Let’s re-imagine education: Tonga boosts efforts to ensure all its children are able to access quality education

11 August 2022
Children playing in playground.

Nuku’alofa, TONGA, 11 August 2022 – “If we possess and action our four pillars of Tongan values (Faa‘i Kavei Koula) to re-imagine education, everything balances itself out and us, as children, are able to equally access quality education. It is great that we, the children, are part of the transforming education process in Tonga,” said Nafetalai, 17.

This week, the Kingdom of Tonga’s Ministry of Education and Training will join stakeholders and partners to convene the first national dialogue on ‘transforming education’.

Being held across the Pacific countries, these national dialogues preface the United Nations (UN) Transforming Education Summit (TES), which will take place in September 2022, convened by the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, during the 77th UN General Assembly in New York.

Aimed at mobilizing political ambition and solidarity to truly transform education and take stock of pandemic-related learning losses, this national dialogue is the crucial first step that will ensure Tongan voices are heard at a global level, and result in educational transformations at the national level through policy changes and aligned UN system plans.

“One of the pertinent issues that is impacting education in Tonga is the changing family structure and circumstances of students. The teachers and resources of today’s classroom need to be transformed to address these social changes, which is why this has been identified as a critical theme for the national consultation,” said the Chief Executive Officer for Education, Dr. Tangikina Moimoi Steen.

Due to COVID-19, over 32,000 Tongan school children lost over approximately 510 hours each of in-person learning as a result of the 17-week lockdown and the recent natural disasters. While great efforts were made to provide school children with access to remote learning, the shift has been associated with a learning loss, especially for those who are marginalized and vulnerable.

“Investment into education is crucial for the creation of peace, tolerance, and sustainable development. We hope these national consultations will see broad participation and robust dialogue. This marks the beginning of a long process which centralizes inclusion, and with further consultations after the Summit next month, we look forward to the voices of Tongans truly being included in global plans for strengthened education systems,” said the UN Resident Coordinator to Fiji, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu, Sanaka Samarasinha.

“Children have already lost more than an estimated 16 million hours of in-person learning during the pandemic. We need to not only get back on track but transform education to ensure every child in Tonga is able to claim their right to quality education, no matter what national or global emergency comes in the way,” said UNICEF Pacific’s Representative, Jonathan Veitch.

“UNICEF is pleased to be working with the Ministry of Education and Training, as well as our partners, in this community dialogue process that will ensure that the education system can meet the longer-term aspirations of our children,” he added.

This national summit aims to redress this balance and ensure that all children can continuously access inclusive and quality learning in the country. The outcome of the summit will be a National Statement of Commitment outlining Tonga’s plans to transform education and accelerate progress towards Sustainable Development Goal 4. This Statement will be submitted for the Transforming Education Summit in New York.

“Education in Tonga has come a long way in the last 15 years. To ensure the education system remains agile and responsive, multi stakeholder participation in determining the key strategic policy priorities, directions and investments is critical. UNESCO sees the engagement of youth, institutional leadership, and initiatives for lifelong learning among all Tongans and partnerships that the Ministry of Education and Training is able to establish for quality education at primary, secondary tertiary and higher education levels as critical for sustainable development of the country,” said the Director of UNESCO Office for the Pacific, Nisha.

Accessible and inclusive quality education is a core commitment for Tonga. The Ministry is facilitating this dialogue approach with the community to agree on priority actions to further leverage education in the country.

The national summit on transforming education in Tonga is led by the Ministry of Education and Training, and supported by the UN Resident Coordinator’s Office, UNICEF as well as UNESCO.


Notes to Editors:

For more about the Transforming Education Summit and to participate using variety of options, please visit sdg4education2030.org. To share ideas and feedback about the TES process, please write at tes@unesco.org

About the Kingdom of Tonga’s Ministry of Education and Training:

The Ministry of Education and Training is the largest Ministry in the Kingdom. Currently, it is under the leadership of the Honourable Prime Minister, Honourable Hu‘akavameiliku, who is also the Minister for Education. The Ministry endeavours to provide quality education for approximately 32,000 students, from early childhood education through to higher secondary.

About RCO:

UN multi-country engagement in the Pacific is led by three Resident Coordinators and a Joint UN Country Team linked across three regional hubs, operating regionally out of Fiji, Micronesia, and Samoa. There are five Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs) under the leadership of the Fiji Multi-Country Office (MCO) including Fiji, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.  


UNESCO, as a Specialized Agency of the United Nations System, sets norms and standards in the fields of education, natural and social human sciences, culture and communication and information. UNESCO provides global and regional leadership in education, strengthens education systems of its 193 Member States and 12 Associate Members for quality educational development from pre-school to higher education and beyond. UNESCO's Reimagining our futures together: A new social contract for education report is the key reference document for the Transforming Education Summit to recover from COVID-19 pandemic's impact on education, and to reimagine education systems for the world of today and tomorrow. For more: UNESCO Pacific Web; Facebook; YouTube; Twitter and Instagram.

For more information, please contact:

Dr. Tangikina Moimoi Steen, Ministry of Education and Training, Tel: +676 7400919, metceotonga@outlook.com

Dawn Gibson, UN Resident Coordinator’s Office, Tel: +679 998 2428, dawn.gibson@un.org

Sinaolevanu Sofa, UNESCO Office for the Pacific States, apia@unesco.org

Zubnah Khan, UNICEF Pacific, Tel: +679 9988137, zukhan@unicef.org

Media contacts

Zubnah Khan
Communication Officer
UNICEF Pacific
Tel: +679 330 0439 Ext. 175
Tel: 9988137


UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit https://www.unicef.org/pacificislands/

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