Education system, learning from mistakes and priorities

Education is critical. We know that much. As such, it has been a hot topic on these shores for the past couple of weeks. And rightly so. 

Until Parliament convened last week, education has pretty much dominated the focus of the national conversation.

With exam results from last year for the different levels released, the naming of scholarship recipients and the Ministry of Education Sports and Culture (MESC) preparing teachers for the new academic year, there was a lot to be said about the topic. Good and bad.

But that’s life; there is always the positive and the negative. Today we are not going to dwell on the negatives. We’ve already heard what the problems are in the education sector and some of the solutions that have been suggested. Our hope is that the Government and the leaders of this country make an honest effort to fix it before it is too late.

Looking ahead at the new academic year, which for most students started this week, the work of the education sector in Samoa has been clearly cut out. And there are many challenges. 

Faults identified from last year have hopefully been taken into consideration, so that there is improvement this year. The woman at the helm of the education sector, Chief Executive Officer, Afamasaga Dr. Karoline Fuata’i, appears quite optimistic.

Speaking after she was reappointed for a second term, she accepted that there are always challenges but Principals and teachers need to be more innovative in their approach.

 “The creativeness and resourcefulness of looking out the classroom need to be linked to the curriculum,” she said. “We don’t have to get ‘palagi’ stuff to learn.” 

“What we expect the teachers to know is to comprehend what the results are saying, because those are facts of actual students’ learning based on a set of questions, but we can interpret and refer back to the curriculum and question the practices.”

“If the results are good, then something good is happening in the school, if the results are not so good, then you have to reflect on that and what you did the previous year, and find the solution.”

She makes a lot of sense. According to Afamasaga, the key people are the Principals and Teachers. She wants them to take more control of the learning environment. She also wants the Principals to manage their staff well for the sake of students. 

The truth is that education is a team effort. While the teachers and principals have a job to do, the Government also has a moral responsibility to ensure they are looked after and paid well. 

We’ve been saying this for years but we will say it again at the beginning of 2019: this Government needs to put its money where its mouth is, when it comes to education. Teachers need to be paid well with lots of incentives, so they are driven to give their best to their students. 

It goes without saying that quality teachers are critical components of an environment where the brightest students are nurtured and are allowed to flourish. 

But that’s just one side of the coin. When it comes to education and getting the best out of our students, the other side of the coin involves the parents, guardians, villages, churches, families, you and me. Indeed, the teachers and the education system cannot do it alone. They need our help.

While their task is to teach, our job, as parents, guardians and families is to discipline our children so the teachers can do what they are paid to do. Far too many students these days lack the discipline, which makes the job of teachers extremely difficult. Education starts at home. It begins with life lessons and discipline, which the parents should provide so that when students arrive in the classrooms, the teachers shouldn’t have to waste their time trying to be the parent and the teacher.

Someone once said that a child without boundaries is like a house without walls. In other words, some of us parents need to get tougher on our children and stop blaming the teachers when they fail. Easier said than done, we know. But it’s doable.

Lastly, as parents, we need to get our priorities right. That involves making sure the school fees and other educational needs are placed ahead of other things. In days like these, sometimes it’s okay to say no to the occasional fa’alavelave to prioritise our children’s education. It will not hurt anyone to miss the faifeau’s alofa (offering), if you have to spend money to send the children back to school.

As parents, we are responsible for our children and we are accountable to God on how we perform our role in looking after them. 

So let’s all work together to ensure a successful academic year for all our students in Samoa. 

Happy learning and growing folks, God bless!

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