rolling Plan and the key word in that phrase is rolling. We will continue to collectively prioritise, plan, evaluate, adapt and implement as we move through the first phase of PacREF and the efforts needed to define, fund and implement the second and third phases will require ongoing inputs from all involved. The group gathered here today is diverse in terms of roles, experience, affiliations, and expertise. Each of you bring something significant, your wisdom, if you will, to the virtual table around which we are seated. I am reminded of a set of working assumptions that I learned about 20 years ago as part of a facilitation training course. The idea is that when we come together, to get the most out of our efforts, we need to keep these assumptions in mind: Everyone has wisdom No matter what your role or how long you have held it, you are here today because you bring a perspective, wisdom, about some aspect of the PacREF and your organisation. We need everyone’s wisdom for the wisest result so please share your thinking because the dissenting voice who has a different perspective from the majority is equally important and offers insights that help clarify the learning. It is only when we interact and make sense of the wisdom that each individual brings that we can synthesize our individual experiences and ideas into new knowledge that can guide future Everyone will have the opportunity to hear and be heard With a mix of plenary and breakout sessions and facilitated activities to focus the discussions, we want to ensure that the opportunities are there for all participants. There are no wrong answers but as a caveat to that, there are no right answers either. Everyone has wisdom so I invite you all to look to your experience with respect to PacREF and share your wisdom in the sessions that will take place over the next three days. I am certain that if we can do that, we will find that we can have a successful learning event and we can all gain from the experience both as organisations and individually.