Teacher competence called into question

While the context for recruiting and providing initial training to teachers is fairly well established a key weakness is in the on-going training and professional development, and monitoring and support, they receive to deliver the curriculum.” 

This was pointed out in the recommendations part of the Pacific Benchmarking for Education Results (PaBER) report that was published last year. 

The report is highly critical of education in Samoa, not only of the curriculum, but also the ability of teachers, and the administration of the Ministry of Education Sports and Culture (MESC). 

The PaBER report says their research and analysis shows that good progress has been made in the development of educational policies and guidelines which provide a broadly enabling context for curriculum development, quality of teaching, student assessment, and school governance. 

“However, there is a risk that these policies and guidelines, and their use by different implementing divisions, lack the necessary integration to deliver improvements in learning.

It is therefore recommended to develop a National Teaching and Learning Framework and a strategy for its implementation, to better enable sectoral efforts in realising the M.E.S.C. vision.  

Further the report recommends the National Teacher Development Framework should be reviewed and additional guidance provided, including subject specific skills/competencies, a range of PD methods, is of sufficient quality and quantity (annual minimum requirements), and gives sufficient attention to matching provision to needs. 

“This should include a priority focus on literacy and numeracy, including skills to teach in English as the medium of instruction.

M.E.S.C. should also determine how this can be provided without cost to the teachers. 

An associated recommendation is to undertake this work as part of a broader Professional Development Strategy for education professionals, including teachers, school principals and MESC/local authority staff.” 

According to the report Pacific Islands Literacy and Numeracy Assessment (PILNA) and PaBER analysis, suggests that a key driver of the low performance in student assessments is the low competence level of teachers to implement the bilingual policy. 

“This calls for more specialised training for teachers to increase their confidence in teaching the curriculum in both Samoan and English.“

It is recommended, however, to review the bilingual policy to better understand any other challenges to its implementation.” 

Furthermore the Samoa National Assessment and Policy Framework contains a comprehensive section on classroom-based teaching and learning. However, the Framework lacks practical guidelines and supplementary materials to implement classroom-based teaching and learning effectively. 

A practical guide to classroom teaching and learning should be developed. The guide will serve to provide teachers with teaching strategies that are student centred and the accompanying materials will allow teachers more teaching time with less need to prepare resources. PaBER indicates that while policy and guidance is in place for school-based assessment, it is not being effectively used in classrooms to promote student learning. 

“More support is needed increase teacher knowledge, time and motivation. 

“To support teachers to make school- based assessment an integral part of their teaching, a practical guide on school-based assessment should be developed to provide a range of resources and activities for use in class, to move away from summative to formative assessment, and to enable the utilization of assessment outcomes to improve teaching approaches and student learning. 

“Alongside this, professional development for teachers and school principals should include a focus on the classroom assessment and the use of student assessment results.” Also there is a broader need to strengthening the capacity of MESC on classroom-based assessment and broader national assessments. “MESC staff should be given on-the-job training and other professional development opportunities on planning, administration, analysis and use of assessment results to inform policy decisions. 

“Staff should also be trained on monitoring and provision of sound assessment advice on the quality of assessment and effective use of assessment results to inform teaching practice and planning targeted student learning.” PaBER has identified there is lack of awareness about national policy among principals, teachers, parents and other key stakeholders. 

“Professional development and training for school principals is a priority to ensure they are aware of key policies, and can involve teachers and other stakeholders in the implementation and monitoring of these. 

“As part of this, principals need to be empowered to better evaluate teachers and provide associated professional development. 

“Schools have a good degree of autonomy in planning and managing school budgets, though it is recommended to review the funding formula for school grants to ensure it does not disadvantage poorer rural schools.” 

PaBER recommends there should also be a voice for school principals in the recruitment and deployment of teachers. The national Education Sector Plan recognises literacy and numeracy as priority, but the limited availability of materials in class continues to be a bottleneck to learning. 

“The Samoa country reports under PaBER highlight a number of actions that could be taken at national and school levels to address this. The more specific guidance is needed for the materials development process, for specifications for materials in both languages as part of the bilingual policy, and in particular the development and procurement of materials in English.

Materials for literacy and numeracy should be a priority.”  The organisational structure for materials development / procurement and evaluation should be clarified and formalised. 

PaBER recommends that a national level policy is also needed to set out mobile learning modes, in particular for remote and rural schools, and innovation sought to test and fast track where appropriate, cost effective approaches.

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