Teacher upgrade plan overwhelmed
The National University of Samoa (N.U.S.) says it is working triple-time to upskill the nation’s teachers as per a Government directive, and say they are struggling to keep up with demand.
The country is five years into the Teacher Upgrade Programme, which hopes to have all teachers in Samoa armed with a Bachelor of Education, most of which would be from N.U.S.
Faculty of Education Dean, Tofilau Dr. Faguele Suaaali'i, said during the school year, his colleagues work from 8am to 9pm, teaching full time, part time and teacher students the same content.
In research published last month, the struggle of teachers, principals, the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture and the University to carry out the programme was laid bare, most notably the challenge of getting to classes at all.
Principals were complaining about teachers abandoning their own students to attend class, while the University struggled to schedule lessons outside of teaching hours.
Peseta said that problem is largely unavoidable, with the teaching faculty working triple-time to make the Teacher Upgrade Programme work.
The Ministry initially expected N.U.S. to run separate Bachelor of Education classes for their practicing teachers from the new students.
But the lack of staff, classrooms or hours in the day means the Faculty of Education (F.O.E.) was unable to deliver, and shifted the programming to the Bachelor’s regular schedule.
“We could not redirect our fulltime staff to teach the in-service teachers and neglect our fulltime students,” Deputy Vice Chancellor, Peseta Dr. Desmond Lee Hang said.
“We had to compromise and cut down the numbers of students they wanted so we could accommodate them in the same classes as our fulltime students.”
Even so, teachers work long hours catering to the full and part-time students, as well as travelling to Savaii on weekends to work with the Savaii upgrading teachers.
But the rescheduling led to the ire of Principals, left with classes of students with no relief teachers.
Tofilau said the faculty deliver timetables early in the semester, leaving it to the students to submit their timetables to their schools.
“Somehow, I don’t know why the teachers don’t give the timetables, and that is why we have complaints by the Principals, because teacher’s come to school (N.U.S.), leaving their students at school unoccupied or unattended," he said.
“They put the blame on us for having courses during school times, but we are trying to accommodate for full time and part time students too.
“They are teachers, they should know [to submit their timetables to their Principals], but somehow things like this slip out of their fingers… but they need to play their part.”
As well as the F.O.E, the faculties of Science, and Businesses and Entrepreneurship are also involved in the Teacher Upgrade programme, and similarly unable to be flexible with their teaching hours.
Peseta believes the Ministry needs to do more to have teachers communicate better with their schools, in order to allow everyone to prepare better.
“M.E.S.C. needs to clarify, because M.E.S.C. views those in-service teachers as their property, and pays their tuition. Because of that, they basically run their lives.
“We can only advise, but at the end of the day it’s up to them to communicate to their staff and convey our concerns.”
The upgrading teachers are the only students the University has little to no control over outside their classrooms, Peseta added.
But the Deputy Vice-Chancellor said he is looking forward to seeing all teachers with higher qualifications and a subsequent improvement in numeracy and literacy rates especially.
He believes in at least seven years students will walk into Foundation courses with the necessary tools to pass their sources.
“We understand the purpose of the programme,” Peseta said. “At the end of the day we are trying to improve the quality of teachers, and hopefully the quality of teaching delivery.
“We share this objective as a partner in the education sector and we are fully committed to stretch our limited resources to ensure the objectives of this programme are realised.”