FTU: Poor maths pass no surprise

THE Education Ministry should not be surprised at the dismal results of mathematics passes over the past two years given the policies it has implemented and reductions it has made in key areas.

This is the view of Fiji Teachers Union General Secretary Agni Deo Singh.

He was responding to recent revelations by Education Minister Dr Mahendra Reddy that there has not been a single high school level which has attained a percentage pass above 50 in mathematics in all external examinations over the past two years.

Mr Singh said the reduction of executive teachers in primary school level, ballooning primary class sizes and increasing the amount of paperwork required of teachers, were some of the reasons for the dismal mathematics results.

“As the result of a job evaluation exercise in 1999, 854 executive teachers were appointed in primary schools in the country,” Mr Singh said.

“This was reduced by 50 per cent as a cost-cutting measure in 2009 when all ministries were required to cut costs by 10 per cent.

“Later on the Education Ministry further reduced the numbers and now only the smallest schools which have four teachers, ED6D schools, have one executive teacher — all other positions have been removed.

“So as far as monitoring, assisting and mentoring teachers is concerned at classroom level, we have actually gone into reverse gear.”

The union head said another issue contributing to the poor performance of students was classroom sizes. He said a number of primary schools in the Central Division had in excess of 60 students in one classroom and this was a serious issue.

“The minister himself said in the last education forum that there were urban schools which had between 50 and 64 students in one classroom,” Mr Singh said.

“And we have been saying this repeatedly, that no meaningful teaching can take place with these kinds of numbers.

“We are aware of one school in Suva which has four Year One streams and all have more than 60 students, which means there are more than 250 students and several other schools in the urban centre have similar numbers.

“If you have 60-plus in each class, you can expect half not to be able to grasp basic concepts.

“We have suggested to the ministry to engage an extra teacher in schools that have space constraints and this will improve the teaching of basic concepts to all students.”

Mr Singh said the increasing amount of paperwork required by the ministry from head teachers was also affecting their ability to improve education in schools.

Source:  Fiji Times

By:  Felix Chaudhary