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PART I: DESCRIPTIVE SECTION

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE REVIEW PROCESS

The review was carried out by a committee comprising officers from the Ministry of Education’s Primary Section, Curriculum Development Unit, Statistics, and the Planning and Research Units. The officers had been chosen on the basis of their work experience and the relevance of this experience to the exercise, while at the same time taking into consideration the statistical nature of the work coverage.

Most of the indicator data and educational publications were made available by the Ministry’s Statistics Unit while the population statistics was drawn from the Bureau of Statistics’ latest population census figures of 1996. Information from published Ministry of Education material, including annual reports and planning documents have also been drawn on towards the final compilation of this report.

Thanks are extended to UNESCO, Apia for their support with the Support Team members Mrs Christina Jowett, who visited Fiji in April and Mrs Celia Barelle, who assisted in August 1999. Two workshops, organised by UNESCO Apia, were held in Nadi, Fiji, during June and August 1999.

BACKGROUND

Geography

Fiji lies in the heart of the Pacific Ocean midway between the equator and the South Pole, and between longitudes 175 degrees east and 178 degrees west and latitudes 15 degrees and 22 degrees south. Fiji’s exclusive economic zone containing approximately 330 islands, of which about one third are inhabited, covers about 1.3 million square kilometers of the South Pacific Ocean. Fiji’s total land area is 18,333 square kilometers. 83% of the land is owned by indigenous Fijians while 9% is state land and 8% is freehold land. Only 16% of Fiji’s landmass is suitable for agriculture and is found mainly along coastal plains, river deltas and valleys. The capital is Suva and it is one of two cities while the other is Lautoka – both are located on the island of Viti Levu.

Climate

Fiji enjoys a tropical South Sea maritime climate without extremes of heat or cold. The islands lie in an area which is occasionally traversed by tropical cyclones between the months of November to April every year. On average, some ten to twelve cyclones per decade affect some parts of Fiji and two to three can be very severe.

Temperatures average 22 degrees Celsius (72 degrees F) for the cooler months (May to October) while the summer (November to April) temperatures are higher with heavy downpours.

Flora and Fauna

Fiji’s flora and fauna are relatively few in number but are of exceptional scientific interest because of the higher proportion of endemic forms – i.e. those found nowhere else in the world. Ten percent of the 476 indigenous Fijian plant species identified are endemic.

Population

Fiji’s population on August 25, 1996 stood at 772,655. There were 358,131 persons in the urban areas and 414,524 in the rural areas. Of the total, 394,999 were Fijians (51.1%), 336,579 were Indians (43.6%) and 41,077 others (5.3%).

Fiji has a relatively young population with about 53% are persons below the age of 25 years. The economically active population in 1986 was 62% of the total population of 441,852 persons.

Land Administration

The Department of Lands & Surveys and the Native Land Trust Board are two authorities which undertake management and administration of most of the land in Fiji.

Education

Education in Fiji actually started with the arrival of the missionaries who set up a very informal education system whereby reading and arithmetic formed the basic curriculum. The goal of such an education system was basically to have a core group of students who could read and interpret the bible and to act as evangelists, spreading God’s message to the locals.

The missionaries set up mission schools beginning with primary level and extending later to secondary. Also part of the system was a strong technical/vocational component, the continuation of which we see forming the basis of technical education in the country today.

In 1916, the first Education Department was set up in Fiji to undertake the provision of all educational services in the country. The Department started to register all schools and centralized all educational services from curriculum to the recruitment of teachers.

However, one of the most important aspects of education not centralized was the ownership of schools, which was left with the communities and other controlling authorities. This has been acknowledged worldwide as a strength of the education system in Fiji. Often in the face of economic hardships and adversities, communities devote significant human and physical resources to raise funds in the name of educating the young people of the nation.

A strength of this system of school ownership has been, and will continue to be the capacity for schools to be responsive to the local community and environment. It also engenders parental commitment and partnership in education at all levels and demonstrates to young people the exceptional value which is placed upon teaching and learning in the lives of all our citizens. This has been a major driving force in our high participation rates in the system, particularly in the basic years of schooling.

