Changes in education

MOST practising teachers of this country have shared with colleagues, parents as well as raised with their unions, their concerns about many changes imposed on Fiji’s primary and secondary schools’ education.

Educationists long involved over the years with Fiji’s educational system, have also articulated what they perceive to be a disturbing trend which if not arrested immediately, will only bring greater confusion to students, teachers and parents and seriously erode the quality of Fiji’s education.

The issues are the many decisions unilaterally made at headquarters that result in changes that are a significant departure from past policies, procedures and sound educational doctrines.

Changes are all right if done correctly. I believe these changes, however, have been sudden nor were they the outcome of careful research, testing and thorough consultations nor had involved the participation of and approval of stakeholders or involved contribution of experienced Pacific education experts nor the people of Fiji through an Education Commission.

Furthermore, I believe these major changes were done without due consultations nor negotiated with those delivering education on the ground – the teachers.

I believe these are essential requirements through which many teachers while studying educational administration and education psychology at university, were taught to be fundamental tenets of a good educational system.

To name a few:

* interfering with curriculum issues before its mandated life span when a curriculum review/evaluation is normally undertaken and changes made, eg, the ministry unilaterally decided to shift the coverage of all subject syllabi of examination classes in primary school from a three school term learning period to two terms;

* many primary school ministry set public examinations/assessments (eg LANA Class 4, Class 6, Class 7 and Class 8);

* further, having the security of examination papers set by the ministry compromised by treating it casually, that is, by having schools download them from the ministry’s website and photocopying them;

* shifting the responsibility of administering the setting of examination papers from the Examination Office to CDU;

* lowering the entry salary bar of teachers without due negotiation with their union representatives as per past procedures; and

* teachers were given about $10,000 while newly recruited nurses enjoy a $18,000 per annum entry level salary after training. Even the new budget offers an entry level of only up to $16,000.

It is only fair to say that all education ministers would like to see that they achieve quality education for all, on their watch and I know that the current Education Minister is no exception.

However, while there may be different pathways to achieving that goal, certain fundamental principles can never change as they are the determinants of students’ learning and teachers’ ability to perform so as to provide the required learning outcomes.

I believe no education system should depart from sound educational psychology of learning theories which have stood the test of time and had been the basis of our curriculum; teaching methodologies and student assessments over time.

Students’ social, cultural, economic environment, group dynamics and teachers’ satisfaction significantly impact on learning.

Disregard these and students will not be able to perform as expected as these factors explain students’ behaviour and teachers’ outcomes.

I recommend an Education Commission to review/evaluate our primary, secondary and tertiary educational system or a commissioned national needs analysis survey for each level of education.

  1. Source: Fiji Times. Date: November 28, 2015