The new C.E.O. for the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture has revealed her plans for the next three years.
Driven by her aspiration to make a difference in learning outcomes and achievements in schools starting from primary level all the way up to tertiary education, Dr. Karoline said she is ready to lead the Ministry.
Dr. Karoline Afamasaga-Fuata’i was officially welcomed last Tuesday by the Ministry of Education staff.
After many years of teaching and doing research on ways to improve learning outcomes in schools, Dr. Karoline said she is bringing her academic background together with her research skills, consultancy experience and her optimism, to drive the Ministry forward.
“Being C.E.O. is an ideal way in which we can scale up what we have found in the classrooms at different levels, and have it implemented in the real classrooms,” she said.
In order to lift the quality of education within the country, Dr. Karoline believes that we should start from the bottom.
“I’ve done studies in all the different levels of education and I’ve discovered that the early years of education are very vital,” said Dr. Karoline, “because errors that we have found in University level always lead back to all the basic skills that ought to be taught at primary level.
“So if we want to make a big change or an impact on achievements in all subjects, then we have to address the problems at primary level.”
She believed the coming on board of early childhood education as part of the Ministry’s portfolio is an exciting opportunity for our children to be developed at an early age.
“Because then we can work with the children from the early childhood education in a formal way in which we can make sure that we keep consistency beginning from early childhood all the way up to the tertiary level of education.”
Dr. Karoline has a long list of things she wants to do for the Ministry for the next three years. However, top of the agenda is focusing on promoting students’ achievements and learning in school.
“We want to promote the focus that is currently been on board for two years, which is looking at the students achievements and learning.
“It’s not so much about what the teacher is teaching which was the main focus traditionally before. Now, the focus is based on whether the student is learning something. That is the shift we need to make in the teaching. Teaching quality is very important hence why it’s important to support the teachers.
“We also need to make sure that they are delivering according to the curriculum. Because much of the time the teachers are teaching to the maximum of their knowledge but the question is whether that is aligned with the curriculum intent.”
Mrs. Fuata’i believes not following the curriculum intended has led to all the concerns and complaints from the parents and the community about the students’ results.
“Teachers need to stick to the curriculum,” she said. “This is because the curriculum intent is spelt out in terms of standards for each year level and the exams are supposed to be based on the curriculum as well.”
Making sure that the students are being taught in accordance to the curriculum is very vital, said Dr. Karoline.
“That is why we have problems with the S.S.L.C . examination results,” she said. “It is when teachers do not follow the curriculum intent.
“By the way S.S.L.C examination is Year 13. That means that they have had 13 years of teaching and schooling. Maths doesn’t start at Year 13. It starts from Year 1. But do we hear any problems with Maths from Year 1 up to Year 4?
“No, so why do we wait until Year 13 to hear about it?
“Parents need to be pressing the point right from Year 1 through-out.”
Talking from experience, Dr. Karoline believes that if teachers at the early level of education do not do their job well, it will be difficult for the teachers at the higher level to carry on from their work.
“I was teaching at the University where all the top students come. Well this is sad to say, but some of them may have come through but they could’ve been lot better students capable of doing a lot more. The good students get through the system and do well and succeed. But the average students and the low-ability ones fall through the cracks.” Therefore, the teachers’ work should be supported, she added.
“We all need to support the teachers and help out the students.
The principals and the teachers should make sure that they are teaching according to the curriculum intent at all level, said Dr. Karoline.
“But it’s not just about the teachers and principals. The parents have a role to play. They should make sure that their children are being taught according to the curriculum so they should be learning about the curriculum themselves as well.
“We need to see that their problems are addressed right away instead of waiting until we have the national examinations to discover the issues. “
Parents should also devote their time to their children and help them out with their school work, suggested Dr. Karoline.
“Their support is much needed in the lives their children.
“This is a problem that needs a lot of people to work at order for it to be solved.”
Her belief derives from the idea that –“It takes a whole village to raise a child.”
Moreover, Dr. Karoline said that in order to avoid all the complaints, they need to bring back some “sense of professionalism” into the Ministry and also to the work of the teachers.
“We need to have good quality results and for that to happen, we need to have open-minded people with deep knowledge and understanding.”
Professionalism is a result of having deep-knowledge, deep-understanding and skills, said Dr. Karoline. “Collectively, they make you a creative and knowledgeable person.
“Depth has to be there in all the different phases. So it’s not about knowing different things, you need to be able to know how to connect them and change things around and how to use it effectively.”
Dr. Karoline Afamasaga-Fuata’i has taught in all levels of education from Primary all the way up to University to the level of professor.
And with her experience, she believes she is in the right place to make a difference.
“With my years of experience in the classroom and my research skills, it has led me to this point in life where I feel I am in a strong position to contribute to the education and the development of education and how to make things different for students.”
Dr. Karoline Afamasaga-Fuata’i is from the villages of Nofoali’i, Fasito’o-tai and Ma’asina Fagaloa. She is married to Tofaeono Fonoti Iupati Fuata’i and they have two children.