Letters To The Editor, 17th March 2017
Constructive education criticism
Rakiraki and Western Australia
We often see letters lavishing praise on the Minister and Ministry of Education. Tukai Lagonilakeba’s letter (FS14/3) is typical and it flies in the face of evidence.
Here are a few examples of ministry failure:
- Late delivery of textbooks
- Texts bearing factual errors (FS March 8-9), something I myself have complained about;
- Incorrect marking of Year 13 exams by ministry examiners;
- Allowing teachers to teach subjects outside their competence -Maths included;
- Lack of transparency when it comes to bullying by teachers;
- Persistently failing to name and shame schools that do not meet acceptable standards;
- Forcing teachers to retire at age 55
Such matters raise questions about the selection, education, and training of student teachers and ultimately the ministry itself is responsible for answers.
Which means its officers must be open to constructive criticism and the same kind of critical thinking the minister says he wants from students.
Yet time and again educationists at various levels duck for cover, fearing criticism, and unwilling or unable to initiate effective change.
In this regard, the absence of a permanent inspectorate is regrettable. Without regular independent inspection of classroom activities and management structures – free from cronyism – quality education will remain elusive.
Here, our best retired school teachers and academics could surely play a role, as well as overseas experts, including Pacific Islanders familiar with foreign education programmes and practices.
Mr Lagonilakeba says there is no barrier to primary and secondary education in Fiji, but it would be truer to say there is no barrier to schooling. Education is different to schooling.
Some who are educated got little schooling.
They are self-educated and diligent life-long learners. Conversely, many youth leave schooling barely educated at all.
Good educators are themselves educated and in no small way often owe this to good schooling.
Educators identify and nurture talent and they inspire. Imaginative and hardworking they should be rewarded by imaginative governments.
Mr Lagonilakeba speaks of parents’ needing to instill a “positive input”. Yet in my experience over several years in Ra, I found predominantly timid parents, and school heads who wanting it that way made no attempt to nurture parental involvement through Parent, Teacher and Friends Associations (PTFAs).
Indeed they did quite the opposite, sought to cover up.
Working with parents and guardians are not a simple or short-term project for teachers, and there are many reasons why.
Nevertheless, the condescending, authoritarian attitude, I met, needs to stop and will only do so when the ministry takes a lead and welcomes partnership and diverse ideas, however nascent.
Until this happens, along with a greater investment in human and material resources (libraries, computers, fresh pedagogies, and rigorous teacher training) comprehensive good education will remain elusive.
This is not to say that there is nothing good in Fijian schools. There is but too often it arises more by accident than by systemic design. Nor do I wish to imply schools in places like Australia have all the right answers. Literacy levels, declining maths ability, and classroom behaviour are big issues here.
Moreover, even state schools are quite costly. So Fiji is by no means alone and in some respects is ahead. Why this is, is quite another matter.
Dengue outbreak, what can you and I do?
March, the month of ‘Wellness’. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), wellness is an ‘active process’ of becoming aware of and making choices toward a more successful existence.
A big vinaka vakalevu to the western municipal councils and rural authorities for the general clean-up of their towns and for spraying mosquitos.
However, I am concerned with such a reaction to this outbreak. Could we not be more proactive to such a situation?
Prevention is better than cure. No? The benefits of prevention surely outweigh the costs of treatment, human resources, and financial resources among others.
If a dengue outbreak is controlled then resources can now be allocated to assist other areas of health that are more deserving.
Therefore, do we not know when this dengue takes a toll on its population? Are we not concerned for the future of Fiji?
Is Fiji’s future not in the hands of our children who are vulnerable to these diseases? It just has to take a black and white female Aedes aegypti mosquito to carry the infected blood and feast on an uninfected person.
According to a local medical periodical, The Fiji Journal of Public Health, a research was done in 2012 because of similar outbreaks in 2003, 2008 to 2009 and the western division also recorded the highest.
The research also noted that dengue thrives in the cyclone season (November to March).
With these trends and research being noted and recorded, can the municipal councils, health and rural authorities ‘actively process’ clean-ups and spraying prior to the outbreak? How?
Can the people depend on you, all of us, to collaborate in being more vigilant in the monitoring of a clean town, consistently educating the public and constantly sanitising the environment?