Re-assess and move on vital school reforms

By The Editorial Board 21 January 2022, 6:00AM

Eighteen months after the former Government announced changes to Samoa’s secondary school education system, we are not surprised that the much vaunted reform has not gone according to plan.

Last year was tentatively scheduled by the Ministry of Education Sports and Culture (M.E.S.C.) to be the year of implementation. But as the Minister for Education Sports and Culture, Seuula Ioane indicated in his interview with the Samoa Observer this week, he is in the dark on the status of the reform.

The Minister’s admission highlighted in the article (Secondary school reforms not stopped) published in the 20 January 2022 edition of the Samoa Observer, also confirms how problematic it has been for students and parents to get an update on the reform’s progress.

In retrospect, when the 2021 academic year opened last year, parents and guardians expected schools to be in a position to give them an update on the reform, and how it will impact their child’s learning outcomes.

Students who were in Year 8 in 2020 were set to become the inaugural graduates of the new system when they transitioned to Year 9 in 2021 under the reform. 

A ministerial statement on the reform released by the M.E.S.C. in July 2020 and published by this newspaper pointed out how Year 9 students in 2021 were the first cohorts under the new system. One major benefit of the reform is enabling these students when they get to Year 10 in 2022 (this year) to consider four major learning pathways from which to choose from. The learning pathways are: commerce; arts; technical and vocational education and training; and science.

Do we know if Year 10 students this year in secondary schools and colleges around Samoa will be privy to and given access to information pertaining to the four major learning pathways?

It is a pity that we are raising these issues now as some secondary schools and colleges started their 2022 academic year this week with more to follow next week. But it needs to be said because we are talking about the future of our children and the next generation of leaders of Samoa.

Do not get us wrong: we fully support the reform proposed by the M.E.S.C. which the former Administration took on. The reform is necessary to address the dropping academic results seen among students, after sitting the Year 12 Secondary School Certificate (S.S.C.) and Year 13 Samoa School Leaving Certificate (S.S.L.C.) examinations. According to the Ministry, the deterioration in the quality of academic grades was particularly distinct among male students.

However, we had questions about the timing of the reform and the schedule of its implementation. It was announced three months after the country went into lockdown at that time, following the Government’s declaration of a state of emergency (S.O.E.) to mitigate the threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

So how is a Ministry-led reform that needs an education sector-wide consultative process to be effective supposed to be successful with all stakeholders working remotely from home with all schools shut for a quarter of the 2020 academic year?

And then we had the 2021 General Election last April, which based on our five-year electoral cycle and democratic record was supposed to work like clockwork, but got hijacked after the polls by politicians who refused to concede defeat to trigger a 4-month constitutional crisis that impacted everyone, including students and parents.

Therefore, with the 2022 school year now upon us, we must ask where to from here for a critically important education reform? 

The M.E.S.C. and the Government should be honest in terms of preparations within the Ministry and the education sector, following revelations by Minister Seuula that he has received reports of the curriculum and the teachers not being ready for the reform’s implementation. Nonetheless a decision needs to be made by those in authority on whether to proceed or to defer.

The last thing we want is another batch of students coming through Year 10 and Year 12 with poor grades and being unable to capitalise on further education and training opportunities, in order to secure their future to enable them to become participants in nation building.

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Education
By The Editorial Board 21 January 2022, 6:00AM
Samoa Observer

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