Island News

Educating Fiji: Bringing Education home

Written By : Source: MINISTRY OF EDUCATION. In our first episode, this column introduced its purpose, which is mainly to bring the discussion and pursuance of education dreams into our
27 Nov 2010 12:00

image Written By : Source: MINISTRY OF EDUCATION. In our first episode, this column introduced its purpose, which is mainly to bring the discussion and pursuance of education dreams into our individual homes.
The reason is education is an asset in one’s development process and has to be owned and not treated as a distant goal where one only achieves it by going to school.
In fact, in all societies, children’s education starts from home while the school is mainly for institutionalisation processes.
It is therefore the intention of the Ministry of Education, as stated in the first episode, to “bring to its consumers some of the initiatives and reforms that impact education in Fiji.
Many of these initiatives and reforms have been part of the recent Ministry’s news releases which it intends to deliberate more on so that education users are better informed”.
In the first instance according to the Minister of Education, Filipe Bole, “the Ministry of Education wishes to inform its consumers that all its policies are designed to meet the requirements of the Roadmap for Democracy and Sustainable Socio-economic Development (RDSSED) of which the key foundation is the People’s Charter for Change Peace and Progress.
The Ministry of Education’s mandate is prescribed in Pillar 9 in which it is tasked to the ‘Make Fiji a Knowledge-based Society’.
There are eleven pointers in the mandate that form the basis of all education policies and reforms”.

Education system
The term is as often unclear to many while it is rhetorical to others.
Semantically, it involves the education development of different level of age groups from the youngest entering the system to the oldest.
This means children as young as two years old in the pre-school level to the adults attending tertiary institutions.
The Minister said, “Our education system covers the pre-schools; special education schools; primary school; secondary schools; vocational schools; higher education.
Higher education in this context refers to post-secondary institutions that offer certificate, diploma, degree and post-graduate courses.
The label includes language learning institutions, hospitality institutions, computer studies and few others.”
The Ministry of Education has three major objectives to pursue as an education provider.
First it is responsible for the delivery of education and training services to schools, pre-schools and training centres and is also responsible for the preservation of the different cultures in Fiji.
These include the provision of curriculum frameworks, policy guidelines, qualified teaching personnel and programme support to controlling authorities and education.
Second, the Ministry ensures that standards in education are met and maintained.
Through advisory services, support is rendered to school managements for the effective running of schools as well as financial assistance for the construction and maintenance of school facilities.
Thirdly the Ministry of Education is responsible for the improvement of rural education standards and education opportunities for students with special needs and school dropouts.

Pre-School (Early Childhood Education) Education Service
Activities pursued by the Ministry of Education while serving the pre-school education sector now known as Early Childhood Education (ECE) include the provision of professional and administrative assistance to ECE teachers through visits to ECE centres; provision of advisory services to pre-school managements; conducting community awareness; organising basic training courses for new pre-school teachers; facilitating pre-school centre establishment and facilitating payment of pre-school teachers salary grant. Curently there are 800 kindergarten centres all over the country with ECE teachers.
These ECE teachers are either LTC graduates or USP or have received basic training but no teacher training qualifications.

Primary education
service
There are six objectives which the Ministry of Education looks after towards its services to the primary education sector.
They include the provision of primary school teachers; administration of primary education, pre-school and special education; administration of grants; provision of advisory services and human resource management.
There are 736 primary schools in the country with about 5000 teachers.
These teachers are graduates of Lautoka Teachers’ College, Corpus Christi Teachers’ College, and Fulton Teachers’ College.

Secondary education
service
The role of the Secondary Section is to provide optimal staffing resources for secondary schools and promote a committed and competent workforce. This section has seven core functions which are to:
1. Facilitate the appointment and transfers of teachers in secondary schools;
2. Ensure and monitor that staffing establishments are within the required specifications;
3. Review related regulations pertaining to the administration of staffing in secondary schools;
4. Co-ordinate the administration of the introduction of F7 in schools;
5. Ensure that tuition grants are distributed fairly and equitably to schools;
6. Facilitate the distribution of hostel fees to boarding schools; and
7. Co-ordinate with relevant sections on issues related the provision of quality education to children.
Higher education
This is a new entry to the education system in Fiji. However, it has been in existence before the Government decided to regulate it.
In 2009, Cabinet approved its Promulgation and in January this year its legislation was promulgated.
A marked development of this sector is the establishment of the Fiji National University (FNU) which was opened in February this year.
The FNU is made up of the Fiji School of Medicine (FSM), Fiji Institute of Technology (FIT), Fiji College of Advanced Education (FCAE), Fiji School of Nursing (FSN), Fiji College of Agriculture (FCA) and the Lautoka Teachers College (LTC).
One of the advantages of the merger is that it will ensure that the needs of this nation will be better served by the Fiji National University other than the six institutions operating in isolation. Collectively, these institutions have more than 20,000 students.

Reforms and initiatives
The Minister, while commenting on changes happening at the Ministry of Education says, “The Ministry of Education is also doing its part in reforming its services. In the process, it is implementing some initiatives as well. These are carried out in accordance with the Government’s mandate for the Ministry to improve its service delivery to the people.”
Some reforms the Ministry of Education is implementing include the Reviewing of the Education Act; Decentralisation of Education services; Reduction of Retirement Age; 10 per cent reduction in Operating Expenditure; Extending Basic Education to 12 years; establishment of the Fiji Teachers Registration Board.
Under the initiative programmes, the Ministry has initiated free textbooks benefits for students and free transport to schools.
n Reviewing the Education Act
The current Education Act was legislated in 1966 and over the years it went through consolidation processes. However, the Ministry is reviewing it and would be released soon after all the legal procedures are addressed.
n Decentralisation
The decentralisation of education services led to the beefing up of district education offices so that schools are adequately assisted within their divisions rather than being served directly from headquarters.
n Reduction of Retirement Age
The reduction of the retirement age came into effect in April 2009. About 800 teachers and 40 education administrators left the service. The Ministry easily filled all positions left vacant by all retirees before school started in Term 2 of last year.
n Fiji Teachers’ Registration Board (FTRB)
The exercise is consistent with the practice for all other professions like doctors and accountants. The FTRB promulgation came into effect in June 2009 and saw the registration of all practising teachers completed in September.
n Basic Education
By abolishing external examinations, the Ministry of Education has extended the length of basic education from 10 years to 12 years. This means that all children enrolled into Class 1 must reach Form 6.
n Free textbooks
This is an initiative started in 2009 to see that all children in primary schools and secondary schools receive free textbooks from the government. While all primary schools have been supplied with textbooks, this exercise is due to begin with secondary schools in 2011.
n Free Transport Assistance
This is another area the government through the Ministry of Education is assisting our children to attend to school.

Conclusion
The Ministry of Education is pleased with all the progress and achievements it has attained to make education more affordable to its consumers.
However, it will never allow itself to be complacent in its services.
There are new policies being developed to see that teachers are offering better education to the children of Fiji. More of this will appear in column in its effort to Bring Education Home.


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