Participants of the Sub-regional workshop on Early Childhood Education (ECE) Teacher Development in the Pacific Small Island Developing States (SIDS) at the Novotel, Nadi on 21 June, 2017.
The week-long Sub-regional workshop on Early Childhood Education (ECE) Teacher Development in the Pacific Small Island Developing States (SIDS) came to a close at the Novotel, Nadi on 21 June, 2017.
In his closing address, Dr Mahendra Reddy, Fiji’s Honourable Minister for Education, Heritage and Arts said the fact that twenty per cent of the last national budget was allocated to the Ministry of Education is testament to the fact that Fiji is leading the way in education.
Dr Mahendra Reddy, Fiji’s Honourable Minister for Education, Heritage and Arts officially closing the workshop.
He noted that ECE centres are very critical places as they provide a transitory point for children from home to school.
“Throughout the Pacific we have the future of the country in our school system but at the moment we are under-utilising the very infrastructure where our children are gathered in terms of developing good citizens for nation building,” he noted.
He said educators needed to work together to be able to identify weak and vulnerable children that may need special attention on any issue including those who have been emotionally and psychologically abused from home. He added there needs to be special training in this area for educators in ECE.
Dr Reddy stated that ECE has been neglected for so many years and stressed the need to bridge the existing gaps.
He added that bullying is also becoming an issue in schools and the ECE sector is no exception. He said keeping in mind that children come from different backgrounds, educators need to think of solutions to solve this and in particular deal with them in such a way that their future is not spoilt.
“We need to train our educators on how to handle these,” he said.
He further stressed the need to invest in ECE that will go a long way in educating our children.
Dr Akanisi Kedrayate, Dean of The University of the South Pacific’s (USP) Faculty of Arts, Law and Education (FALE), mentioned that USP’s School of Education (SOED) is benchmarking with international institutions to ensure that it continues to offer quality curriculum.
“Honourable Minister, you may be aware that as part of the process, USP has received accreditation for its ECE Certificate 4 at Pacific TAFE and Bachelor of Education ECE recently. Now the Certificate 3 and Diploma in ECE are also in the process together with Bachelor of Education Primary and other programmes in Education,” Dr Kedrayate mentioned.
She said the importance of the quality of teachers right from ECE cannot be over emphasised and teacher training and continuous professional development are very critical.
“Teaching and teacher quality have been topics at national, regional and international conferences. For institutions who prepare teachers, the goals are to prepare quality teachers. However sometimes we may not do this well because of various factors but we always strive to do this better.
“That is why it is important to benchmark our practices to ensure that we are not isolated and that we are aligned with other international providers and our practices are also aligned to the international conventions and framework,” Dr Kedrayate added.
Dr Kedrayate said the development of ECE in the region has been slow but acknowledged the Fijian Ministry of Education for taking steps to developing it.
“Honourable Minister, thank you for mainstreaming ECE into the education system, not only to ensure it is recognised for professional qualifications but to be remunerated accordingly,” she stated.
Dr Kedrayate added that literacy problems in schools can be addressed if only Fiji and the Pacific go back to the foundation of education.
The workshop allowed for collaboration and networking in the development of ECE by USP, Fiji’s Ministry of Education, Heritage and Arts and United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation.
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