Suva, Fiji -“The main influence in the quality of student learning is the quality of teaching.”
Ms Anaseini Kubuabola Raivoce, Director of SPC’s Secretariat of the Pacific Board for Educational Assessment (SPBEA) programme said that her opinion is supported by research worldwide, such as that by Professor John Hattie, Director of the Melbourne Education Research Institute, University of Melbourne Graduate School of Education.
“SPBEA has worked with UNESCO and other development partners to develop regional, professional standards for teachers and for principals and head teachers.”
Ms Raivoce explained that the core business of SPBEA has always been educational assessment, particularly that of children. However because of the unique relationship between the teaching and learning, they saw it necessary to be involved in the assessment of teacher performance for development as well as the skills of teachers to assess effectively in the classroom.
“Especially the assessment of best practices used in the classroom. I believe that if change is to occur, that is where it lies, in the classroom, with the teacher. But for this to happen, we need competent and committed teachers.”
“Education authorities need to ensure that all teachers have the relevant knowledge, skills and attitudes so they are able to maximize the learning of children. In this regard SPBEA is working with education authorities in countries on the use of an Assessment Tool for Teaching and Learning.”
“In addition, SPBEA is providing technical guidance to countries to ensure that their curricular clearly articulate the learning outcomes in a format that allows both teachers and students to know exactly what students should master when they have successfully achieved the learning outcomes”
[Ms Raivoce (standing on left) working with educators in Palau.]
SPBEA, which merged with the Secretariat of the South Pacific (SPC) in 2010 to become a programme in the Education, Training and Human Development Division, first came into existence in November 1980. This followed from a decision taken by the 19th meeting of the SPC Conference in Tahiti in October 1979.
Its original mandate was to provide technical assistance to its member states in developing assessment procedures for national or regional certificates on a par with, and to take the place, of the metropolitan examinations such as the UK Cambridge Entrance Exams, and the New Zealand University Entrance, Bursary and Scholarship Examinations.
This work gained greater importance when New Zealand disbanded the external examination system in the 1980s and moved towards internal, school-based assessment. SPBEA has assisted its member countries by establishing and administering the Year 12 Pacific Senior Secondary Certificate (PSSC) and the Year 13 South Pacific Form 7 Certificate (SPFSC), both of which are internationally recognised.
In seven countries across the region, 120 schools have taken up the PSSC, teaching 18 different subjects, while the SPFSC has been adopted in four countries, by 15 schools, teaching 14 different subjects.
“ Success in Pacific educational initiatives frequently hinges upon the degree of ownership felt by member countries,” said Ms Raivoce. “PSSC is currently undergoing a gradual transition to member countries, with internal assessment being the first component to transfer to country control. This will be followed by transfer of the examination preparation.”
She said that as member countries will move at different paces on this, “SPBEA will continue supporting countries through technical service as long as it is necessary.”
Ms Raivoce said that it was important to understand that this is only one component of the work of SPBEA, which has close working relationships with both UNESCO and AusAID, and is currently involved in a number of other initiatives, including country-based monitoring tools “as well as a newly-established regional instrument for literacy and numeracy.”
“Both regional and country-based teacher and principal standards have been, or are being, developed.”
“In conjunction with AusAID, SPBEA is involved in a project to Benchmark Education for the improvement of education quality (PaBER) that is currently being trialled in Papua New Guinea, Samoa and the Solomon Islands.”
“As part of a regional initiative, SPBEA is also assisting its member states to establish their National Qualifications Agencies, which would first register national qualifications that could subsequently move onto the Pacific Qualifications Register. These qualifications range from tertiary to secondary, and will also include professional qualifications. There is no reason why community qualifications or traditional skills cannot take place on the register, provided we get the endorsement from the countries.”