Ministry of Education Officials, School Principals and USP staff after the STAP presentation.
The University of the South Pacific (USP) will soon begin the Science Teachers Accelerated Programme (STAP) in Vanuatu, in an effort to address the issue of underqualified teachers teaching science in secondary schools.
There is generally a steady decline in student interests and the uptake of science subjects in schools in the Pacific region and this is demonstrated further by the low student achievement at junior and senior levels in science subjects.
The reasons range from perceptions, myths, job prospects, foreignresources and lack of qualified science teachers.
Dr Bibhya Sharma, Associate Dean (Learning and Teaching) of the Faculty of Science, Technology and Environment, made the comment while presenting on STAP at USP’s Emalus campus on 4 October, 2016, to interested stakeholders.
The audience included School Principals, Teachers, Manager Emalus Campus and staff, Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Law and Education, Dr. Akanisi Kedrayate, Professor of Teacher Education and Head of School of Education, Professor Govinda Lingam and senior Government officials from the Ministry of Education.
STAP is a new science model which provides a platform to upgrade the qualifications of underqualified teachers teaching science in secondary schools in the Pacific region.
It is an intensive two-year in-service programme offered to a cohort of teachers with certificate or diploma qualifications from recognised institutions and with at least three (3) years of teaching experience. This cohort-teaching model is envisaged to have a scaffolding effect in the education sector as a mobiliser of societal change.
Dr Sharma added that the inaugural implementation of STAP in Samoa had produced excellent results, where around 85-90 per cent of the cohort of 60 teachers sponsored by the Government of Samoa will be graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree next month.
He applauded the efforts of the Samoan Government for actively advocating science in Samoa and the Pacific. Based on this success, the Tongan Government also made an announcement to start the programme in their country and help make a difference in science education.
Dr Sharma explained the various aspects of STAP and outlined the benefits of having the programme for the in-service teachers in Vanuatu.
In his presentation, Dr Sharma emphasised a wide adoption of the STAP model would ensure greater numbers of qualified science teachers (with BSc or BEd) in the region who would produce high numbers of good science students, thus feeding increased numbers of quality science students into the mainstream science programmes at tertiary level.
Therefore, increasing the number of science graduates returning home to serve their respective communities. The two-year programme shall be a mix of face-to-face and online teaching, real and virtual interactions, and laboratory work besides a 2-week bootcamp at the USP main campus in Suva, Fiji.
He added that, before the start of the actual delivery of the courses there would be preparatory workshops for the familiarisation of the programme and the ICT tools utilised for its delivery and learning support.
According to Dr Sharma, the main advantage would be the provision of all course materials through a Tablet which would be given free to every member of the STAP cohort.
Mr. Roy Obed, Director Education Services who was present at the presentation said STAP was very impressive and it had all merits for Vanuatu. He suggested that he would take the matter with the concerned authorities, and hopefully Vanuatu is able to start STAP in June, 2017.
On a separate note he also requested USP for the online mathematics diagnostic tool (OMDT) which he felt can be made available in every secondary school in Vanuatu. Interested readers can access OMDT through this link http://omdt.usp.ac.fj/course/view.php?id=11 using their Facebook or Gmail accounts.
Dr. Kedrayate further announced that STAP will be an integral part of their Untrained Teachers’ Project and USP will also provide BEd degrees to the science teachers who will be enrolling under the STAP framework.
She mentioned that USP is heavily committed to address the needs of the Pacific region, and they will do their best to make these new initiatives work for all.
On a similar note, Professor Lingam stated that USP is ready to provide assistance not only in upgrading science teachers but also professional education and training for school heads so that they are better prepared to bring about positive improvements in their schools.
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