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Pacific Research in Inclusive and Specialist Education

Overview of Our Research

Pacific Research in Inclusive and Specialist Education (PRISE) are a team of experienced inclusive development practitioners and professional development providers with broad knowledge and expertise in working in the Pacific.  Our philosophy is to create capacity to ensure sustainable improved practices in partnership with communities and stakeholders.

Within our range of skills and abilities and professional knowledge, we bring: research and evaluation capability; current evidence-based professional development to inform teacher practice; a global best practice understanding of inclusive education; experience of working inside Pacific classrooms; and working with Pacific educators that overtly reflect and respect the local education context.

The PRISE logo below was gifted from Samoan Māori tattoo artist Xander Temoananuiakiwa.

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The PRISE team

Who we are

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Dr Angela Page


Dr Angela Page is an experienced educational psychologist and special education teacher who has worked as an inclusive education advisor in New Zealand, Australia Asia and Pacific countries such as Indonesia, the Philippines, the Republic of Nauru, Tuvalu, Fiji, the Cook Islands, and Vanuatu. Her research and practice interests are focused in addressing the needs of marginalised children and youth within new and emerging contexts within the Asia-Pacific region. Her approach to this work is to apply principles of working in partnership by promoting local knowledge and practices that are already known to be effective in each context and then to add strength to these existing methods.

Dr Joanna Anderson 


Joanna Anderson (PhD) is a Senior Lecturer in inclusive education in the School of Education, University of New England, Australia. She has a growing research profile and her areas of interest include inclusive education in pacific contexts, school leadership and inclusive education, and inclusive education in new build schools, and the ethical and moral considerations of inclusive education. Joanna has worked in the pacific alongside education departments and teachers to develop inclusive education policies and practices, and has published in this area. She is part of a committed team of academics working to support nations to develop and implement culturally responsive inclusive education policy and practice. Previously, Joanna worked for more than twenty years as a teacher and school leader across primary and secondary settings in both Australia and New Zealand.

Associate Professor Jennifer Charteris


Associate Professor Jennifer Charteris is an experienced researcher.  Jennifer’s research interests span fields of professional learning and school learning environments.  As a teacher educator with teaching experience in Aotearoa/New Zealand, Australia and the UK, Jennifer has worked with principals, teachers, students, school communities, and professional learning providers across the primary, secondary and tertiary sectors.

Her international work promotes fosters professional practice leading to school improvement. In 2018 she provided professional learning for the Government of Tuvalu as part of the Teacher Professional Learning Project (University of New England). Jennifer was in Tuvalu for a period of one month. She  conducted a total of 13 workshops and visited classrooms in two schools, undertaking teacher observations and providing feedback to assist with embedding effective classroom practice.

Professor Susan Ledger


Professor Susan Ledger is Head of School - Dean of Education at the University of Newcastle. Susan is a dedicated educator, researcher and advocate for the teaching profession who has a passion for connecting people, places and projects. Susan has had a range of educational experiences in both primary, secondary and tertiary settings around the globe. Susan's current research interests intersect three research fields: policies and practices related to teacher education; preparing to teach in diverse contexts (international & remote); and the use of mixed reality simulations to better prepare students for these contexts.

Professor Christopher Boyle


Christopher Boyle, PhD is a Professor of Inclusive Education and Psychology at the University of Adelaide. He is a Fellow of the British Psychological Society and a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. He was previously Editor in Chief of The Educational and Developmental Psychologist (2012-2017) and is currently the co-founding editor of the new journal Belonging and Human Connection launched in 2022. He is an internationally recognised and respected academic and author on the subjects of inclusive education, and psychology. Chris has various experiences in the Pacific region – he is an Adjunct Professor in the School of Education at the University of Fiji, has collaborated on research in the Cook Islands with Dr Angela Page, is an invited member of the Fiji Higher Education Commission External Reference Group, and has been involved in the development of the Nauru Inclusive Education Policy. He is a registered psychologist in the UK and Australia.

Dr Jo Mosen

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Dr Jo Mosen has extensive experience in inclusive development across the Asia Pacific region. Her work spans disability inclusion in education programs, gender and disability sensitivity in curriculum development, disability rights and the intersectionality of disability and gender in development programming. She also has skills in research and evaluation relevant to informing an evidence-based understanding of the lived experience of marginalised groups in developing contexts. Joanne’s work is underpinned by a rights-based approach with empowerment of people with a disability at the forefront of her work, ensuring opportunities for capacity building and meaningful inclusion. Jo is an Adjunct Senior Lecturer at the University of Newcastle supporting research and co-supervision of PhD candidates across the Pacific in inclusive education.

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Our Work

Current Projects and Publications

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Inclusive Education Project in Vanuatu Schools and the Community 2022

Inclusive Education Project in Vanuatu schools and community.

The PRISE team are working alongside the Ministry of Education and Training in Vanuatu, supported by two University of Newcastle's in-country PhD students. The project involves assessing the local community's views of how inclusive education should develop, and ways in which community, schools and students attitudes affect this development.

