Weekender

Educating Fiji: Examination free system

Written By : Source: MINISTRY OF EDUCATION. The discussion in the previous week’s episode was over the zoning of schools which the Ministry of Education will begin next year (2011)
13 Aug 2010 12:00

image Written By : Source: MINISTRY OF EDUCATION. The discussion in the previous week’s episode was over the zoning of schools which the Ministry of Education will begin next year (2011) for class 1 and form 3 students in schools in the urban areas.
The Minister for Education, Filipe Bole said, “A lot needs to be discussed over the issue like which schools are zoned together; how many schools in the zones are going to need assistance and how many students will be in each zone and many other issues.
More information on zoning will be presented once the consultation process and other administrative matters are cleared so that misconceptions and doubts are put to rest definitely.”
However in today’s feature, the discussion will focus on the abolition of external examinations and what is replacing them.
For sometime members of the public have been commenting on the decision to abolish examinations which to some was an unwise call because the issue of international standard and quality education will be compromised.
This week, those class eight students who sat for their FEYE examinations are the last lot of candidates who will be sitting the class eight examination.

History
Examinations however have been part of the Education system for a long time, probably ever since formal education began in Fiji after the arrival of the Christian missionaries.
Over the years many of our older citizens would remember the different types of examinations they sat during their school days.
These examinations were qualifications used in the selection process for entry to professions such as nursing, teaching, and police.
Today not many are around who were sent for teacher training after passing class six examination which became the Fiji Intermediate Examination and later used for entrance to upper primary then which was class seven.
Further up in class eight, students sat what was known then as Fiji Qualifying Examination to enter nursing school and teacher training at Nasinu.
This examination later became the Fiji Secondary School Entrance (FSSEE) and currently the Fiji Eighth Year Examination (FEYE), and like its lower predecessor it was used for entrance to lower secondary or form three.
Before Independence, the quality of education improved and the benchmark for selection into tertiary studies was also raised.
This time students had to sit what was called Junior Cambridge at form four level to qualify for form five.
Not long, Junior Cambridge was replaced by the Fiji Junior Certificate Examination.
However for entry into tertiary institutions like the Fiji School of Medicine which was Central Medical School then, aspirants had to sit for their Senior Cambridge to qualify.
In fact Senior Cambridge was a qualifying examination for entrance to Cambridge University in England at that time.
Before the University of the South Pacific was established in 1968, only few secondary schools were taking form six then.
Form six students had to sit the New Zealand University Entrance (NZUE) for university studies and selection into the job market.
Before they sat for their NZUE, they had to qualify first by sitting a form five examination called the New Zealand School Certificate or NZSC.
Then about twenty years ago, Fiji developed its own national examination called the Fiji School Leaving Certificate (FSLC) to replace the NZUE for form six while the Fiji Seventh Form Examination (FSFE) was designed for form seven candidates.
No examination replaced the NZSC as qualifying examination at form five for entrance to form six.
Much later, today the current government is abolishing FIE, FEYE and FJCE examinations to adopt an Examination Free System from this year 2010.
Cabinet Decision
Mr Bole, said, “Cabinet decided that three external examinations were to be phased out from Fiji’s Education System by 2011 and would not be replaced by any other new external examination.
The reason was, examinations were found to be one of the main causes of students dropping out of schools.
The decision saw to the phasing out of Fiji Intermediate Exams [FIE] in 2010 while Fiji Eighth Year Exam [FEYE] and Fiji Junior Examination Certificate [FJEC] will be phased out in 2011. Only the FSLC and FSFE will remain in the system.
The Ministry of Education is convinced that the removal of examinations from the education system has relieved the teachers from the pressure of covering the syllabus.
In the process, children are rushed and many times many of them do not learn anything at all.” Secondly, Mr Bole said, “These examinations had served their purposes and had to be abolished”

