PALAU FACES TEACHER SHORTAGE

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KOROR, Palau (August 12, 1998 - Marianas Variety)---When an estimated 3,034 students trek back to school on August 23 they will discover their teachers overloaded with teaching subjects and not many new teachers around, the Palau Horizon reports.

The problem of a teacher shortage will be aggravated when the government implements the mandatory service retirement for government employees on July 1 next year. Eighty teachers will retire.

But Education Ministry Billy Kuartei brushed aside the problem "as a (Pacific) region- wide situation like in Saipan and Guam."

He stressed "there is a shortage of trained teachers in the region but that is manageable." He added that the ministry is aggressively recruiting new teachers and retaining the old ones.

Masaharu Tmodrang, chief of Curriculum Planning and Improvement, said, "since more than 10 years ago, we have been experiencing the lack of teachers.

"When we were still under the Americans, we had contract workers and peace corps volunteers. In high school we lack mostly math and science teachers. So now we employ Americans and Filipinos," said Tmodrang.

The number of retiring teaches is believed to deplete the already small number of Palauan teachers, 172 in elementary and 60 in high school (as of 1997).

Kuartei said the ministry is aggressively pursuing scholarship programs for students intending to get an education degree. They are encouraged to study at the Palau Community College (PCC) and at colleges and universities in the U.S. through a federal student grant, a Pell Grant, or college work-study grant.

Tmodrang also added that the ministry is starting a program, a two-year teaching certificate program, at the PCC to encourage students to go into the education field.

Tmodrang said one of the reasons why there is a lack of teachers is "coaching is hard and the salary is not high compared to other places like CNMI and Guam."

In Palau, he said the teaching load for an elementary teacher is six subjects, while in high school, the teacher has to teach five classes on a specialized subject.

The salary of an elementary and high school teacher depends on his or her qualifications. But an entry level salary for a Bachelor of Arts graduate in education is $8,453 per year.

There are 20 public elementary schools and one public high school that need to be serviced in Palau. Class six ranges from 3 to 30.

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