Literacy levels drop

University of the South Pacific vice-chancellor and president Professor Rajesh Chandra says literacy levels in Fiji and the Pacific region are two levels or more below international standards. Picture: SOPHIE RALULU

LITERACY levels in Fiji and the Pacific region are two levels or more below international standards, says University of the South Pacific vice-chancellor and president Professor Rajesh Chandra.

And in an effort to address the issue, he said the USP was screening intending English teachers to ensure that only those who met stringent standards were able to progress through their system.

Prof Chandra made the comment during the unveiling of the university’s draft new strategic plan 2019-2024 in Lautoka.

He was responding to questions posed by Rajendra Singh, a USP graduate, teacher and education officer since 1988.

Mr Singh said he was concerned about the quality of education in Fiji and asked Prof Chandra if the USP could conduct research to identify where the issues were and suggest how improvements could be made.

“For a number of years, we have found that external exam results in primary and secondary schools have actually been quite poor,” Mr Singh said.

“Is there any way that USP could lead descriptive research into what is actually happening in the classroom whereby teachers are not able to translate the curriculum into meaningful learning experiences.”

Responding to Mr Singh, Prof Chandra said the draft strategic plan would take steps to address the issue.

“We know that our own teachers — the ones that we train and graduates in general also have difficulty,” the VC said.

“So, we are improving our ELSA (English Language Skills Assessment) testing so that we can test everybody coming in and provide remediation and make sure that when they go out, they are better graduates.

“We have required intending English teachers to actually be tested and reach a certain level above what is required for the average graduate – in order to let them enter into the teaching program.

“That will give us more confidence that we have the teachers with the right ability to teach in the schools.”

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