16 Jul 2005

US says Pacific Islanders need to prioritise education

8:24 am on 16 July 2005

US deputy assistant secretary of the Interior Department David Cohen has called on Pacific Island parents to be as committed to their children's education as Asian parents are to theirs.

Mr Cohen was speaking to more than a thousand educators from US-affiliated islands in the region who have been meeting this week at the 22nd annual Pacific Educational Conference in the Marshall Islands capital, Majuro.

He says he's afraid that people in the Pacific don't truly value education, and that the job of Pacific educators is to change this.

Mr Cohen, who is part Samoan, also says that the US government, which provides millions of dollars in aid to its affiliated islands, won't tolerate waste and abuse of US taxpayers' money designed for education.

Mr Cohen says the Pacific as a whole is far behind other regions in education and it's not catching up.

He says parents need to give greater priority to their children's education.

He says that islanders are competing with cultures that will do anything necessary to see their children graduate, and won't let money, funerals or customary obligations interfere with graduation.