By Giff Johnson

For Marianas Variety

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (Nov. 3) —A new U.S.-provided education grant of more than $4 million is expected to significantly expand efforts to improve teaching skills of Marshall Islands teachers in the public schools.

"It will make a big difference to upgrading our teachers," Secretary of Education Biram Stege said Friday.

The U.S. Department of Education has just awarded the Ministry of Education and the College of the Marshall Islands a $4.2 million grant to improve the quality of teachers and teaching in the Marshall Islands.

The three-year grant is to be matched by both the ministry and the local community college to bring the project funding to more than $8 million.

The grant is focused on improving the quality of new teachers by supporting the implementation of a nationwide change in teacher licensing and certification, accountability for high-quality teacher preparation, and recruitment. It will allow the government to increase the number of its currently under-qualified teachers going into teacher training programs at the college.

The Marshalls was one of five states and U.S.-affiliated islands in the Pacific that was successful in getting the teacher improvement grant. A total of 14 had applied.

Stege said that a team of ministry and college staff are working out the details of the plan now that the grant has been approved.

A joint Ministry of Education-college teacher training scheme is already in motion. But the new grant will allow the government to increase the number of teachers involved, Stege said.

A new approach is to have intern teachers working in the classroom for half of their study program and getting their associate of art or science degrees over four years, according to the ministry. Ministry officials say they expect that this process will produce teachers who are better prepared for a career in teaching.

The grant will also be used to support an Internet cafe at the college to allow students to take courses through distance education that the college cannot offer.

The grant will also support a review of what ministry officials describe as an "ineffective teacher certificate scheme," as well as student assessments and evaluation.

The ministry hopes that by the end of the three-year grant period, most public school teachers will have at least associate (two year) degrees — a significant improvement over last year’s situation in which the Ministry of Education reported that 55 percent of all public school teachers had attained only a high school diploma.

November 3, 2003

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