Minister responds to Maths dilemma

By Lanuola Tusani Tupufia 15 January 2016, 12:00AM

The Minister of Education, Sports and Culture, Magele Mauiliu Magele, has welcomed criticisms on the Samoa Secondary Leaving Certificate Mathematic examination. 

If anything, Magele said the difference of opinions expressed about the issue is healthy for the education sector in moving forward.

 “The discussion on the newspaper has revealed exactly where the attention is needed,” Magele told the Samoa Observer. “It has only been two years since we have (setup the exams paper locally and) moved away from the S.P.B.E. (South Pacific Board of Education in Fiji) and this was not identified then.”

Magele was responding to a call from the Director of Catholic Education in Samoa, Aeau Chris Hazelman, for the Ministry to be more transparent in terms of the Mathematic exam. Making reference to the failure rate of the 2014 S.S.L.C Maths exam, Aeau claimed that some 40 questions in the latest Maths exam were “Foundation level not Year 13”. 

“This is unacceptable,” said Aeau. 

According to the Minister, the failure rate referred to is the outcome of changing the system. 

Under the S.P.B.E, the Minister said the scaling system was used and the “teachers liked it because they can hide behind it (in terms of results).”

But the decision to use raw marks instead under the new system has revealed the truth. And in comparing the two systems, the Minister said the problem with scaling is that the students are the ones that suffer when they reach the National University of Samoa. 

According to Magele, in the past many students had high pass rates in Mathematics when they sat the New Zealand School Certificate and the University Entrance examination. 

It wasn’t until the 1980s when students no longer had to sit the N.Z exams. Not long after, S.P.B.E was established. It was during the time of S.P.B.E when scaling was introduced. 

Two years ago, the Ministry of Education changed it. It decided that the exam would be set locally. Further, it also did away with scaling.

 “If you don’t know your raw marks, you don’t know which area you need improvement in because scaling covers up those weaknesses,” he explained. 

“If the assessment from Vavatau and Aeau is true, because I have not seen their analysis that the exam is difficult, then it needs to be scaled. 

“Using raw marks doesn’t mean we write off scaling totally, there is a place for it if the exam was unfair.”

He said it’s important for the critics to sit down with the relevant people to discuss a way forward and lessen the gaps identified. 

Asked if the Mathematics results have improved since the move from S.P.B.E, the Minister said from what he was told without seeing the figures, the Maths (average) has dropped. 

“I met with the C.E.O and that is what I asked for (the results) and they are preparing it for me.”

Yesterday, Aeau reminded that M.E.S.C should ensure all students are treated fairly and equally. 

“The last two years have shown that they have not completed this task with the voice of the few dominating the discussions on Math,” he said.

 “Students are not stupid, they will not want to sit a subject where their chances of passing is low. This then makes a mockery of what our Government is trying to push Science and Math amongst our students. 

“In moving forward, M.E.S.C needs to be more transparent i.e. selection of examiner and moderator, thorough check of exam drafts to see all criteria are met and stated in the curriculum, and not wait to the last minute (meeting in September for the exam format) should not be accepted.” 

By Lanuola Tusani Tupufia 15 January 2016, 12:00AM

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