Voters Must Ask All Political Parties What Their Policy Would Be on Education

    By Wadan Narsey

Professor Narsey raises important questions that need to be seriously discussed by educationalists, employers, aid donors and government. But he only touches on some questions that commentators in several countries are asking about tertiary education: 1. Is university education suitable for all students? 2. With access easier than before, are university standards dropping?  3. Why are so many graduates unemployed? 4.  Does more attention need to be given to training in blue-collar and technical skills at the tertiary level?  - Ed.

1:    Free Pre-schools

One of the Bainimarama Government’s good measures is that all students at primary and secondary school are able to obtain a certain minimum funding from tax-payers.  However, the funding should begin from pre-school.

I have shown in these two articles here, that the major beneficiaries of pre-school education are the poorest students whose homes do not have a good learning environment.  Moreover, the benefit that poor children receive at Pre-school or Early Childhood education, persist through later years of education.
https://narseyonfiji.wordpress.com/2012/03/28/pre-schools-and-the-poor-the-fiji-times-5-may-2003/ https://narseyonfiji.wordpress.com/2012/03/19/free-pre-schools-for-the-poor-the-fiji-times-30-july-2010/

Another gender benefit of ensuring free pre-school for poor and middle class children is that their mothers will be able to use the available time for income earning or professional development or much-earned leisure activities.

Voters should ask all political parties what their policies will be on:

All areas of  Fiji (rural and urban) where certain minimum numbers (to be decided by education stakeholders) of pre-school age children are located, should be funded to provide:

(a) proper pre-school classrooms and teaching materials
(b) pre-school teachers, preferably qualified, with unqualified teachers where absolutely necessary, with programs to ensure that they become qualified over time.
(c) attendance should be totally free Education

Issue 2:    Re-establish national examinations at schools at Year 8, Form 4, Form 6 and Form 7

The Bainimarama Government made a decision to phase out all national examinations.
I have previously explained the damaging consequences of this decision, here:
https://narseyonfiji.wordpress.com/2012/03/19/national-examinations-you-dont-know-what-you-have-got-till-it-is-gone-the-fiji-times-27-february-2010/ https://narseyonfiji.wordpress.com/2013/12/22/mr-bole-school-principals-and-the-ending-of-national-examinations-letter-to-the-editor-31-oct-2013-not-published/  https://narseyonfiji.wordpress.com/2014/02/04/ending-of-examinations-not-an-achievement-letter-to-editor-2-feb-2014- published-4-feb-2014/

Voters should ask all political parties what their policies will be on:

(a)  Restoring the national examinations at Year 8, Form 4, Form 6 and Form 8.
(b)  retaining and strengthening the scarce curriculum, examinations and assessment staff at the Min of Education.
(c) Insist that the results of the national examinations are not used to “push” students out of the education system but to guide them in their areas of weaknesses and strengths and guide them into labour-market oriented training that suits their skills.

Education Issue 3:     Lift Retirement Age from 55 to 60

One of the negative policies implemented by the Bainimarama Government has been the compulsory enforcement of the retirement age at 55.
This policy has not been applied to Bainimarama himself or to some members of his family or key supporters.
This policy has meant disastrous effects in schools and in many other parts of the civil service.
In education, qualified and experienced persons in senior positions in the education system as Head Teachers and  Assistant Head Teachers, Heads of Departments and education experts in the Head Office, have been forced to retire and replaced by inexperienced persons.
Some have been renewed for short periods, but at the discretion of the Minister or higher up, often depending on “who you know”.
To add insult to injury, some retirees have been offered to other Pacific countries to assist with their shortages, raising the question: why is Fiji offering their services which they do not want themselves?

https://narseyonfiji.wordpress.com/2013/11/01/55-year-retirement-policy-by-bainimarama-government-24-oct-2013/

Voters should ask all political parties what their policies will be on:

(a) Lifting the retirement age for all civil servants to 60
(b) with annual renewals thereafter depending on satisfactory medical examinations.

Education Issue 4:     Schools must be allowed to raise funds independently, in addition to receiving the grants they currently receive.

I have explained previously in a Letter to the Editor, the irrationality of the Ministry of Education policy decision that schools must not raise funds independently. https://narseyonfiji.wordpress.com/2014/01/24/an-irrational-education-policy-letter-to-ed-24-january-2014/ Voters should ask all political parties what their policies will be on allowing all schools to
(a) raise funds that the school management feel is necessary to achieve the standards that that they wish for, with the approval of the majority of the parents
(b) giving those parents who do not wish to take part in such fund-raising to go to other schools of their choice.

Education Issue 5:     Education scholarships
While 600 scholarships are being offered to students completely on merit, indigenous Fijians, females and other minority groups  may not get a balanced proportion of these scholarships.

Voters must ask all political parties what their policy would be on:

(a) Making available additional scholarships that ensures a reasonable degree of  ethnic and gender balance in the total scholarships made available, especially for the important fields in which Fiji will require expertise into the future.
(b) that there be  equity between those who receive scholarships and those who receive loans, with bonding requirements be the same for all categories of students assisted at tertiary level.

Source: http://narseyonfiji.wordpress.com/2014/02/27/election-issues-bulletin-2-education-27-february-201441C   

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