Ensuring Excellence In All Facets Of Education

The following is the  address by the Minister for Education, Heritage and Arts, Mahendra Reddy during the  118th Fiji Principals Association Conference at the Labasa Miracle Centre on Thursday  
02 Sep 2016 09:52
Ensuring Excellence In All Facets Of Education
Minister for Education, Mahendra Reddy.

The following is the  address by the Minister for Education, Heritage and Arts, Mahendra Reddy during the  118th Fiji Principals Association Conference at the Labasa Miracle Centre on Thursday


The Permanent Secretary for Education: Iowane Tiko; The president – Fiji Principals Association, Kamlesh Prasad; The directors from Ministry of Education, Heritage and Arts; other senior staff from the Head Quarters; and Principals of various schools throughout Fiji, Good Morning, Ni sa bula vinaá! and Namaste.


It is my pleasure to meet and address you all again and officially open the 118th Fiji Principals Association Conference today. Welcome to Labasa. At this juncture, I wish to thank you all for your hard work, effort and commitment that you all have towards your schools and our children.

Ladies and gentlemen, the future of our innocent children is in your hands. Children spend most active hours of their day in the school under your care. Your role as the school heads is paramount in shaping the culture and direction in your schools. We want to ensure excellence in all facets of education. In this contemporary era, the quality of education is the basis for the quality of knowledge in society. Quality education enables individuals to make meaningful impact in a globally competitive employment market.


Theme and context

“Empowering Educational leaders with 21st Century Skills”

I note the theme of the Conference deals with “Empowering educational leaders with 21 century skills.” This theme is highly fitting given the dynamic direction we have paved for education in Fiji. The Fijian Education system is going through a major overhaul in terms of quality and excellence and we need empowered educational leaders who can bring about positive changes in the lives of our children.

Ladies and gentlemen, Education is paramount to national interests and I have re-iterated time and again that I want every Fijian to have access to quality education so that they contribute positively to a “Knowledge Based Society”. I dream that every child in Fiji goes through the ranks of education without having to make compromises and successfully contribute to nation building.

I intend to ensure that we take-off the financial burden from every parent and provide the child with all the necessities to ensure their educational journey is free of any challenges. I wish that every child in every corner of Fiji seek education as their greatest interest and contribute to peace and prosperity of Fiji. I intend to see that the outputs of our education system are global competitors, creating a pool of talent, skills base and potential that makes our country marketable to the rest of the world.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are preparing our students for the needs and demands of the 21st century careers, which will demand them to know how to critically think, to solve problems, to innovate, to collaborate and thus, meet the demands of the changing job markets. Time and again, we need to reflect on the rapid changes and increasing demands of our society due to globalisation. We need to be aware of the fact that what was considered good education few years ago is no longer enough for our children to attain success in their careers and handle challenging societal demands.

My aim is to deliver to our children the highest quality education contextualised to demands of this era. This is where we need leaders who are empowered with 21st century skills. A leader is a facilitator of change, he/she is a manager of change and more so, he/she is an ambassador of change.


The change process

Why change?

Ladies and gentlemen, we all know that our children’s thinking, knowledge, actions, ideas and experiences are not the same as the children some 20 to 30 years back. They are living in a society grossly influenced by technology, mass media and contemporary issues. Their dreams and aspirations about life are also different when compared to the past. Therefore, it is mandatory that our Education system reflects these transformations whilst delivering its service to the children. We cannot be rooted to past ideologies and use that to educate children of the present era. This equation will simply fail. Change is vital for the progress of any individual, group or organisation and education is seen as the single most important ingredient of the change process. Nowadays, we are not only preparing students to find successful career pathways but also nurturing important skills such as, resilience, technologically innovating, flexibility, collaboration, problem solving, critical thinking and having creative mind sets. Schools therefore, have to offer situations and an environment which inculcates these attributes and thereby supporting student’s holistic growth and development.

