The number of students to enrol at the National University of Samoa next year is expected to drop with the plan to increase the entry marks for several courses.
The changes, apply to Foundation courses and they also affect programmes in Technical and Vocational Training (T.V.E.T). and were revealed at a press conference held in the N.U.S. conference room on Friday.
Most significant, is the requirement for the first time that intending teachers have a 50% pass rate in English. Previously, they could enter the Faculty of Education as students with 40% in that subject – a below average grade.
The impact of this decision, may see fewer Education students enrolling and subsequently fewer teachers in the years to come although an improvement in teaching standards will be a plus for students and parents.
Vice Chancellor Fui Leapai Asofou Soo said the change in criteria for entering the university is to ensure higher qualifications are offered for students.
He pointed out once students receive these higher qualifications, it makes it easier for them to obtain employment.
“We expect the number of students entering these programmes to drop,” said Fui.
“How much that drop will be, we cannot tell at this stage…but we also anticipate the rise in entering criteria for Foundation programmes and there will be a lot more students and quality students enrolled in TVET programmes.”
For most of the changes the entry for Foundation courses require a higher demand of English varying from 50 to 60% for different courses.
The demand for English has also gone up for different T.V.E.T. programmes.
According to Vice Chancellor the high demand in English was one of the recommendations from government ministries and companies raising concerns about the level of English from graduates.
He explained in Certificate of Arts now requires an English pass of 60% as do the Foundation Certificates in Commerce and General.
As opposed to last year, the requirement for English in the courses was a 50% pass mark.
“There are a lot of programs like journalism that needs to have a higher level of English to deliver message clearly and accurately,” he said.
“Students who aim to become lawyers also need to be fluent in English and lecturers feel students need to have a certain level of English. Students are good in Mathematics and auditing but are weak in writing reports. The report is well written in Samoan but when it’s written in English, it’s not the same.”
But another reason that triggered the change is the reality at the university of having 100 students enrolled in a course but with only 35 graduating at the end of the year.
Fui pointed out this is another reason the decision was made to lift the entry criteria.
“It would be unfair for the students to take in students and expect them to achieve this higher level once they are in,” he said.
“The end result is only 35 students passed and the rest failed. But increasing the entry pass mark means that we will take in those who have a better chance of passing.”
When asked whether it was fair on the students who sat the exams for the university to make the announcement later rather than sooner Fui said there is no guarantee that given this information at the beginning of the year, it would make any difference.
“You could look at it that way. But from the University point of view, this is a response to an overwhelming whisper that we raise our entry criteria from workplaces and the Ministry of Education,” he said.
“We had a lot of conversations about this issue as well as with the Public Service Commission. The pressure has been on us for quite sometimes and we now have made the deliberate decision to go that way…we have been very reserved in the way we handled this issue in the past exactly for those reasons.”
As to what will happen to the rest of the students that do not make it in through the higher entry criteria, the Vice Chancellor said there are other options.
“There are different levels of programmes and if you can’t make the top level of programme and can’t do the diploma you can do a certificate,” he said.
“There is a new reality ion the horizon. We are seriously thinking of expanding the Oloamanu services in terms of offering bridging course programmes for students who might still want to end up in the Foundation programmes.
It’s an alternative to going back to colleges and repeating. If they do not allow students to repeat or if students do not want to go back to school, they can go back and do bridging level programmes through Oloamanu.”
One of the programmes that has made some major changes in its entry criteria is the Faculty of Education.
In the past years, students needed a pass mark of 160% in their best three subjects plus English.
It has now changed to a total pass mark of 200% with 50% for English.
According to the Dean of the Faculty of Education, Tofilau Dr. Faguele Suaalii, the higher requirement is a response to the call for quality teachers.