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Opinion

‘Education is expensive’

December 24
12:00 2010

Written By : SOURCE: MINISTRY OF EDUCATION. Ni sa bula. The exposition last week delved on Primary Education in which the Minister for Education Filipe Bole said that the major goals of primary education are for children to become literate and numeracy-skilled.
In addition, children are directed towards the basics of science, social science and arts subjects.
Today, we are going to progress further to the secondary education, which starts when children leave Class Eight and enrol at Form Three.
Forms Three and Four belong to the junior secondary level while full secondary status is achieved at Forms Five and six.
Last week, it was revealed that education in Fiji grew up amidst a lot of bias and prejudicial policies administered by the colonial government at that time. Such attitude extended to the development of secondary schools in Fiji.

History
The Minister of Education said: “The desire for secondary school education was already burning amongst the i-taukei and Indo-Fijians between the 1920s and 1930s.
“Unfortunately, this was not readily acceptable by the colonial government. Despite the administration’s opposition, the Indo-Fijian people refused to be bullied so they used their legislative representation to continually put pressure on government for secondary education.
“Unfortunately, indigenous Fijians lacked the enthusiasm and accepted the colonial policy of educating chiefs and their sons for secondary and tertiary education with the belief that they will represent their interests.”
The development of secondary education remained slow even towards the mid-1940s with formal education for most students still limited at primary level.
This was indicated by the enrolment rate in 1944, which showed less than one percent of the total enrolment was in secondary school.
Then almost a decade later, secondary education expanded as a result of the grant-in-aid system that was extended to secondary schools.
As a result, secondary school roll increased by ten-folds from 530 to 5439 between 1946 and 1960.
The Minister said: “The extension of grant-in-aid spurred the rapid expansion of secondary schools for the Indo-Fijian communities while the enthusiasm amongst i-taukei went into a reverse.
“The anomaly was a creation of both human design and geographical default. Consequently, education between the two major races became a disparity.
“However, due to the push for quality education, the government sponsored teacher training college was opened in 1948 at Nasinu to become the Nasinu Teachers’ College (NTC). Upon graduation, teacher graduates became civil servants in the same year.
“Much later, a Commission was set up in 1969, which was then known as the 1969 Royal Commission.
“The Commission recommended a change in the school structure from the eight-year primary/four-year secondary to a system of six-year primary/four-year junior secondary with two years at senior secondary.
“This gave birth to the emergence of junior secondary schools. By 1970, many junior secondary schools were established offering Forms Three and Four education.
“They were later developed to cater for Forms Five and Six. Today there are only four junior secondary schools left in the country.
“The Ministry of Education expects all secondary schools to offer Form 6 education by 2012,” Mr Bole said.

Secondary Education in Fiji
in the New Millennium
A lot of changes have taken place since independence in 1970 as far as secondary education is concerned.
At the end of December 2009, there are 176 secondary schools in the country with 67,072 students enrolled from Forms One to Seven.
Education in Fiji is bounded by international goals such as the Education For All (EFA) and the Millennium Development Goals (MDG).
Few major areas of concern include the provision of quality education and its accessibility to disadvantaged groups.

Quality education
The quality of secondary education according to the Minister is an issue the Ministry emphatically pursues.
An indicator for quality education is mainly the external examination results, which usually reflects the quality of teachers in the schools.
Teacher preparations for secondary school teaching used to be looked after by the University of the South Pacific (USP) which offers Degree qualifications for secondary school teachers while the Fiji College of Advanced Education (FCAE) offers Diploma awards for junior secondary school teachers.
Early this year, Government’s teacher training institutions, the Lautoka Teachers’ College and the FCAE were taken over by the Fiji National University (FNU).
This transition means teachers in Fiji would all be university graduates, the Minister said with pride.

Accessibility of
education
Similarly, he is also proud to say that Fiji does not have any problem of providing education for all young people compared to some other developing countries particularly where girls are often denied accessibility.
To ensure that students in the rural and islands receive a decent education, the government is building secondary schools close to their homes to avoid long distance travelling.
This year government is building a secondary school in Nuku, Serua and one in Beqa. The zoning of schools is also an exercise to ensure that students attend schools close to their homes.
This will begin at Form Three level in 2011 for urban schools only.
It is envisaged that in five years time, all secondary school students will no longer travel long distances to attend schools.
The Government is working towards upgrading all secondary schools to an equal level of standard and quality.
Another avenue which the Ministry is pursuing is the smooth flow of classes at the Nasinu’s School of the Air.
It is housed in a studio, and teachers conduct classes and this is broadcasted on-line via satellite.
This, according to the Minister, is another illustration of the government’s effort to bridge the technology gap and reach out to rural and remote schools.

Education costs
Accessibility connotes costs which is an undeniable fact. To this, government’s assistance is seen in the provision of free tuition fee and per capita grants for boarding schools.
In addition, government pays for the teachers’ salaries.
Last year a total of $11,669,000 was allocated for tuition fee grant for Forms One to Seven.
In addition, Government is proposing to supply free textbooks to all secondary students in 2011.
Another form of funding assistance called the Supplementary Grant is designed mainly for schools that receive less than or equal to $65,000 from the tuition fee grant the previous year.
All boarding schools received a total of $335,755 for the remission of hostel fees.
There are 59 boarding secondary schools in the country and all of them were aided.

Secondary education service
The role of the Secondary Education section in the Ministry is to provide maximum staffing resources for secondary schools and promote a committed and competent workforce.
The following are the specific functions of the section in its daily operations:
n Facilitates the appointment and transfers of teachers in secondary schools;
n Ensures and monitors that staffing establishments are within the required specifications;
n Reviews related regulations pertaining to the administration of staffing in secondary schools;
n Co-ordinates the administration of the introduction of F7 in schools;
n Ensures that tuition fee grants and per capita grants are distributed fairly and equitably to schools;
n Facilitates the distribution of hostel fees to boarding schools; and
n Co-ordinates with relevant sections on issues related to the provision of quality education to children.

Challenges and future directions
According to the Minister, the biggest challenge the Ministry of Education faces is ‘Leadership and Administration’. Effective school leadership is a prerequisite to a successful school.
Quality leadership contribute to the performance and ethos of schools.
Leadership is not only confined to school Principals but to the management and parents as well.
While the school principals are more inclined to the administration and professional matters in schools, the Ministry relies on the management to provide the logistic and resource support.
Similarly, parents are expected to contribute their parenting role.
Today, many school administrators are overwhelmed by situations that ought to be addressed by school managements and those relevant to parenthood.
In its effort to address these anomalies, the government has established the Fiji Teachers’ Registration Board (FTRB) to oversee the registration of teachers.
Like any other registration board, FTRB is empowered by law not to absorb teacher applicants who do not comply with the Board’s regulatory framework.
On the same note, the Ministry is conducting courses for school principals and management to improve their skills.
As for parents, the Ministry continues to provide awareness exercises and at the same time advise teachers to be more accessible to parents of their students.

Conclusion
In conclusion the Minister said: “The Ministry of Education is mandated to aggressively promote the People’s Charter for Change, Peace and Progress, in particular, Pillar 9, making Fiji a knowledge-based society.
“When our people are educated, our social and economic situations are improved. This is why education continuously receives the largest portion of the national budget.
“That illustration alone is to remind us that education is expensive, but let us be reminded even more that being illiterate is much more expensive.”

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