Am. Samoa Governor Promotes Hiring Foreign Teachers

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Lolo explores idea of making Education Dept. semi-autonomous

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, June 3, 2015) – To secure the best classroom teachers for "hard to fill" teaching posts, American Samoa is promoting hiring of teachers with the right credentials from overseas, in countries such as India, says Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga, who is also exploring the option of making the Education Department a semi autonomous ASG agency.

These are some of the Education issues cited in the governor’s letter early this year to Interior Assistant Secretary for Insular Affairs, ,Esther Kia’aina ahead of the Interagency Group on Insular Areas (IGIA) meeting in late February this year. DOI’s Office of Insular Areas released on its website early this week Lolo’s letter and other information from the IGIA meeting.

The governor’s letter outlined a wide range of issues pertaining to the needs of American Samoa. On the issue of Education, the governor explained that the public school system struggles to achieve the level of education commensurate with the modern world.

As a result, over 80% of students who are starting at the American Samoa Community College have to enroll into the remedial programs for Mathematics and English, he said and pointed out that the passing rate for the ASVAB (military) and Police Academy recruits are "equally dismal".

The governor admitted that this "serious challenge is best addressed with local solutions." He pointed out that unlike other school districts in the U.S., the larger share of funding in American Samoa comes from federal grants, rather than local funds.

"I am convinced that instead of experimenting or riding on the bandwagon of the latest [federal] educational ‘reform’, public education must focus on teachers," Lolo said. "They must be paid better and given the tools to teach effectively. On the other hand they must be held more accountable. Again, this is a challenge that is best addressed by local solutions."

(Samoa News should point out that the ASG Human Resources Department earlier this year completed the teacher reclassification, which will cost $5 million annually, when approved — for local revenues by Fono approval, for federal grants revenue, the grantors.)

The governor explained that STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education plays a critical role in preparing youngsters for a future in the modern world, but added that the curriculum taught in public schools is "woefully inadequate — few courses in science and mathematics are offered and teachers with knowledge in those content areas are hard to find."

Lolo noted, "to that end we are promoting the hiring of teachers from overseas from countries such as India… Local engineers and doctors often give credit to their Indian teachers for inspiring them to study medicine or engineering."

He expressed appreciation for the renewed interest and funding by DOl of the Apprenticeship Programs for technicians. Few government agencies and local businesses including the largest employers are able to establish a sustainable apprenticeship program, the governor said.

In January this year, DOE, along with its partners, hosted the first STEM Festival on island, which featured student academic achievements and integrated teacher-student interactions and results.


He also explained that Dual Language education is in its preparatory stages and is important, because Samoan is the indigenous language of Samoans — learning languages is easier for children than it is for adults; and, the opportunity to expand one’s knowledge of cultures and languages is inherently valuable.

"It is not a revival of the old bilingual education in the United States. The challenge is to find teachers competent in both Samoan and English language instruction," he said.

Lolo added, "In order to make the most improvement in the shortest possible time, my administration is exploring the feasibility of the option of making the Department of Education semi-autonomous."

"As revenue collections become more efficient, more resources will be applied to the improvement of the quality of education for our young people," the governor said and revealed that the organizational model for a semi-autonomous DOE is that of the public school system in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, which already operates semi-independently of the central government.

Samoa News should point out that over the years, it has been suggested by lawmakers, parents and others for DOE to be an independent entity of ASG if the government is serious about improving the local education system. However, one of the concerns voiced in the past is that —as a semi autonomous agency— DOE will need to generate its own local revenues to fund its operations, aside from the millions in federal grants it gets annually.

A semi autonomous DOE was also mentioned during the October 2013 Education Summit.

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