Too soon to issue a M.E.S.C. report card

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Marj Moore

Things are happening, in the Education sector if the stories rolling out of the Ministry of Education Sports and Culture are anything to go by.

And while many readers will no doubt be saying “and about time too”, before we schedule the parade and banners, it would be wise to take a careful look at the most recent pronouncements by the Minister, Loau Solamalemalo Keneti Sio.

There is the classroom-based assessment policy with the important sounding title ‘Schools Innovation for Literacy, Numeracy and Science Policy’.

Loau said the policy will assess students’ strengths and weaknesses. He cited what he said was a tendency by people to blame poor grades in the primary school as the reason for failure later when students reach tertiary level. That seems logical and obviously if students don’t have a sound grounding in the basic subjects, o course they will struggle and possibly fail later.  And this is why it is important that the very best teachers are in the classrooms in the first years of a child’s schooling.

While there was little detail on the type of assessment that would take place, a successful model used overseas ensured that pupils were not being “overtested” by limiting a comprehensive test to when the child turned 6. By then the child would be expected to have attained basic skills for reading, writing and mathematics and if not, strategies would be put in place to address those gaps in the child’s learning. However one of the challenges in Samoa might be that while some class rolls are quite small out in the rural areas, there are still schools where class sizes are way above the ‘best practice’ teaching levels.

Another change Loau announced was one of those back to the future type decisions that the government is well known for. A decision is made and then not too long afterwards, it is reversed leaving taxpayers to wonder if brains were engaged before action was taken.

The other change is the consideration being given to re-legislate corporal punishment in a bid to address inter-school fights. 

And here we were all thinking that all had been quiet of late. 

But while the Minister hastily added that nothing had been finalised and there is that not so small matter of international conventions that we have signed up to, it is clear which camp he is in. 

This was obvious in his references to the Bible and the nostalgic note that crept in to his speech when he talked about the leaders who grew up under the corporal punishment system “but look at most of them now?” he invited.

“They are very successful and that was due to that discipline,” he asserted.  

And then on today’s front page we are told that school inspectors are to be reinstated. Many of us may have been unaware they had been terminated so this was definitely something of interest particularly when he gave the reason for their return.

He cited problems between the schools, - principals and teachers and M.E.S.C. and also the fact of many schools being situated at quite a distance from M.E.S.C. headquarters at Malifa. He should also have mentioned that most schools do not have landlines, or Internet access or even mobile phones in some cases which makes communication slow and very difficult.

These school inspectors he said would be the “be the eyes and ears of the Ministry of Education and a voice for every school in Samoa.”

Certainly in enacting these new policies and seeing that they are implemented will require excellent communication between M.E.S.C. and the schools of Samoa.

It is also good news for principals and teachers who have viewed the M.E.S.C. headquarters simply as the place that issued edicts but were not particularly interested in their views. 

© Samoa Observer 2016

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