Guam Researchers Studies Kids, Educational System In Chuuk

admin's picture

Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Understanding children essential to meeting their needs: Spencer

By Jerick Sablan

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Nov. 18, 2015) – A University of Guam researcher took a closer look at the educational system in Chuuk, saying what she learned can be used on Guam to better understand the educational background of migrant children.

Citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia, Palau and the Marshall Islands can freely enter the United States under their island nations’ Compact of Free Association agreements, and Guam and Hawaii are their top destinations of choice.

The Richard Flores Taitano Micronesian Area Research Center (MARC) is launching its latest publication, "Children of Chuuk Lagoon, a 21st Century Analysis of Life and Learning on Romonum Island," by Mary Spencer, on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at the University of Guam College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences (CLASS) Lecture Hall.

The book presents Spencer’s research on the daily lives of contemporary 6-to-14-year-old school children in Romonum Island in the Chuuk Lagoon, a release from MARC states.

It features recorded observations of Romonum children at home, school, and community settings. The book also includes testimonies from family members, educators and community leaders regarding the goals they have for their children’s future in light of accelerated migration and rapid social change in their island, the release states.

Spencer is dean emerita of the UOG College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences and is a retired professor of Psychology and Micronesian Studies at the MARC.

Spencer’s presentation will be followed by a panel discussion featuring former Governor of Chuuk and UOG Associate Professor of Public Administration Ansito Walter; legislative policy analyst Debbie Retuyan, who has a law degree from Western Michigan, Thomas M. Cooley Law School; and UOG Pre-Nursing and Guam Women’s Chamber of Commerce scholarship recipient Rosetrina Elidok.

Spencer said it’s only when we know children’s everyday lives, at home, school and church, will we be able to understand them and how to be most effective in carrying out our responsibilities to them.

She said many in Chuuk believe their friends and loved ones who leave will have better health, education, and economic opportunities.

A reciprocal gifting process has developed between those who stay and their family members who leave, she said.

Those who have left often help family members on the home island by sending gifts and financial resources, while those who stay send money and local food, Spencer said.

Those already situated on Guam, Hawaii, or the U.S. mainland often provide a home and assistance to new migrant relatives, particularly students.

"However, the people we interviewed expressed deep and pervasive feelings of loss and sadness over their children and other family members who have left. Some envision a Romonum in a decade that will be nearly deserted," she said. "A few optimists suggested that perhaps new economic opportunities could be developed there, such as light tourism."

Romonum Elementary School was well managed, with competent and dedicated teachers and principal, she said. However, the only school on the island is limited to grades 1 through 8.

Romonum does not have a junior or senior high school, which means students must leave the island to attend school on one of the few other islands that have a secondary school.

"This is difficult to arrange and requires more money than is feasible for many families. Thus, very few students are able to go to school beyond grade 8," she said.

Depending on the data source, approximately 25 to 50 percent of Romonum school-age children in 2010 were not attending school, she added.

And because of limited school space and teachers, the Romonum School must operate on a split schedule, with the younger students attending on a half-day basis and grades 7 and 8 on an all-day schedule.

One benefit the book has for Guam and Hawaii educators with Chuukese children in their schools is that it reveals much about the teaching and learning that these students will bring with them, she said.

"Knowing this, the receiving educators will be better prepared to build on their students’ ‘funds of knowledge,’" Spencer said.

Guam receives the largest number of migrating Micronesians citizens, and most are from Chuuk State, she said.

Spencer recommends additional child studies be conducted in Chuuk and elsewhere throughout Micronesia.

"Child research in the region is very scarce, as is research on Micronesians who have migrated to Guam, Hawaii and other U.S. locations," Spencer said.

Rate this article: 
No votes yet

Add new comment