The PhD topics are:

Attitudes of Ni-Vanuatu towards inclusive education in the 6 provincial inclusive model schools.


A response to dyslexia in the Pacific Island of Vanuatu.

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Education Support for Teaching Students with Disabilities in the Pacific 2022

We are currently developing tailored education support professional development courses across five Pacific countries. We are going to conduct a pilot programme in Samoa later in 2022. The course will be accredited under the UN umbrella and addresses SDG4 goals that aim to ensure the delivery of a quality education for all.

This project is supported by two University of Newcastle in-country PhD students from: 

Fiji - Strengthening Support towards our Pacific teachers in special and inclusive school settings.


the Solomon Islands - From policy to practice: a community-based framework to identify and include children with disability in mainstream schools in the Solomon Islands.

This Project is also supported by a grant from the University of Newcastle: SDG Related Research Grants.

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Inclusive Education for Children who are Blind in Vanuatu 2022

The purpose of this research is to better understand the educational experience of children who are blind, and their families.

Specific aims of the project are to:

  • Raise awareness of the current situation for children who are blind in Vanuatu

  • Identify and describe barriers to schooling for children who are blind in Vanuatu

  • Identify and describe a way forward to improve access to schooling for children who are blind in Vanuatu

This project is supported by a grant from South Pacific Educators in Vision Impairment.

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Other Pacific Publications

References and Links to Papers by PRISE Authors

Pacific Inclusive Education model: Addressing dichotomies to ensure positive outcomes.


The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) offers a global blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for every person, through universal action to address social, economic, and environmental inequity and inequality (United Nations Development Programme, 2021). For educators, SDG Goal 4 aims to ensure an equitable quality education that promotes lifelong learning opportunities and this goal has been endorsed by Pacific United Nations States in order to pave the road towards an inclusive education for all (UNESCO, 2018). We wish to argue, however, that attempting to meet global development goals for inclusive education is fundamentally problematic because of the nuances of the regions and contexts. For example, Pacific states,might better benefit from its own inclusive education trajectory that reflects individual contexts and understanding of distinct educational complexities. We propose the alignment of the global goals that positions local discourses of knowledge, values and understanding alongside inclusive education frameworks. The Pacific Disability Model offers a third space for disability discussions and actions that intersects global and local policy and practice binaries. By doing so, it is hoped that an inclusive approach to education can reach its potential for all, and particularly, students with disabilities in Pacific nations.

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Other Publications

References and links to other Pacific-related papers by PRISE authors

Creating inclusive classrooms in the Pacific region: Working in partnership with teachers in the Republic of Nauru to develop inclusive practices


Inclusive education can be viewed as an ongoing active process or journey that is impacted by changes in policy, practices, and values (Anderson & Boyle, 2020). This “journey toward inclusion” is not always an easy undertaking, but rather a progression that requires modification to systems, structures, and functioning in schools. Nauru, a small Pacific republic situated in the Micronesian central Pacific Ocean, has worked in partnership with Australian education providers since 2011 to improve educational learning experiences for all Nauruan students. More recently, initiatives by the Nauru Government resulted in the commissioning of a national project to develop a Nauru policy on inclusive education and also to deliver professional development for teachers that would be needed to support inclusion. Inclusive education staff at the University of England, Australia, guided the development of the project which culminated in the Nauru Inclusive Education Policy and Guidelines (2017) (Page, 2018). From this policy, a series of workshops were delivered on unpacking the policy directions, guidelines, and roles and responsibilities for teaching staff in Nauru. This chapter describes the university staff who are working in collaboration with Nauruan teachers in order to develop their capacity to create inclusive classrooms. In doing so, we embraced approaches that incorporated culturally responsive practices into our work, using the framework of Ekereri (educational approaches that embody the core values of Nauruan culture) into our practices. With this chapter, we hope to further the understanding of how contextual factors influence the collaboration and implementation of educational partnerships between culturally distinctive groups of people.

Culturally responsive pedagogy for sustainable quality education in the Cook Islands setting


The provision of a culturally responsive pedagogy is considered to be an important part of delivering a quality education that is ongoing and able to be sustained over time in Pacific developing nations. A quality sustainable education is considered to encourage cultural inclusivity, policy and curriculum practices in schools. By ensuring an inclusive and quality education, education can serve as a powerful vehicle for wider sustainable economic development in the Pacific region. To meet this end, United Nations Pacific signatories pledged support for the educational goal, endorsing an inclusive and equitable quality education for all that promotes relevant learning.
The implementation of culturally relevant teaching and learning environments have long remained a challenge for Pacific nations. In order to realise a sustainable quality education, the question that needs to be asked is: what does sustainable education look like in Pacific regions? This paper explores how the tivaevae as a culturally responsive pedagogy model creates opportunities for a sustainable education and curriculum in the Pacific region and, in turn, contributes to an inclusive and quality education.

Culturally responsive inclusive education: The value of the local context.


