Focus on science studies

Participants during the A-G's consultation at USP this week. Picture: ATU RASEA

Participants during the A-G's consultation at USP this week. Picture: ATU RASEA

MINISTER for Economy and Education Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has reiterated that the National Toppers Scheme (NTS) will continue to focus on science-based studies.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum made this clear during the fourth 2018/2019 budget consultations for tertiary students at the University of Fiji (UniFiji) Suva campus in Samabula on Wednesday.

He made this clear after a UniFiji law student had asked if Government would consider awarding scholarships towards exceptional and bright high school leavers who intended to study law.

In response, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said NTS was more skewered towards science-based areas because of the huge shortage of people in science related areas.

“Our focus at the moment is science-based areas, but who knows what will happen in time,” he said.

NTS last year had awarded about 630 scholarships to undertake undergraduate studies within government’s priority areas in line with its vision of “Building a Smarter Fiji”.

These areas include medicine and health, social sciences, environment/marine science, commerce, education, technology, land/town planning, marine studies (nautical sciences and engineering), culinary arts, mining, land surveying, aviation (aircraft maintenance engineering and avionics), early childhood education, forensic science and fashion.

“If you look at the way the toppers have been distributed, generally 70 to 80 per cent of scholarships goes towards science-based studies,” he said.

“Where we are coming from, our perspective is on what would be good for the economy. We need to get a lot more people into science related fields.”

Meanwhile, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum highlighted the huge shortage of specialists in Fiji, particularly within the legal profession.

“We do not have enough specialists; nearly everyone else wants to open up their law firm,” he said.

“We do not have any local lawyer in Fiji that specialises in certain areas — for example contracts pertaining to road.”

For instance, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said there were only a few law firms that specialised in intellectual property.

“In fact the cream is only taken by one or two firms, which I don’t want to mention their names. They charge an arm and a leg for it,” he said.

“Why? Because they’ve got good websites. How many law firms in Fiji actually have a website?

“The economy is changing and those of you who are budding lawyers need to think about what you are going to do in three to four years’ time.”

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