1.0 EFA Goals & Targets

There have been three main goals of EFA in Fiji, namely :

  1. Improvement of educational facilities and resources in rural areas
  2. Increase the school participation rate and reduce dropout in basic education
  3. Improve the quality and relevance of education to all

1.10 Early Childhood Education

A plan of action was put in place to ensure that educational services are made available to as many pre-school-aged children as possible. Specific functions carried out included :

1.20 Primary Education

The Education Act (Cap 262, Part XI, Section 28) of 1978, on Compulsory Education in Fiji, stipulated the following, that :

  1. the Minister may, with the consent of Parliament, by order, specify any area or areas of Fiji in which all children of such age or ages as may be specified in such order shall be required to attend a school.
  2. when any order has been made under the provisions of subsection (I), the Minister may make regulations to secure that every child of the age specified in such order shall receive education in a school. The Compulsory Education Regulations which came into effect in January 1997, attempted to, as far as practically possible, ensure that it be the duty of every parent or guardian to ensure that every child of compulsory school age receive suitable and relevant education by regular attendance at a school. This is further delved into in detail in the later part of this report.

1.30 Learning Achievement and Outcomes

The target is access for all to quality education with the objective being high levels of literary acquisition. Targets include:

Both internal and external examinations continue to play a dominant role in the lives of teachers and students in Fiji.

1.40 Adult Literacy rate

Fiji has, over the last ten years placed considerable effort in the form of having in place initiatives to improve literacy in Fiji. The Ministry of Youth, Employment Opportunities & Sports has worked closely with non-government organizations in initiating adult literacy and awareness programs. More on this initiative is covered in the report..

1.50 Education and Training

It is noted that about 60% of youth (aged between 15 and 24 years) reside in rural areas. With a total population of over 770,000 (1996 population census), youth accounted for 24% (156,127) of which 78,486 were Fijians, 69972 were Indians and the rest of other racial ethnicities.

1.5.1 Youth policy programs aim at mobilizing and training youth in various capacities to broaden and facilitate career development and self-employment. Skill training must be standard, appropriate and be marketable in the labour market and will incorporate relevant life skills, both spiritual and character training, to become a vital component of youth training.

1.5.2 The Youth Employment Options Program, established in 1989 aims at assisting young people to make a successful transition from school life to work, unemployment to employment and onto further education. The program also provides short term skill training courses, employment information and dissemination programs including the ‘Careers Expo’, to assist young people make appropriate career choices from options available.

1.5.3 The National Youth Service, established in 1993 provides training at the grassroot level with a second chance program for most disadvantaged youths to acquire self employment and/or employable skills. As the program is designed to meet the needs of the most disadvantaged youths in the labour market, the main area of focus is to improve opportunities for rural youth through agricultural skills training and marine resource management. There is no minimum educational qualification to be eligible and priority is given to young people who do not have access to other training programs.

1.5.4 The Service operates in three major divisions with a national network of government and community-based NYS training camps established. Programs include vocational skills, discipline, spiritual development, time management, cultural awareness. It encourages parental and community support in rural areas.

1.5.5 The Viti Corps, established in 1995, aims to assist the development of youth throughout Fiji in the provision of training programs based on a ‘Youth Training Farm’ concept. The objective is to provide appropriate vocational training to ensure career development and sustainable self-employment. The emphasis is on specialized farm training in dairying, beef cattle, piggery, taro/cassava production, ginger, short term crops, aqua culture, farm management, agricultural trades, mechanical skills and motivational training for discipline.

1.5.6 Another initiative, the Organization for Industrial, Spiritual and Culture Advancement (OISCA) was established in 1990 under joint partnership between the Ministry for Youth, Employment Opportunities & Sports and OISCA. The initiative emphasizes basic Japanese agricultural techniques, Japanese language & culture, personal development based on OISCA principles and an environmental education initiative for primary school children (Children Forests Program) on afforestation and reforestation.

1.60 Education for Better Living

The ‘Positive Mental Attitude (PMA) initiative through the Youth Ministry aims to provide young people with continuous motivational and attitudinal training programs to help them attain their goals in life.

1.6.1 Established in 1990, the Fiji Institute of Sports promotes sports development through rural outreach programs, identifies high potential athletes, helps in capacity building for sports federations and promotes sports for all nationwide.

