The Fiji Education Commission 2000

Recently, some students made some interesting comments on the blog that I'm maintaining for their course. This is a course in which there are many experienced 'in-service' teachers, ie those that are already teaching and they are upgrading their qualifications. 

Some of these comments were related to the apparent inability of the Fiji Ministry of Education to listen to the actual teachers who were 'on the ground'. 

That reminded me of an incident that happened over a decade ago (eeeek! how did that decade slip by so quickly?) which as the Fiji Education Commission of 2000. The previous education commission had occurred (I believe) in 1969, ie prior to Fiji's independence. That's a long time to not have the state of the country's national educational system appraised or gone over. However, it was an attempt at the time to try and redress the apparent lack of consultation between not only the Ministry and the teaching staff, but also the general public.

At the time I was employed at the University of the South Pacific in the 'Education & Psychology Department' (now defunct). I was in the psychology section of this hybrid department, but obviously I rubbed shoulders with the education colleagues. The department was invited to make a submission to the Fiji Commission and I sat in these departmental meetings, but realised quite quickly that I wasn't really in favour of the tenor or tone of the submission as it was being formulated. 

However, as part of a total immersion language programme, I had spent time in rural primary schools in the island of Koro, in the Lomaiviti group of islands in Fiji. My hosts were the families of the Principles of each of the primary schools there. They were incredibly gracious in putting up with me and my stumbling efforts to learn Fijian (not really that advanced I'm afraid). However, all the principles, without exception, were keen to share with me their experiences and frustrations in running and teaching their beautiful schools. 

These impressions and experiences led me to consider putting my own submission into the Education Commission. In it, I essentially summarised what I considered to be the main points that were driven home to me by the Principles of these schools. I was an unofficial chronicle of these thoughts, although I admit to heavily overlaying these thoughts with my own ideas of what should be the reforms of a 21st century education system.

After the comments from the students on the recent course, I revisited the report I submitted and find that broadly speaking, the issues are still as pertinent today as they were over a decade ago.

What has happened of course since then, is that I've been a co-founder of a school that is actually implementing the very same suggestions. Of course it's no surprise that there should be an overlap but nevertheless, it is sort of spooky to see how thoughts of 11 years ago are still whispering events into existence today.

I thought I'd make the reports available. The actual submission is about 6 pages long. I've reformatted it (I don't have the original software in which I wrote the letter), so I can't say it's exactly the same as it would have been received by the commission at the time.

I also included excerpts from three chapters from a book that I was reading at the time "Howard Gardner (1993) Multiple Intelligences: The theory in practice. Basic Books New York. ISBN 0-465-01821-1, as a set of three appendices. They are a bit technically heavy but I guess it is important to know what I was reading and thinking about when writing my submission to the commission.

  • My submission
  • Appendices

Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.  -Will Durant