We only want the best for students: Education Ministry

Fiji’s Ministry of Education Permanent Secretary Angela Jokhan says comments attributed to the ministry labelling all teachers “unqualified” and needed to be replaced are false and misleading.

The comments she said were aimed at some teachers who had neither updated their teacher registration nor acquire the relevant teaching qualification despite having been given time to do so.

“The fact remains that there are teachers who have not attained or kept up to date with the correct qualifications to be allowed to teach our children. A degree does not automatically qualify someone to teach unless it’s a teaching degree. There are special qualifications required that ensure that our teachers are trained to deal with the different scenarios with children,” Jokhan said.

“Parents want qualified teachers. Which parent doesn’t? Comments …saying that we were labeling teachers as unqualified and that it was insulting were actually unbelievable… trying to mislead all teachers into thinking we are calling them unqualified. That is not true. Many teachers have let the registrations expire, and we have told them to get it renewed. In fact, we’ve been very lenient by giving teachers time to sort this out. This would not be allowed in any other country. The fact that there are certain teachers teaching who have not attained or kept up to date with the necessary qualifications to teach our students, we have told them to get this in order.

“I reiterate that there is a bulk of teachers who have kept up with their qualifications and registrations, and have continued to educate themselves, and they are flag barriers for this profession.”

She also insists that the ministry has never said that only people with masters and PHDs will get preference.

“In fact we are saying any degree without qualification and practical component is not an appropriate qualification to teach. Each position has a job description and scope of work to be performed. Accompanied by the minimum qualification requirements which are pre-requisites to consider. Yes, we have a number of teachers with certificates and diplomas and we strongly encourage them to upgrade their qualification.”

In highlighting “such deficiencies”, Jokhan said the ministry was merely exercising its authority as teachers’ employers.

“It is incumbent upon the ministry to highlight such deficiencies in teachers so that improvements can be brought about through appropriate training organised by the teacher training organisation. The fact remains that a teacher who cannot communicate effectively, cannot teach effectively.

“The emphasis has always been for teacher training organisations to concentrate on communication skills and digital literacy as part of the training programs for teachers.”

The need for such interventions, she said, were compounded by results of a proficiency test held in 2017 for pre-service graduates, wishing to enter the teaching profession, and practicing teachers who did not have education topics as part of their qualification.

“According to media reports approximately half of the applicants failed the English proficiency component of the test, raising concerns about literacy standards more broadly in the country. The rate of failure suggests that there are problems with teacher literacy competency, what is wrong in pointing that out?”

Jokhan said the ministry is looking out for the best interests of students’ and parents’ in calling on teachers to acquire the appropriate qualifications.

“We all know that any change brings about a certain degree of anxiety, but we must be focused on what is best for our children and for the nation as a whole.”

Going forward, Jokhan said the ministry has taken on a more rigorous process in the selection of teachers and has put in place systems and processes that will help identify issues on the grounds and make the necessary improvements. A complaints portal is also being developed to allow teachers to raise their grievances with the ministry.

The ministry has also extended an invitation to all education stakeholders including teachers’ union to a dialogue.

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