1.6.2 The National Youth Band, established in 1985 by the then Ministry of Education, Youth & Sports through an overseas donation of musical instruments, has as its objective ‘to offer unemployed youths an opportunity to develop their talents for use in the entertainment industry and/or become tutors/teachers of physical education, music, art & craft (PEMAC)’.

1.6.3 The government also ensures that there is greater awareness amongst youth of their fundamental rights or freedom and the strengthening of those values in the families, society and community NGOs and youth groups. Promotion, awareness and application to daily living, the values of democracy, respect for rights and property of others, gender equality and equality for youths with special needs, e.g. street children, disabled, minority groups etc. There should be equal access to opportunities to acquire knowledge, information, skills, resources, positive values etc. that enable youth to achieve full potential.

1.6.4 Young people cannot be developed in isolation. Social support from the family, community and society at large are essential components of the process. Greater collaboration and co-ordination between key stakeholders is vital.

2.0 EFA STRATEGIES AND/OR PLAN OF ACTION

2.1 Improvement of educational facilities and resources in rural areas.

Out of the total public current expenditure of $F104,752,700.00 allocated to education in 1992, $F52,387,700.00 was devoted to primary education. This has risen considerably to $F79,341,223.00 out of a total education budget of $F152,199,195.00 in 1998. The table in Indicator 8 shows the emphasis placed on primary education in Fiji where, over the last four years, expenditure has been about half of the total Education budget. Government expenditure on education in 1994 – 1997 showed a substantial increase in funding for education as a whole showing the government’s commitment to education.

2.2 The goal is to ‘increase the school participation rate and reduce drop-out in basic education’, Indicators 13 & 14 on Survival Rate to Grade 5 and co-efficient on efficiency show an evident trend with regard to how girls have continued to show better figures in terms of performance during the period under review. The obvious question to ask is, what are the contributing factors which have led to this trend.

2.3 On ‘Improving the quality and relevance of education to all’ a number of strategies have been recommended and put in place :

(i) Pre-school education

Recurring issues raised in the Ministry’s annual reports in the earlier part of the decade under review, which are again highlighted below, include the shortage of advisory services staff, the need for a permanent teacher training scheme and inadequate financial assistance towards the implementation of pre-school programmes. Continuous support from UN and other donor agencies and funding institutions has, over the years, been highlighted in the reports and the latter part of the decade has seen continued liaison amongst the Pacific Pre-School Association, Fiji Pre-School Association, UNICEF and the University of the South Pacific.

Funding for the following strategies advocated is needed to ensure an effective service is offered to most of, if not all, the population by the year 2000.

(i) the establishment of a more permanent teacher training program another development in the Advisory Services area to include :

                    (a)   appointment of additional Education Advisors to serve in each education district

      (b) increase in allocation to ensure a more efficient service is offered

      (ii) distribution of educational equipment and material to all recognized early childhood centers

      (iii) implement a more vigorous parent education and community awareness campaign, especially in rural areas and carry out research work on issues pertinent to pre-school services in the country

      (iv) foster the development of early childhood care and education programmes with emphasis on family and community-based approaches

                    (v) payment of salaries for pre-school teachers

From the above, the following have been achieved during the review decade :

Teacher Training : A one-year teacher training course for pre-school teachers started at Lautoka Teachers’ College this year, 1999. Fifteen pre-school teachers who have taught for more than two years with a minimum of Forms 6 and 7 (years 17 & 18) qualifications were selected from different education districts. This marks a great achievement in pre-school education and is a stepping stone for pre-school teachers into being absorbed as civil servants within the Education ministry.

  1. Distribution of educational material and equipment : The objective of this project is to provide educational play material, equipment and books to rural pre-schools to help enhance the quality of education being offered and thereby help improve rural children’s access to, and performance, in primary education. In this respect, the New Zealand government provided a cash grant of $F134,540.00 which was used to help procure educational play material, equipment, books for children and reference books for teachers. Phase 2 of this project started in 1998 and 120 centers will be assisted. Phase 3 will start this year, 1999, and will include assistance to some urban and demonstration centers plus pre-schools affected by natural disasters.
  2. Payment of salaries for pre-school teachers : In 1997, a cabinet memorandum was submitted by the Minister for Education seeking Cabinet approval for government funding to assist in the payment of grant-aided salaries of pre-school teachers. This has since been approved and starting in 1998. Government is providing a grant of $F312,201.00 towards the payment of salaries for 142 pre-school teachers teaching in rural areas, again showing the commitment towards early childhood development.
  3. There has been a steady increase in the number of recognized centers during the review period from 246 in 1988 to 440 in 1998. The total number of children enrolled in 1988 was 5,900, which had increased to 7,934 in 1998. (refer Table 1 ) The number of pre-school teachers had also increased from 304 in 1988 to 451 in 1999. The main thrust in the development of pre-school education from 1989 to 1999 had been in the area of advisory services and teacher training.

