Tonga PM Says Education System Is Not Creating Good Citizens

‘Bad’ curriculum focused solely on skills, not work ethic, nationalism

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, May 30, 2016) – Tonga’s Education System is “bad” because the school curricula “lack moral content”, said Tonga’s Minister of Education and Prime Minister Hon. ‘Akilisi Pohiva. who is calling for more nationalism among children.

At a meeting on educational development held at the Loumaile Lodge in Nuku’alofa on May 26 he went on to say: “There is no love; [or] nationalism, in our children. The emphasis is on skill, but not on commitment to work, and that is our problem.”

“It is not taught at universities, and not here in Tonga, and that is what our students are lacking. …Universities pour out Ph.D.’s, MA’s and graduates, and we are hopeful that they come with knowledge to build this country, but they are not eager to work. They are not committed to work together to achieve an aim,” he said at the third National Dialogue on Education development.

However, critics argue that the changes that the Prime Minister is making to the education system have been rushed and are not well understood.

In March last year he suddenly stopped the implementation of a Standardized Marks system that the Ministry of Education had been trying to put in place during the past 12 years, and replaced it with a Raw Marks system.

The Standardized Marks system, which was funded by aid donors had been in its final stages of introduction when it was stopped.

According to the former CEO of the Ministry of Education, ‘Emeli Pouvalu, they were just about ready to launch the final state of the reform program, to Form 4, 5 and 6, when ‘Akilisi, as the new Minister of Education, decided to abandon it.

‘Akilisi a USP graduate, used to be a teacher in Tonga, before he was dismissed from the Ministry of Education during the early 1970s, because of his indifference to the Ministry’s working policy.

At Thursday’s meeting questions were asked on the cost of the changes he wants to make to abandon Standardized Marks and to adopt Raw Marks. How long it is going to take to implement the change? Who is going to finance the transition?

However, both the Minister of Education and his newly recruited ICT expert, Piveni Piukala did not answer the questions.

‘Akilisi repeated his earlier assertions about how he thought Standardized Marks, meant “cooking it”. He went even further to claim that Internal Assessment, a part of the process of standardizing marks, “is a sin, a big problem in this country. It was well known, you know and I know but no one wants to say anything about it. It is a crime, they could even sue me for cheating.”

 “I move, no more Internal Assessment,” said ‘Akilisi

He told the gathering that Piveni Piukala had been recruited as a full-time staff member of the Ministry of Education, and that Piveni had developed software that will guide Tonga in its new education system to where he wants it to be.

The new software according to Piveni, “adds value to the raw marks,” and it is capable of doing it within a very short period of time.

Not accepted

Regarding a concerns that Tongan Form 7 students with their Raw Marks certificates are not being accepted at universities in New Zealand and at the USP, ‘Akilisi said, that as the Minister of Education he had never received an official letter from any universities relating to the issue.

“If it happened it is probably a matter between a particular university and the parents,” he said.

Public Service

Friday’s National Dialogue on Education Sector Development sponsored by the Public Service Association and the Ministry of Education addressed some very controversial issues.

The three-days dialogue on May 12, 13, and 26 were opened for the community, and foreign diplomats, school principals, civil servants, town and district officers, as well as business people and the media.

The key issues that were addressed during the National Dialogue were:

  • Examination performance results: Raw Marks vs Standardised Marks;
  • Educational Reform - Why Raw Marks in place of Standardised Marks?
  • Solutions/Possible Solutions;
  • Impact of low performance at school on performance in the public service

The three key speakers and presenters were, the Hon. Prime Minister and Minister for Education and Training, Hon. 'Akilisi Pohiva, an ICT International Consultant, Piveni Piukala and the PSA Secretary General, Mele 'Amanaki.

The other issue was a confrontation by Public Servants over a new set of salary scales for civil servants that had been approved by Cabinet.

The PSA was initially seeking an injunction for a judicial review of a report of the Remuneration Authority with the Salary Scale, but then it went quiet over it because the Prime Minister and Cabinet agreed for further consultation over the Remuneration Authority’s report.

Matangi Tonga Magazine
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