Sunday, June 3, 2012

AusAID Again?

AusAID seems to be taking a greater stance on the advancement of our curriculum: they're sponsoring the CDU (Curriculum Development Unit) to try to get the next generation to use money properly:

For the primary school students, they are taught things like budgeting, investments basics, theyre even taught taxation and how to save their money, she said.
She said they wanted teachers to be equipped and be well versed with the program before it is introduced to all schools next year.
Firstly, I am a little concerned about the reporting of the piece because it wasn't explained in a way that I could understand. This was mostly because it's being reported that children will learn about taxation.

It's a wonder how they'll get children to understand the spectrum that is taxation for one; I remember my peers in primary struggling with the concept of percentages.

It is comforting to see (while it was phrased as both "budgeting" and "how to save money" in the same line) that we are teaching children how to use money.

While the impacts may take a while to appear, it is nice to see that there is some investment in their understanding as well as a holistic approach to education.

Not knowing how to budget is easily something us holding back as a country. We don't have investing as a viable option because we are basically living hand to mouth (or, if you prefer, hand to half to mouth and half to that couch you got a courts that you've been paying off for a year).

let's hope, like I said with the last post, that this gets carried through properly. Ambitious to hope for a concrete outcome by next year but let's see how they do.

They, after all, have our future in their hands. Let's just hope they teach them to put their money where their mouth is, while keeping a little but aside too.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Improvements? Really?

AusAid has started a project to address access to quality education, which is nice to see"

AQEP that began last August and succeeded the AusAID-funded Fiji Education Sector Program that ran from 2003 to 2009 is a package bilateral assistance worth $A30million ($F54.3million) to the Fiji Education sector over the period of 2011 2016. "We want to increase the number of children in the poorest of communities and schools to come to school and make them stay longer in schools," AusAID counselor Sarah Goulding said.

But what does this mean? I guess we can be happy someone has identified the fact that people are keeping their children out of school, not to mention that we don't think twice about how well children are getting taught.

This spreads from kindergarten to university levels. I for one wonder how people get to university and graduate when the fail at pronouncing sometimes the simplest of words.

Holistic education, where the passion for learning and not "getting-stuff-done-to-get-some-grade". There's developing a healthy sceptic mind. Don't just absorb, think about what part of the message is valuable and stay with that, rather than cram all sorts of information because you know you have a test on it next week.

I could go on and on, but the main thing is I wonder where the project will go. It's an "Access to Quality Education" programme. You are considering access to as well as quality of.

This makes me hope that someone will raise the flag on the curriculum as well as the quality of teachers. I've grown up with teachers who I corrected, particularly in primary school; I gave up when I reached secondary. We need to look at what we're teaching children, what valuable, what's needed, what is compulsory and what should be available for those who want to learn more.

There are many peers of mine that complained constantly about the compulsory nature of mathematics. I have no issue with maths, in fact I miss studying it, but I do acknowledge that I have never had to use the differential of a quadratic equation. I occasionally do algebra when to procrastinate when I'm sick of abstract notions, but i do think we should let high school maths be relevant.

Secondly, to look at access, we need to consider both in an out of school time to be able to do the work. Sure, let parents send their children to school but if they have to catch buses they wait over an hour on to get to a home with no power after 6pm, how will they be able to take the quality time to do the work they need to do?

So there we have it. Apparently we'll be seeing improvements. I'll wait for the positive M&E report before I throw a party.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Children curbing crime?

The police in the North have apparently launched a "crime awareness" project for schools. It's interesting to see that the police have to be actually involved in the process of telling children that there is crime. I suppose it's good in the sense that it's also a step towards coherence and developing a framework for... well... sniches in schools:

Police media officer northern Constable Luke Rawalai said the ongoing program would foster a good relationship between the officers and students in their bid to control crime."Since last term we have been visiting schools and we are soon going to begin again this term as we strengthen our ties with the blue light ambassadors in each school."Children are a very useful source of information and the club we have set up in various schools in the north through our blue light program last year has been very useful."
Personally, the idea of getting children to tell on other children presents two things to consider: we are, in a way, destroying solidarity but, secondly, we are attemtping to create a sense of community monitoring.

Firstly, the solidarity of students, running to the police everytime they think they see something. I for one worry about the ideas developing that children aren't allowed to learn from little mistakes as well as I worry about the development of paranoia.