Added to this, Ladies and Gentlemen, the contemporary world presents to us problems which have never been seen before and these problems through time are becoming more severe and chaotic. All human beings, no matter where we are on the global earth are not completely free from the many threats. Issues such as, civil strife, terrorism, human trafficking, wars, crime against humanity, female subjugation, racial crimes, labour exploitation and drug trafficking are affecting all facets of the global society. Human beings are venting their anger on each other due to inhumane mind-sets and ideologies. Racial intolerance, a deeply rooted issue in the world, is fast becoming more and more dangerous and violent. Religious bigotry has taken many innocent lives and continues to trigger a high number of conflicts and fighting. Highly sensitive racial and religious matters are now being targeted by some, creating widespread fear and terror amongst many in the world.

Ladies and gentlemen, sometimes it is hard to imagine, that whilst we are in the 21st century, where the human society has achieved milestones and progress way beyond anyones comprehension, we are still rooted to hatred and conflicts which argue our own downfall. However, while humans are the cause of all these unrest and upheaval, we must know that the solution also lies with us.

The answer to all these fear, terror, unrest, conflicts, wars and inhumanity is education. We need to implant a transformed education system which includes training our children for current global issues and again the empowering role of School Heads is highly important. But how can you as School Heads empower children, when we ourselves are short of transforming, up-skilling and rejuvenating ourselves. When our skills, talents and knowledge are below par on global issues and when we intend to stay back in our comfort zones and let time take its course, we are seriously undermining the fundamental right of the child to attain quality education.


What school heads must do?

Ladies and gentlemen, we need to change ourselves to bring about change. We need to keep abreast with key global developments, realise the needs of the child and take action.

All School Heads must first upgrade, up skill and re-align your educational priorities.


Leaders to serve

The term ‘to serve’ in this era constitutes a totally different meaning and which is not to be confined to the walls of your office, but getting down to issues and solving them for the benefit of the child. Be a First Aid personnel to a child, then be a Counsellor, then become a teacher, then an Office attendant, then a parent, then a motivator and the list goes on. We cannot rule under the thrones of the job description, but provide service to the child with the utmost efficiency and effectiveness. Your service must build the confidence in the child on his/her school and the education system as a whole. Be ready to serve anytime, 24/7. Be genuinely interested in the needs and demands of the students. Put yourself in their shoes and see things from their perception and you will always find avenues to eliminate problems. Be calm, be a listener and take immediate action in the best interests of the child. Create an office atmosphere of openness where students are at ease and seek support and guidance.


Encompass critical thinking and problem solving skills in staff and students

Critical thinking and problem solving ability is the backbone of teaching and learning in the 21st century. While we need to prepare our students to be thinkers and problem solvers, we must focus on the growth of the same trait in our teachers and School Heads. The demand for workers who can think outside the box and find solutions to complex issues is high in this era. Schools are looked upon to prepare children in this area. I believe that for any school to successfully enhance this feature, the Educators, including the school heads must first themselves be critical thinkers. As school heads critical thinking and problem solving skills means to reason out, probe, analyse, evaluate, reflect and take action. The edge that you all have over the past leaders is of course the technology at your disposal. Combine the skills with technology and the end product will be nothing short of excellence. Nurture this same habit in your staff and students and you will see marked improvements in all facets of education at your school.



Leaders can never work in isolation. Education in the 21st century is about shared decision making, about partnerships and inclusivity of stakeholders. The Fijian communities that you lead are many and varied. The lifestyle, culture, needs, and habits of people are different. However, education for all communities is their top priority. The challenge for you leaders is how best to collaborate with the people and stakeholders to bring about educational excellence. A school head who is able to relate to the demands of the community and use it to bring out the desired results is seen to be a true 21st century leader. The skills of interacting with the community, management, parents, children, NGO’s and organisations at large is what makes a leader stand out from the rest. Create a school family or network of connections and partnerships which focuses on student achievements. We rolled out Pillar 4 on Parental Engagement this year and I am confident that once we are able to get 100 per cent involvement of all parents, we will reach our target with more ease. Value peoples’ thoughts, reflect, create a shared school vision, include and accept teamwork and partnered pathways.


