CURRENT INITIATIVES TO PROMOTE LITERACY IN SCHOOLS
The government has recognised the role of Early Childhood Education (ECE) teachers. Over the years, we have not only allocated grants to accommodate for the tuition of kindergarten students but have also increased the base salary of ECE teachers. We acknowledge the fact that ECE teachers lay the foundation for attaining the basic literacy and numeracy skills.
We have introduced Jolly Phonics and Fantastic Phonics from Year 1 to Year 4. These internationally recognized research based strategies are fun and multi-sensory approaches ideal for all children above 5 years regardless of their culture, primary language, socio-economic background and special needs. Children learn the 42 plus letter sounds, and the blending and segmenting skills, which help them to read and spell new or unseen words independently.
We have re-introduced national exams in Year 6, Year 8 and Year 10. We have realised that having national exams in a small island nation such as Fiji will help us scrutinize the proficiency level of our students at each class level.
We have also introduced the Reading and Writing Assessment in Year 1 and Year 2 so that teachers can continuously monitor the progress of their students and provide appropriate and timely remedial steps to help students read and write. To improve our monitoring and support of literacy learning in schools, future plans are to have these Year 1 and Year 2 reading and writing progress made available on the Fiji Education Management Information System (FEMIS). In addition, through this technological proficiency, we are embarking on easy access to a more reliable data on the literacy standards of our students, which can be used for intervention purposes at school, District and National levels.
The Year 5 and Year 7 students participate in the Literacy and Numeracy Assessment (LANA) which assesses students’ basic skills in literacy and numeracy. LANA, being a national formative assessment, is used as a diagnostic tool to identify students’ strengths and weaknesses in the key learning areas in literacy and numeracy to provide necessary and timely remedial intervention for students’ to overcome their weaknesses. Future plans are to align our assessment practices to international standards by establishing national benchmarks for measuring and reporting our literacy and numeracy attainment in our country. With the help of benchmarks, we hope to identify those students at risk of failing so that necessary intervention can be provided to support these children and ensure higher academic success for all learners.
This year, the Ministry of Education has taken a bold step in launching the Parental Engagement Framework whereby we have set up a guideline for parents to monitor the learning needs of their children. We have seen that basic engagement from parents such as reading bed-time story books can have a huge impact intransforming the interest of children towards literacy and instilling good values in them. Reading does not mean that parents must start buying books for their children. The children can issue books from the school library, borrow old newspapers from school library, read their text books and even read their bible or even holy books.
The literacy strategies for reading and writing, training for teachers and parents, and other useful resources have also been made available online on the Ministry of Education Website (http://www. education.gov.fj) for parents and caregivers to take full advantage and assist their children in the literacy learning at home. The resources available include Jolly Phonics teaching and learning guide, training and educational videos, comprehensive grammar notes, and other text books compiled by Ministry of Education. From last year, we have also uploaded past years’ exam papers, Examiner’s Reports and detailed answers for reference purposes. We have always targeted to provide all possible strategies to help students get access to quality educational resources.