‘Education opportunities not fair in Solomon Islands’

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BY LYNTON AARON FILIA

PRIVILEGE to tertiary education tends to be entrenched in a privilege belonging to the elite, a report shows.

According to the United Nation Development Programme’s 2018 report on Solomon Islands Youth Status compiled by Dr Anouk Ride, tertiary education tends to entrench elite privilege and gender and other disadvantages.

The report highlighted that every year, students complain about scholarships being allocated not according to merit but to elite and kin-based privileges.

The system tends to disadvantage women, it said.

Besides, in 2017, only 28 percent of government scholarships for school graduates (26 out of 91 pre-service scholarships) were awarded to women.

Respondent recommends there is a need to reform the scholarship system to ensure access according to merit, match scholarships with government and industry needs, and foster effective spending of large financial allocation.

In addition, at the postgraduate level the report stated that few men or women have the opportunity to study.

For Solomon Islanders only 25 currently possess a PhD, which is very low compared to neighbouring countries such as Fiji, and the government stated in 2016 that it wants to support high-achieving tertiary students into post-graduate degrees, it said.

However, access to education is only part of the story; there are many tertiary-educated people in the country who are unable to find work in their field after their studies.

Scholarships have tended to focus on the civil service while neglecting industry needs, resulting in a shortage of finance and managerial staff in most sectors.

The tourism and cultural industries, for example, suffer from a lack of managerial, promotional and marketing expertise – skills needed to professionalise services and export cultural products.

On the other of the spectrum, only one in six school leavers find paid employment. There is an acute lack of vocational and life-skills training, the report stated.

It also stated that rural training centres in the country report high demand for the less than 3,000 places offered each year.

Meanwhile, increasing population numbers have resulted in the current situation where numbers of vacancies in this sector are few and cannot meet the demand for employment of school leavers.

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