Sixty per cent of secondary teachers now graduates: Ministry

More than 60 per cent of secondary teachers and nearly 30 per cent of primary teachers in Samoa now hold a Bachelor's of Education, the Government has revealed. 

The increase is proof positive that an ambitious Teacher Upgrade Programme is improving teachers' qualifications, the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture’s (M.E.S.C.) argued in a statement on Friday. 

The upgrade programme was initiated in 2016 with the aim of having every teacher in Samoa hold tertiary qualifications by 2020. It followed a Ministry survey that found only about 10 per cent of the nation's teachers held university degrees.  

But with 63 per cent of secondary teachers and 28 per cent of primary teachers having qualified with a Bachelor’s degree in education or science, the leadership appears satisfied with the programme's progress. 

“The M.E.S.C. remain relentless in their endeavours to ensure every child is being taught by a well-qualified teacher and as long as the need for professionally trained and qualified teachers is a national priority, the upgrade programme remains and continues to serve as a key indicator for progress,” the Ministry said in a statement on Friday.

“The upgrade programme is not only professionally rewarding for teachers, and more importantly designed to provide quality learning in the classrooms.”

The comments come weeks after research into the programme’s successes and limitations was published.

The research, conducted by National University of Samoa (N.U.S.) Faculty of Education staff, outlined major challenges in the programme, including scheduling and teaching time issues, communication issues between the Ministry, University and the teachers in the programme, and some teachers refusing to undertake maths upgrade classes. 

Altogether, 235 teachers are currently in the programme, with 497 teachers yet to be enrolled.

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The N.U.S. has been delivering the bulk of the programme, and expanded its Bachelor of Education programme to attempt to cater for the needs of teachers pursuing further education. Under the Ministry’s directive, the Faculty of Education now provides after hours, online classes and also classes in Savaii as well as a “block course” during holiday breaks.

Teachers have been given special dispensation to apply for paid study leave for their final year of study, the Ministry said.

Another programme sponsored by the scholarship scheme was established in 2014 to improve science and maths grades in Samoa: the Science Teachers' Accelerated Programme (S.T.A.P.) through the University of the South Pacific (U.S.P.).

According to the Ministry 51 out of the first 60 teachers in the first cohort graduated from the programme with four earning extra honours for their achievements. There are currently 55 enrolled in the teachers in the S.T.A.P.

“Trends and analysis in the last three years indicate that for science alone, more students are able to take science subjects given the support of teachers who graduate from [the accelerated programme],” the Ministry's statement said.

“More than 50 per cent annually over the past three years of S.S.L.C (Samoa School Leavers Certificate) students have gained entry into N.U.S Foundation programme and at least 35 per cent into T.V.E.T. (Technical and Vocational Education and Training) programmes.”

The Ministry also claims the last three years has seen improvements in the grades of school leavers in chemistry, biology and mathematics. 

But data provided to the Samoa Observer shows between 2015 and 2018, only pass rates for chemistry improved in any meaningful way: in 2018 nearly 42 per cent of students passed their S.S.L.C exams, almost twice as many as in 2016 (data for 2019 is not available yet).

Biology pass rates tell a different story, with pass rates falling from 45 per cent in 2015 to 23 per cent in 2016. 

In 2018, only 25 per cent of year 13 students passed their biology exams, despite a marked improvement in 2017 when more than half of all students passed the subject.

Mathematics rates have been improving, but by 2018 still an overwhelming majority of year 13 students were failing the final exam for the subject: only about 13 per cent of students passed, which represents an increase of four percentage points from 2015.

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