(ii) Special Education

On the job training programmes continue to be given a high priority for all the 16 special schools in Fiji with at least a visit a year from the Ministry to the institutions. Apart from other funding assistance for which the Ministry is most thankful, government continues to financially assist special education where in 1996, financial assistance totalled $F250,000.00.

Now in place is an early intervention programme for the post-natal period to assist parents at the Suva Early Intervention Centre with the help of paediatricians, physiotherapists and speech therapists. Seminars and workshops are conducted at least once a year to help upgrade teachers’ work standards and also introduced are special computers in some of the schools to assist learning amongst disabled children.

(iii) Primary Education

With the target being ‘universal access to and completion of primary/basic education by the year 2000’, Fiji, has over the last 10 years attempted to meet the target by :

In the area of Basic Education two projects that have figured prominently during the decade are the Basic Education & Literacy Support (BELS) and the Basic Education Management & Teacher Upgrading Project (BEMTUP).

  1. BELS : Along with other Pacific countries which are part of the initiative, the Fiji government became a signatory to the programme in 1992 signifying its commitment to basic education. The programs main objective is to raise and maintain the literacy levels of primary schoolchildren. There were three components of the programme that were emphasized and these included :
  2. . Literacy

    . Classroom skills

    . Community awareness

    The programmes were tackled vigorously by the Ministry’s Curriculum Development Unit while working together with the District Education Officers because of the Community Support component. Fiji is thankful to UNDP, AusAID, UNICEF and UNESCO for the joint financial, human and other support.

  3. BEMTUP : This project which is funded by AusAID commenced in 1996 with its aim being to increase the effectiveness of Classes 7 & 8 teachers and also strengthen and upgrade the Research & Development section of the Ministry.

Training of Classes 7 & 8 teachers should see the upgrading of their knowledge and skills in the teaching of English, Mathematics, Social Science and Basic Science. These are being accomplished through full time three-week workshops and by a learning phase during the school terms.

A second component to this project is the revision of a primary school database that has already been developed under the BELS programme. The database, which has been extended to include a secondary school database, captures a lot of school data to be used in assessing schools in general and for decision-making through the supply of information from the database. Apart from the two abovementioned projects two of the Ministry’s major policy initiatives were the Tuition Fee Free Assistance and the Compulsory Education policy. These are further elaborated on in Part III of this report.

3.0 EFA DECISION-MAKING & MANAGEMENT

3.1 Major EFA policies, as all educational policies, are decided by the Minister for Education in consultation with the Education Forum. The Education Forum is an advisory body to the Minister and its membership is drawn from a wide cross-section of those who have contributed to education or who play a major role in the development of education in the country.

3.2 According to the Fiji Education Act Cap 262 of 1978, the Education Forum shall consist of the Permanent Secretary, the Deputy Secretaries, one representative from each of the Fiji Teachers’ Union and the Fijian Teachers’ Association, the President of the Fiji Principals’ Association and ten representatives of the controlling authorities of registered or recognized schools.

3.3 The Permanent Secretary, as Chairman of the Forum, shall have the duty to report to the Forum the action taken on any matter on which the Forum has advised the Minister.

4.0 CO-OPERATION IN EFA

4.1 EFA policies co-ordination and implementation has, over the years, been under the Primary Section of the Ministry of Education. There has been, however, good co-operation between various Sections in sharing the work under different projects such as Compulsory Education. Regarding Compulsory Education, various components are handled by different Sections e.g the curriculum component handled by the Curriculum Development Unit and the Technical/Vocational Sections. Capital works are handled by the Research & Development Unit and success is due mainly to good co-operation amongst the Sections responsible.

