Teacher-student numbers sufficient: Ministry

The Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture has downplayed reports of a national teacher shortage, saying that on the measure of the ratio of class sizes in schools there are adequate teacher numbers. 

In a statement issued by the Ministry, the M.E.S.C. says the country has sufficient teams to meet the demands of education in Samoa.

“In terms of [a] teachers and student ratio, there is a sufficient number of teachers in the country,” a statement by M.E.S.C. submitted to Parliament this week read.

But while the statement said teacher numbers were aligned with student numbers, it went onto acknowledge an overconcentration of students in certain parts of the country:

“The majority of students are concentrated in the urban areas in contrast to attending schools in their villages and districts.” 

The Ministry’s response follows ongoing concerns raised in the Parliament over the shortage of teachers and statements about the issue been made by senior Ministers including Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi.

According to M.E.S.C. the issue is not new and public concerns about the issue first started getting raised six years ago. 

“The shortage of teachers is an issue identified and acknowledged by the Ministry since 2015,” the statement said. 

The country’s teacher shortage crisis was also raised in the Parliament last month by a Member of Parliament revealing there are now more student classes compared to teachers.

Vaisigano No.2 M.P. Tapulesatele Tamasone Esera told the Parliament that the teacher shortage crisis should be addressed, and used as an example the Papa Sataua Primary School which opened a new school building in 2019.

“We need more teachers, last school year we only had three teachers, yet there are eight classes, this is an issue that’s ongoing,” he said in a debate last Thursday.

 “There is also a retired teacher that has been hired temporarily but there is still a need for more teachers for this new school year.”

But the Ministry said that the strategies were put in place to mitigate the problem, such as the reemployment of retirees and better marketing the teaching profession as a career change option. 

“In 2015, 177 retirees were reemployed and as of February 2021, 274 retirees were reemployed,” M.E.S.C.’s submission read. 

The Ministry said the distribution of teachers is influenced by common factors, such as a school’s location relative to its teachers’ residences; the supply of qualified teachers; transportation costs and availability. 

M.E.S.C. said there is also an issue of school compliance with enrolment and student-teacher ratios; classroom availability, and housing for teachers. 

In Parliament the Minister of Education Sports and Culture,  Loau Keneti Sio, acknowledged the concerns raised by the M.P. and emphasised that his Ministry is working to maintain current teacher numbers.

“We also have students finishing from the National University of Samoa who will be allocated to different schools,” he said. 

“The primary schools are from Level 1 to Level 8 and if there are 70 students and there's a teacher for every level from one to eight, well, then there should be some consideration for the ratio of teachers to students."

Three months ago Loau said the Ministry’s policy to open its door to retired teachers.

"It is their choice, there are a lot of reasons why there is a shortage of teachers, we cannot stop people from emigrating overseas,” the Minister said. 

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