Rabuka disputes poll result

THE Social Democratic Liberal Party claims the country has made very little progress in the education sector in the past 12 years.

Disagreeing with the results of the February Tebbutt-Times Poll which ranked Government’s work in the area of education as positive, party leader Sitiveni Rabuka said if the party formed government, it would establish a commission of inquiry to conduct a holistic review of the education sector.

Mr Rabuka said the sample size of the poll was too small to get the real picture.

“The latest Tebbutt-Times Poll has found that the majority of citizens, 81 per cent, think that the Government is doing a good job on education. I respect the views expressed by the 1046 adults who were interviewed through computer-assisted telephone interview. It is their right to give their personal views on issues of interest,” he said.

“Having said that, I believe the sample size is too small and is not a reflection of the views of the total population.

“Education is an important issue to the nation, therefore, a sample size that reflects the importance of education is necessary to minimise degree of error.”

Mr Rabuka claimed Fiji had seen inconsistent education policies in recent years.

“The performance of the current Government in the area of education should not be looked at in the short-term, based on few or two key determinants. We should look at the performance of the education sector in totality.

“In the past 12 years, we can clearly see and experience that very little progress has been made in the education sector,” he claimed.

Mr Rabuka claimed education officials in the country were not given the opportunity to make rational and informed decisions because of political interference.

“We must appreciate that 95 per cent of schools are owned by the community and religious organisations.

“There is a lack of consultation undertaken between the Government and the owners of the schools on policies that directly affect them.

“In addition, there is a lack of consultation between the ministry and bodies representing teachers.”

He claimed the current contractual arrangement for teachers was a failure.

“Teachers have specialised training to serve as teachers, as a career. Contracts have been forced on them and created an environment of fear and uncertainty.”

He said the teaching curriculum needed to be reviewed to meet the demand of the labour market.

“Last but not least, it is unfortunate that students are still having classes in tents, two years after Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston struck Fiji in February 2016. This is another classic example of the lack of co-ordination and the poor performance of the Government of the day.”

The poll asked people what were the major challenges and issues facing the education system and how would they rate the Government’s performance in the area of education.

For those naming an issue, 9 per cent mentioned access and transportation, 6 per cent mentioned the need for more resources for teachers, better qualified teachers and more funding for schools, 5 per cent mentioned lack of financial support from Government for community and upgrade facilities.

Also 4 per cent mentioned issues or changes to the curriculum, 4 per cent said there were issues with the education system (too many changes, needs improvement, problems with the ministry), and 4 per cent said issues with student discipline.

However, 49 per cent of those polled said there were no major issues, and 10 per cent were unsure.

On Government’s performance in the area of education, many rated it positively. A total of 54 per cent said the Government was doing a very good job, and 27 per cent said it was doing a good job, creating a net approval of 81 per cent.

Only 7 per cent gave a negative rating (5 per cent not a very good job, and 2 per cent a poor job).

A total of 9 per cent said the Government was doing an average job, while 2 per cent were undecided.

Request for comments on the poll results were also sent to the FijiFist party, National Federation Party, Unity Fiji party, Fiji United Freedom Party and the Fiji Labour Party last week Wednesday via electronic mail (email).

No responses were received when this edition went to press yesterday.