4.2 NGOs and UN agencies such as UNDP, UNICEF, UNFPA, UNESCO including foreign embassies have featured prominently by way of financial or human resource assistance. NGO assistance included Save the Children’s Fund, Fiji Red Cross Society, Fiji Council of Social Services (FCOSS), KANA Project and others.

4.3 UN agencies have been assisting the Ministry in setting up curriculum initiatives such as the Family Life Program funded by UNFPA, the BELS Program by UNESCO and the Pre-School Programs funded by UNICEF and UNDP. All this assistance has advanced our Basic Education programs and literacy campaigns not only for school children, but also for parents and the community as a whole.

4.4 Non-government agencies such as the Save the Children’s Fund and Rotary Clubs (to mention only two) have been assisting students and families encountering financial difficulties by paying school fees and assisting schools financially. FCOSS has over the years provided assistance towards the construction of physical facilities in schools complementing the building grants to schools from the Ministry.

4.5 The KANA Project has featured in helping improve food quality and ensure balanced diets for students in boarding schools, particularly primary schools in rural areas where the Project also conducts community awareness programs. An officer from the Ministry is on secondment to the Project to assist in implementation.

4.6 Embassies have, over the years, assisted in the promotion of basic education in Fiji through grants for the improvement or construction of facilities such as classrooms, teachers’ quarters, specialist rooms, electrification and water supply.

5.0 INVESTMENT IN EFA SINCE 1990

5.1 There has been substantial investment in EFA programs during the decade from within and outside government. New government initiatives and policies could be divided into a number of broad categories :

5.1.1 Teacher salaries : The implementation of the Job Evaluation Review (JER) of the Public Sector in 1998 saw a marked restructuring of teachers’ salaries in Fiji. This restructuring makes teaching one of the highest paid jobs in the civil service.

5.1.2 For the promotion of basic education, this is seen as a positive step as it encourages the recruitment of teachers from highly qualified school leavers and also ensures a high percentage of retention especially in rural areas, reducing staff turnover through change of jobs or resignation.

5.1.3 In addition to JER is the payment of incentive allowances for rural posting encouraging teachers to serve in rural schools, which has been a problem faced by the Ministry in trying to retain staff in such schools. This has, to some extent, ensured a marked improvement in services to students and communities in rural areas.

5.1.4 The cost of living allowance (COLA) is negotiated between the teacher unions and government, and paid annually depending on the terms of agreement, sees an increase in teachers’ salaries by about 3% annually – again seen as favourable in the promotion of basic education.

5.20 Tuition Fee Assistance Grant.

The biggest boost for basic education has been the introduction of tuition assistance for primary schools. Government assistance to primary schools was introduced in 1994 and this report has been instrumental in financially assisting school management. Totalling about $F4.8 million annually this assistance has enabled primary schools meet their annual operating costs and physical development costs.

5.30 European Union Funding.

In 1992, the European Union injected $F1.2 million into the construction of basic facilities in primary schools. These included teachers’ quarters, classrooms, ablution blocks, and hostel facilities in rural areas. For some schools, there has been the improvement of basic health standards such as the provision of flush toilets to replace pit or water seal systems.

5.3.1 In 1997 extra funding from the European Union totalling $F860,000.00, matched ‘dollar for dollar’ what the government provided in its normal budget towards the construction of physical facilities in schools.

5.40 Community Funding.

Due to the nature of local community ownership of schools in Fiji community funding continues to be the largest contributor of funds towards the running of primary (and secondary) schools. Communities have to raise funds through bazaars, levies and other means of fundraising activities to help in the daily running of schools each year.

5.4.1 Government is committed to lessening the community’s contribution towards education in schools, mainly to allow and encourage parents to send their \children to school as part of its campaign to attain the goals of Education For All by the year 2000 and its Compulsory Education initiative.

5.5 Government Expenditure.

The following table shows the Education Budget as a percentage of the national budget. (Figures in $F)

Year

Total National

Budget

Ministry of

Education Budget

Grant to University of the South Pacific

% of National Budget spent on Education

1994

$832,110,300

$127,193,491

$18,342,743

17.49%

1995

$827,781,100

$128,766,899

$19,359,699

17.89%

1996

$893,824,400

$129,942,169

$20,684,485

16.85%

1997

$1,036,349,100

$146,855,100

$21,104,900

16.21%

The substantial increase over the years is testimony to the government’s continued efforts and commitment to education.

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