#Vote2018 – Analysis: Big Success Story In Education Sector

Is our education sector doing better now compared to, say, 10 years ago? Yes it is. Education will be a big part of campaigning for Opposition political parties. But they
29 Mar 2018 11:08
#Vote2018 – Analysis: Big Success Story In Education Sector
Attorney-General and Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum during the budget consultation at Vunimono High School on March 28, 2018. Photo: DEPTFO

Is our education sector doing better now compared to, say, 10 years ago?

Yes it is.

Education will be a big part of campaigning for Opposition political parties. But they have big shoes to fill.

The FijiFirst Government has consistently put more money into the education sector than ever before.

This has meant more people are in schools now. Fewer people are opting out of formal education because they cannot afford it.

This is a major win already for FijiFirst.

A Fiji Bureau of Statistics survey has reported on school participation and showed a decrease of 9.1 per cent in Fijians who left school in 2015-2016 compared with 2010-2011.

The percentage of dropouts who left the education system because of financial constraints had also dramatically dropped from 31.9 per cent in 2010-2011 to 4.8 per cent in 2015-2016.

The remarkable increase in school participation was a direct result of the massive investments made by Government to expand access to high-quality education throughout Fiji.

Access to education and support programmes are the key drivers of the FijiFirst Government’s strategy to assist young people secure and pursue high-paying jobs.

So, how has this Government rated in terms of their focus on education?

It has done a very good job.

National Federation Party has already revealed that it intends to appoint an independent Education Commission to assess and analyse the education system in Fiji within a year or less and recommend the changes necessary.

Based on the assessments, they will draw up a clear set of recommendations to be implemented within six months of the release of the report.

Is that necessary? Not really.

SODELPA has been quiet about what it intends to do with the education sector.

It is either holding its cards very close to its chest or still trying to identify priority areas.

It has already announced schemes for tertiary education, but nothing has come forward about primary school students yet.

So what needs to be the focus as far as our education sector is concerned?

To begin with, it should be about ensuring children are able to access education.

It is clear from the Fiji Bureau of Statistics figures that FijiFirst has achieved this and in a huge way.

What contributed to it?

The ability to go to school without paying bus fares, parents not having to fork out more than $100 per child per semester for school fees and the even increasing income tax threshold, which meant more money in people’s take home pay.

That was the first step.

Creating an environment whereby more children are able to access education.

Next step no doubt has been ensuring quality teachers are imparting knowledge to leaders of tomorrow and work on that has also begun.

Increase in teachers’ pay was the first step in this.

Next is to ensure that teachers also continuously upgrade their qualification.

This is critical.

We have now seen more courses made available now to allow teachers to upskill themselves.

Quality teachers will provide quality education.

In the 2017-2018 National Budget, Government allocated a total of around $964.5 million towards the provision of quality education.

This is a huge allocation, accounting for 22 per cent of the total budget.

Here is the breakdown of the significant changes for this Budget.

From this amount $55m was to recruit 250 additional teachers to support Government’s commitment to improve the teacher-student ratio.

The Budget provides substantial funding of $170 million dollars to rebuild and repair schools damaged by TC Winston.

Apart from this a total of $10.6 million has been allocated under the Ministry of Education as building grants for rehabilitation of schools damaged by TC Winston.

They have certainly put their money where their mouths are and it has not gone unnoticed.

Edited by George Kulamaiwasa

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