Tech savvy

In this era, you need to have the computer skills and should not shy away from digital communication. Our children play with electronic gadgets even before they start to speak and imagine their knowledge or skills base when they enter schools. All school heads must have the basic communication skills through technology. This is the most efficient and efficient forms of communication in this era and I want all heads to stay abreast of it. Information should be accessible and not stagnant and technology is highly relevant to ease this concern. I applaud some heads who are using technology to communicate with parents and the community at large. Be pro-active and instil the highest levels of efficiency in your operations through technology available. For example, sending an e-mail every morning on attendance to the headquarters makes us analyse before 10am important statistics on teacher absence and student absence.


Human Resource management

Be a dynamic, yet firm leader. Motivate your staff to work together to attain the desired outcome. You all must lead from the front. School heads must be the first ones to report to school and the last ones to leave. Set examples of excellent attendance and punctuality and others will follow.

Support staff growth and professional development. Collaborate with staff on important issues and give value to their ideas and plans. Communicate clearly with staff and eliminate any forms of bias or partiality. Teachers also have rights, including the right to decent working conditions and school heads must ensure that it is looked after well. Make the school environment attractive for your staff and continue training and development of their knowledge. I intend not to see school heads commanding from the comfort of their office but playing vital roles in the day to day running of the school.


Term 3 : Targets/Strategies

In the last conference, I spoke at length on your role, the expectations of the Ministry and the way forward. Today after I have just talked on the 21st century skills for school heads, I want to focus on Term 3, 2016.

As school heads, you all must realise the importance of Term 3. Term 3 of 2016 is particularly important as now we have put the effects of Cyclone Winston behind us and re-focused successfully on our exams.


100 per cent target

Ladies and gentlemen, my target is 100 per cent pass in all External Exams. I have implemented a range of targeted reforms and initiatives to achieve that. I have strengthened educational policies, increased funding and made available the needful resources.

I have sorted out capital issues, teacher management issues and ratified events and activities supporting children’s learning. The ministry has fulfilled its promises of text books, transport assistance, free education, and collaborative teaching and learning strategies. The ministry has lifted you off your teaching loads and obligated administrative duties to you. We have given you the time and resources to make the changes in your school.


Questions to ponder upon

My question to you is how prepared are you to deliver the 100 per cent  pass? Have you done your homework on strategies which you will adopt this term to iron out weaknesses? Have you planned on areas of priority? Have you planned on parental engagement strategies? What new initiatives have you got up your sleeve to deliver the master stroke? Are your teachers fully geared up towards the target? Are the children focused on their results and know what’s at stake? Do you know your last year’s results and where you went wrong?

Ladies and gentlemen, Term 3 is crucial. As School Heads, I want all of you to set the tone of teaching and learning and vigorously administer the progression of school achievements.



For External Exam Years 10, 12 and 13, the teachers have been advised to make references to past year papers. All students must have copies of the papers with its detailed solutions. Remedial groups must be formed and attention must be given to weak areas of students. Team teaching must be organised to give students that flexibility in learning. Parental meetings must be orchestrated to attain greater involvement in revision and remedial activities.

Extra classes must be organised and strategically carried out. Student attendance must


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be scrutinized and parents to be involved in solving such issues. No time must be lost out on unnecessary, unplanned activities and where necessary seek our advice.

Teachers‟ punctuality and attendance must be monitored and reported and they must be constantly motivated to excel in their records. Ensure that all resources are available efficiently for teachers and students alike.

Plan well for Exams and after the Exam programs. Provide important career guidance to students and make known to them important information on Scholarships, Loans Scheme, Technical Education and institutional requirements.


Concluding Remarks

You as School Heads are the vital link between the Ministry and the students. I commend you all for your dedication till now and challenge you all to raise the bar of excellence. Take your schools to the epitome of success, enlighten the dream in each and every child and mould them to become successful citizens of our nation.

Our core role is teaching and our target is academic excellence. The future of our children is in our hands and we are not only preparing them for the intermediate output of academic excellence but for the long term goal of building a peaceful, vibrant and growing society and country.

Let’s all join hands to deliver the common public good of Quality Education…

All the very best for Term 3.

Thank you. Vinaka Vaka levu and Danyavaad

Feedback: jyotip@fijisun.com.fj


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