Gavoka Raises Concerns Over ‘Life Math’ Impact on Fiji’s STEM Future

Fiji’s Minister for Education Viliame Gavoka has voiced concerns over the introduction of “Life Math,” criticising not only its implementation but fears it will influence students particularly iTaukei students to opt for it instead of pursuing Pure Maths, potentially impacting their future opportunities in STEM fields and related industries. 

Speaking in parliament this week, Gavoka said such interventions require proper research instead of being “shoved down” onto senior secondary school students without proper evaluation and consultation with mathematics experts from tertiary institutions.

His concerns also stem from the lack of iTaukei representation among graduates in various fields such as information technology, maths, physics, financial management and forensic accounting, as observed during the recent University of the South Pacific (USP) graduation ceremony.

“What I witnessed got me thinking over this weekend because our forefathers used celestial spheres or coordinates in their inter-island travel, our grandmothers used geometry for weaving maths and metrics when they made salt or pottery, math has been part of our culture. But to have Life Math as an easy way out has a huge impact on the future of opportunities in terms of scholarships, eligibility criteria for STEM job opportunities from aviation, engineering, maths, science, including financial management,” Gavoka said.

Life Math, introduced for year 11 students and piloted in 2021 in 21 schools before being rolled out in 2022, is a practical branch of mathematics geared towards everyday applications such as budgeting, investment management, and problem-solving.

However, since its implementation, the ministry has reportedly faced challenges due to a limited number of maths teachers who have not had adequate training in Life Math, hindereing teaching and learning processes.

In a report before the start of the 2024 academic year, the ministry indicated that discontinuing Life Math was under consideration, a decision likely to be discussed during the ongoing review and update of the education curriculum.

Gavoka provided an update to parliament on the review process this week, stressing the need to incorporate areas such as careers, citizenship, sustainability, and artificial intelligence to ensure education in Fiji remains relevant and adaptable to societal, technological, and industrial changes.

The review encompasses all levels of education, from early childhood education to year 13, and involves collaboration with teachers to evaluate and identify curriculum gaps, including preparations for national examinations.

Gavoka also referenced the “2023 Denarau Declaration” and the establishment of a new Education Commission to guide curriculum improvement efforts over the next decade.

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