Continuous Assessment (FILNA/LANA)
With the abolition of external national examinations, Mr Bole claimed, “students’ performances will be internally assessed for progressive mobility to upper classes beginning with class six.
The move was indicative of the Ministry of Education’s shift towards a more standards-based and school-based assessment for learning that tests skills, knowledge and attitudes of school children on a regular basis.
The emphasis here is on child-centered learning.”
“A student performance assessment process called the Fiji Islands Literacy and Numeracy Assessment (FILNA) was developed in 2005 and used, well before the discussion of phasing out examinations took place, to assess classes 4, 6 and 8 pupils’ competence in literacy and numeracy skills.
Its development was not meant to replace either the FIE or FEYE,” Mr Bole further said. Mr Bole then said, “FILNA results supply teachers with two reports of the test.
These are the Item Analysis Report showing correct responses for each question asked and the individual responses of students to each question. From these, teachers can identify concepts that a class, as a whole, has mastered well and those that have not been mastered well and take action accordingly.
The Class Profile Report on the other hand groups students in terms of their abilities and shows the educational outcomes that the various groups have and have not mastered well.”
This report, according to Mr Bole, assists teachers in grouping students in terms of their abilities for remedial purposes. FILNA, therefore, presents a very informative way of reporting students’ achievements.Since the Ministry is abolishing external examinations, many were treating FILNA as a substitute examination.
Therefore it has to phased out as well and replaced by the Literacy and Numeracy Assessment (LANA) this year, 2010.
Mr Bole said, “LANA is strictly a classroom based assessment exercise to determine students’ literacy and numeracy skills. The differences between the FILNA and LANA assessments vary.
Under the FILNA exercise, papers were marked by Examination staff of the Ministry of Education, whereas in LANA the teachers themselves are going to mark the papers. While FILNA results are made available between 2-3 months, LANA results are immediate.”
Mr Bole again claimed that an important component of the assessment is remedial exercise.
In FILNA, intervention is slightly delayed and often no longer relevant whereas in LANA remedial intervention at class and student level is immediate and relevant.
Secrecy used to be the code of conduct observed when FILNA is exercised, however with LANA, assessment papers are available to teachers to assist in diagnosis.
In test supervision, under FILNA, the Examination Section of the Ministry usually appoints supervisors but in LANA tests, teachers themselves supervise under the Examination guidelines.
The only common element to both assessments is that both papers are set by the Examination and Assessment Unit of the Ministry of Education.
Furthermore Mr Bole said, “With the introduction of the LANA assessment, the mechanics (of the LANA assessment) will make teachers work harder without pressure.
The focus of the new assessment is to empower teachers to identify weaknesses in literacy and numeracy and take remedial action.
By taking this approach, the accountability for improving student learning in literacy and numeracy is placed on the teachers and head teachers in the classroom.
Because there is no pass or fail for the students, the head teachers and teachers will be able to competently evaluate the performance of the students and determine what school level interventions need to be taken to improve student learning.”

Class based assessments & common assessment tasks
Since FJCE will be phased out soon, queries have been raised on what to replace it.
In response Mr Bole said, “As for the Fiji Junior Examination, 50 percent of the Form 4 FJC marks are taken from the Form 3 work which is internally assessed by subject teachers.
Out of that 50 percent, form 3 students will have 20 percent of their work assessed by their teachers.
This form of assessment is called Class based assessment (CBA).
The concept takes into account teachers’ expertise which at this point is considered the best judge of the student’s performance.
Another 30 percent comes from internal assessment.
Curriculum officers at the Curriculum Advisory Services (CAS/CDU) are the designers of the tasks. It is the teachers’ responsibilities to implement the tasks, record the results before CDU officers moderate the final weighting.
This process is called Common assessment tasks (CAT) which could be developed to accommodate upper classes as well.”

Implications
With the removal of examinations, Mr Bole said, “the pressure will be on the government to build more schools and spend more on tuition fees, teachers, textbooks and transport assistance.
However on a much brighter side, it is guaranteed that our children will be more literate. Examinations have been seen to cause many to be illiterate even though they may leave school at much higher forms.
The reason is in examinations, teachers are under pressure to cover the syllabus in time.
In the process many students are left on their own. Through LANA, CBA and CAT assessments, teachers will be under pressure to see that their students would be able to read, write and perform numeracy skills.”
On an even much brighter scenario, Mr Bole said,”Education will be no longer exclusive and elitist.
Before, only those families who are well above the poverty line and the elite in our society were accessible to education beyond upper primary and secondary education and much further up at tertiary level.
Today the vision is that even children of squatter settlements have equal opportunity regardless of gender or cultural background to access higher education.”

International Standard
In conclusion, critics have been sceptical over some of the new reforms the Ministry of Education is implementing.
Two arguments recently raised were; the removal of national examinations will compromise the quality of education in Fiji and its international standard and secondly it will reduce our literacy rate.
In response to both Mr Bole said, “The removal of examinations will not have any bearing on the education system meeting international standards nor will it reduce our literacy rates.
In fact the issue of international standard is more of an academic cliché than of education practice. However, in the recent past we have seen the migration of professionals and skilled workers overseas to find better jobs and they got them.
We have lost doctors, nurses, technicians, accountants, teachers to Australia, New Zealand, United States and some neighbouring Pacific island nations.
Even our security forces are rated amongst the best in the world. These are evident enough that our education system is reliable, valid and functional.
Literacy rates on the other hand will improve because teachers will be under pressure to improve that through the implementation of LANA, CBA and CAT assessments.”



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