National University Of Samoa Can Provide Teachers To Am. Samoa

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Partnership with AS Department of Education being explored

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, Oct. 7, 2015) – In an effort to increase the number of public high school teachers with degrees in content areas like Math, Science, and English, the local Department of Education is looking to the National University of Samoa for a possible partnership.

Targeting NUS comes after a US-based company certified that a Bachelor of Education degree from the Samoa university is up to par and equivalent to a US Bachelor of Education degree.

The possible partnership in Secondary Education degrees with an emphasis in content area was announced by Department of Education director Vaitinasa Dr. Salu Hunkin-Finau during last Thursday’s ASDOE news conference, where ASDOE officials pointed out that there are many good teachers in public schools with bachelor degrees, but not in content area.

According to data released at the news conference, there are about 92 teachers in secondary education, teaching out of the content areas of their degrees. These teachers do not include those working at Nu’uuli Vocational Technical High School, which is the only trade high school in the territory.

"So we are looking at a good 100 teachers when both sides — ASDOE and NUS — agree on a partnership for our secondary teachers," said Hunkin-Finau, who led a three-member ASDOE delegation that returned to the territory last Tuesday following a two-day trip to Samoa, where they met with Samoa’s Minister of Education as well as NUS officials and staff.

When asked about the type of partnership being explored with NUS, Vaitinasa responded, "We entertain the idea of hybrid classes" —such as those already set up with the University of Hawaii program where the teacher sets up the class and then everything is done online.

"It’s called two-ways: face-to-face and online or hybrid. During our summer break, classes are all face-to-face where the [UH] instructor comes on island to teach," she explained.

"So we’re thinking, possibly the same arrangement with NUS for hybrid classes, especially with the trades teachers, who can travel to Samoa during the summer to use the resources at NUS because we don’t have the resources here, so they understand what the teacher is teaching," she continued. American Samoa has a different schedule for the school year compared to Samoa, so NUS classes (face-to-face) can happen.

Vaitinasa said ASDOE is now in the process of collecting necessary data and other pertinent information that will be put together in a package for NUS. She says if all sides agree to the partnership, "we are looking at hopefully by next year, a program is implemented and a memorandum of understanding or contract is put in place."

She continued, "The first program we’re looking at with NUS is secondary education because high school is specific to content areas. Besides secondary, we are also looking at Nu’uuli VocTech."

The DOE director added that there’s already an ongoing degree program for ASDOE with the University of Hawaii for Bachelor of Education degrees in elementary education.

Before approaching NUS, the ASDOE’s first inquiry was with UH, said ASDOE Teacher Quality assistant director Diana Ameperosa, who attended the news conference. She noted that "we have too many teachers, teaching out of content area... especially in the high school level" — and this is based on data collected and kept by her division.

"And so in trying to meet that need, to ensure that teachers get their degrees in their content area of teaching, we inquired with [UH] as to how they can help us provide a degree in content area or certification in content area, for secondary teachers," she said.

However, this was not fruitful as it will "be very challenging for them [UH]", she explained, noting that after further ASDOE management discussions, it was decided to look at NUS after ASDOE hired last year, teachers who graduated from NUS with degrees in content area.

Ameperosa reiterated what Vaitinasa announced publicly this year, that degrees of these NUS graduates were sent to the US for evaluation of their credentials, and this is the same process carried out for all foreign degrees — including teachers from the Philippines.

According to the ASDOE official, a US evaluation found that the NUS degree is equivalent to a BA degree in the US, adding that Samoa is just across the water which means travel is less expensive.

Vaitinasa explained that in ASDOE management discussions, they not only took into consideration the US announcement of NUS degrees, but also considered that "they (teachers) from Samoa are Samoans who understand a Samoan child and their upbringing, they understand the Samoan language and the culture."

The meeting in Samoa "was positive", but nothing in writing yet, just the meeting to see if NUS "is interested in helping us. And the answer was, yes. They would be very happy to accommodate our needs," said Vaitinasa, who added that ASDOE is looking at December this year, to hopefully have a proposal drawn up.

She said there will also be discussions on both sides — ASDOE and NUS — regarding finances for such a partnership which will need to be presented to the Governor.

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