Consider the "don't touch the toaster" senario. A child isn't going to learn no to touch it unless they burn themselves. They are often at an age of being unable to understand things conceptually. We have also always had that one person in our class who'd tell the teacher every single time they think they see something. Consider that that behaviour is praised. It will spread and turn the next generation into a bunch of whiny babies... but I'm just being negative there.

There is the possibility that this might actually do some good. Schools often spend a lot of time telling children to do their mathematics and english  (and occasionally shove religion down their throats) that we might need someone else to tell our children what to do when bad things go down.

Time will tell of the effectiveness of the project, but one of my highschool experiences comes to mind; the police telling us about drugs. A police officer came to do a presentation about uprooting marijuana. I was concerned when they "burned" the plants to get rid of them and very little got sent back to Suva. Sure. "Burned". Slowly.

Lastly, I find it entertaining that FT has decided to let the "youths" disease develop into "managements".

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Lefts, Rights and In The Beginning

Religion has come forward to tell people to teach their children about women's rights. Well, Interfaith Search Fiji has:

Interfaith Search Fiji representative Dr Rajesh Maharaj said the discussions at its monthly meetings had centred around the mention of women in scriptures and why they should be respected so much. "All religions say we must respect women and treat them equally but the message is not going through in many circles," Mr Maharaj said. "A lot of education is needed in our communities; we need to instill these good values in our young children from a very young age."

 Personally, it makes me wonder what part of the current system ingrains children to see the differences of gender. It's parents, communities, media and everything else that says "you are different so you must be treated differently".

Although above it all, we are different. We have different gendered needs, maybe that's what should be taught. That while there are differences, people should be judged on personality, merit and experiences not gender. To some, this is common sense, but to others "our culture tells us otherwise".

I guess in that sense I'm glad Interfaith Search has said something. Addressing the misconceptions is a step in the right direction, isn't it? It's not as if culture doesn't change.

We could blame science for pointing out the differences between gender, or the whole human rights movement, but to be fair, there's a lot of ways that women and girls suffer because of culture.

FGM is a practice not called for in the Koran but has developed through culture. It's terrible, inhumane and just all round a bad thing to do. 92 million girls have had that affect their lives. Culture did it.

And then there's accessing education. When in a patriarchal society, girls aren't expected to get jobs or do much else out of the home. So she says home. She learns what it means to be a mother, a wife; no necessarily a person. In all honesty, it's fine if a woman prefers to be a housewife, but she should be given the same opportunities as her male counterparts. She should be allowed to determine her interests, which involves access to primary education. That in itself is an MDG. 

That's why it's good that everything is being raised within the community. Mainstream education isn't going to be sufficient to address the issue, especially if the ideas about gender differences are stuck in their heads. Typically, in class one, children don't see ethnicity or gender. The ideas develop as their parents lay down the rules, as they are influenced by more forms of media. They become the walking, talking stereotypes unless allowed to do otherwise.

They are only children, after all.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Out of Date

There have been recent concerns that the education system is not up to international standard, and has recently found itself in the Fiji Times:

"The question that I want to pose to you is whether our curriculum has kept pace with the international trends and more so the last revolution which took place internationally, that is, the ICT revolution.
"It is my assessment on the basis of materials that I have seen both in primary and secondary curriculum, that our curriculum has not kept pace.
"Unless the curriculum in the education system keeps pace with changes both internationally and domestically, I don't think we will be able to produce students and teachers who will be able to fit into society to higher stages of development."
In response, Minister for Education Filipe Bole yesterday said it was difficult at this point in time to say whether Fiji's school curriculum were modern or not.
 In all honesty, has the Fiji curriculum been lagging behind for a little more than these past few years?

As someone who went from what I termed "normal high school" to the International School in Suva, I was shocked at the level of analysis I had to develop in a matter of weeks.

In a typical school, you're meant to regurgitate all the notes that you get in class. It's about cramming, not understanding.

In the IB, doing science meant that you had to memorise formulas and when I went to do Physics at ISS, you had to understand why things happened. There were actual questions, not just use the formulas you crammed.

I went to ISS to do this programme. It has it's own logo.

Learning to analyse and see what's credible and even the Fiji times is using Wikipedia, which is highly worrying.

In this Digital Age, while we have courses like UU100 to force people to learn whats  credible on the internet, that should find its way down to primary school. It's a time for the molding of minds and no internet cafe proprietor is going to turn any source of money away.

that is to say that children are going to get online and they need to know what to believe and what not to. That goes for the radio and tv, not to mention newspaper; we believe what's there because it has to be credible, right? It's on the airwaves, on our screens or published in print.

No one is going to learn until they question what they're given and understand what they should know.