U.S. To Stop Funding Unqualified Teachers In Marshall Islands

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40% of teachers in RMI only have high school education

By Giff Johnson

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (Marianas Variety, April, 2013) – The United States government has put the Marshall Islands Ministry of Education on notice that it will not continue to provide funds for teachers who have only a high school education starting in fiscal year 2015.

Marshall Islands Education Minister Dr. Hilda Heine confirmed the development Friday.

A majority of public school teachers now have college degrees, but over 300 still have only a high school diploma. Despite Ministry of Education efforts to upgrade teacher qualifications, the percentage of teachers with a high-school level of education has remained steady at about 40 percent for the past five years.

Over 100 teachers with high school diplomas are not taking courses to gain the minimum certification level, either by choice or by inability to qualify for college courses at the College of the Marshall Islands.

Funding from several U.S. government sources is paying salaries for about 130 of these uncertified teachers, as well as about 80 non-teaching staff and administrators. Starting in FY 2015, funding from these U.S. sources will not be available for these teachers and non-teaching staff who remain uncertified. Overall, U.S. funding underwrites 90 percent of the Ministry of Education budget.

Provided teachers are on track to gain their AS degrees, Heine said she is hopeful that the U.S. will continue to provide funding for their positions. As to teachers who are not on an improvement track, either the Marshall Islands government will need to shift them to locally-generated funding sources, or begin enforcing its certification standard requiring that any teacher in the public school system has to have at least an AS degree to be employed.

"Some of our teachers have been teaching for 15 or 20 years and they have not tried to improve by getting into college," Heine said. "They’ve been given enough time, so what can we say?"

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