New Zealand Prime Minister John Key and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard Wednesday announced they were extending funding for language and literacy education across the Pacific.
They unveiled goals to ensure 500,000 more children in the Pacific were enrolled in school and 75 percent of all children in the region could read by age 10 by 2021.
An estimated 1 million school-aged children in the Pacific currently did not attend school, said a statement from Key.
New Zealand would provide 145 million NZ dollars (120.02 million U.S. dollars) and Australia 124.5 million AU dollars (131. 96 million U.S. dollars) in addition to existing funding over the next four years. New Zealand would also invest 122 million NZ dollars for scholarships and training over the same period.
Key said quality primary school education was vital to achieving the theme of the 42nd Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting, "Converting Potential into Prosperity."
New Zealand and Australia were committed to working with Pacific governments to address barriers to education, and make sure children were able to complete a minimum of six years of basic education, he said.
Gillard said Australia and New Zealand had agreed to focus on improving literacy and numeracy, better benchmarking of education systems and enhancing education management information systems to improve schooling for children across the Pacific.
Under the Cairns Compact for Development, New Zealand and Australia cooperate closely on aid and development in the Pacific and align their efforts.
The two leaders also announced Australia and New Zealand would each provide three post-graduate scholarships to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Forum.
The scholarships would be in areas aligned with the Pacific Plan economic growth, sustainable development, good governance, and security which were identified as major challenges to address so as to achieve better living standards, increase opportunity and stimulate economic growth across the Pacific.
The Pacific Islands Forum is an inter-governmental organization which aims to enhance cooperation between the independent countries of the Pacific Ocean and represent their interests. It was founded in 1971 as the South Pacific Forum and changed to Pacific Islands Forum in 2000.
The Forum's member states are Australia, the Cook Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.
Fiji was suspended from the Forum in May, 2009, after it failed to meet the deadline of announcing a general election date.