This study investigates the effectiveness of a professional development initiative in inclusive education for teachers who support students with disabilities at the Creative Centre. The Creative Centre is a private school providing educational services for post-secondary school young people and adults with disabilities. Staff (N = 5) at the Centre were interviewed before and after the proposed professional development program, reporting on their reflective practices. The results indicated that staff shifted towards a more positive attitude towards students and reported stronger support for the advocacy for disability and community connectedness. Additionally, staff described the significance of embedding life skills into programs for students with disabilities. The article provides a juxtaposing narrative of the journey of the project. The outcomes of the project illustrate how the local culture and context is required to realise the success of effective culturally responsive inclusive education.

Parent and teacher attitudes towards inclusive education in Nauru


It is recognised that the attitudes of parents and teachers are important in supporting inclusive education in developing countries. This study involved the application of quantitative research through the adminis- tration of a survey to determine the attitudes of parents and teachers in the Republic of Nauru. The results have provided preliminary data regarding attitudes related to the emergence of inclusive education in Nauru. Parents were more positive concerning issues that relate directly to the educational benefits of their children over more general benefits of inclusion in education. At this stage, teachers report higher levels of positive attitude than parents. A more fine-grained level of analysis revealed that there is a wide range of attitudes to aspects of education for students with disabilities, and areas of expertise needed to support inclusive education. This research has provided an understanding of current parental and teacher attitudes and levels of existing teacher expertise towards inclusion that is able to inform future policy development in Nauru.

A critical view of female aggression and the implications of gender, culture and a changing society: A Cook Islands perspective


The form and function of female aggression have been for many years an important social issue that demands investigation. Many studies of female aggression have focused on the perpetration and victimization of girls and young women from western countries. As a result, existing theoretical models and empirical foundations of girls' aggression are based on these defining constructs. The purpose of this article is twofold. The present study of adolescent females in the Cook Islands seeks to understand the role that perpetrators play in the type and the target of aggressive behaviour. It also examines the qualitative findings of girls' aggressive behaviour by boys, girls and their teachers and its gendered relationship inside the Cook Islands environment. The outcomes inspect the cultural context of girls in the Cook Islands that make their understanding and experiences of physical aggression and relational aggression unique and highlight the difficulties of young women positioned themselves between Cook Islands traditional values and asserting their contemporary Cook Islands' identity. The discussion highlights that aggression by girls in the Cook Islands is derived from a particular past and present that can in turn shape understandings of addressing aggression in the future.

Classroom behavior management in the Pacific: Developing an approach to create meaningful shifts in teacher thinking


A child’s unproductive behavior can detriment their own and others’ learning. Thus, it is neces- sary for school staff to implement some form of effective classroom management to ensure stu- dents are engaged in their educational tasks. At the extreme end of classroom management is the disciplinary teacher approaches of corporal pun- ishment. Once common, it is now banned in most classrooms around the world; however, the per- centage of students reporting to be subject to corporal punishment is still as high as 40% in some South Pacific countries (Gershoff 2017). If it were effective at maintaining appropriate student behavior, school corporal punishment would be expected to predict better learning and achievement among students, yet there is no evidence that school corporal punishment has a positive effect on children’s learning in the
classroom (Gershoff 2017). Although corporal punishment is prohibited, globally, classroom behavior management philosophies have persisted with the notion that errant student behavior could best be overcome using less puni- tive but equally authoritative methods such as giving detentions, suspensions, and exclusions. Specifically, in the South Pacific, many nations share similarities, however, are also distinctly dif- ferent, from this trending narrative. On the one hand, despite shifts in thinking across Pacific law- making, the dominant discourse that persists in local schools is that classroom behavior manage- ment remains predominantly punitive. In contrast, the growing strength and positioning of indige- nous research methods (Panapa 2014) in the Pacific have encouraged an alternative discourse of the child that challenges traditional thinking. Children are described in different terms: to be nurtured, loved, and valued and to receive an education that creates meaning in their lives and connects with their community. This student-cen- tric approach lends itself to the development of classroom management practices that align with recent Pacific school policies and laws that ban corporal punishment and discourage punitive management strategies. The reasons for the policy to professional practice gaps must be explored to possibilize complementary approaches to class- room behavior management in Pacific Island schools that enables effective student learning.

How the Tivaevae Model can be Used as an Indigenous Methodology in Cook Islands Education Settings


This paper explores an Indigenous research methodology, the tivaevae model, and its application within the Cook Islands education system. The article will argue that the cultural values embedded within its framework allow for the successful implementation of this Indigenous methodology. The model draws from tivaevae, or artistic quilting, and is both an applique process and a product of the Cook Islands. It is unique to the Cook Islands and plays an important part in the lives of Cook Islanders. The tivaevae model will be explained in detail, describing how patchwork creative pieces come together to create a story and can be used as a metaphor of the past, present and future integration of social, historical, spiritual, religious, economic and political representations of Cook Island culture. Further, the paper will then make links with the model to teaching and learning, by exploring secondary schools’ health and physical education policy and practices. Finally, the efficacy of the model in this context and its research implications will then be discussed.

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