Teachers express concerns over education bill 2023


Some educators in the Solomon Islands have raised practical concerns regarding the proposed Education Bill 2023 currently before Parliament.

The concerns mainly revolve around teacher registration, low salaries, and the extensive powers granted to the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education and Human Resources.

Teachers presented their apprehensions before the Bills and Legislation Committee in Parliament recently.

Dr Lionel Kakai, the Principal of King George Sixth (KGVI) School, expressed worry over the Bill’s allocation of increased authority to the Permanent Secretary.

“I question whether the Permanent Secretary can effectively manage responsibilities like teacher registration while maintaining efficiency,” he remarked.

Kakai also highlighted the prolonged teacher registration process, which takes up to a year for some educators in the Solomon Islands.

“In the Solomon Islands, we face challenges in sourcing potential teachers,” Kakai explained.

“For instance, some remote villages resort to recruiting individuals with marine experience. The new Bill mandates registration, even under circumstances where qualified teachers are scarce. Unlike countries like Australia, which boast a surplus of teachers who can be summoned to teach even when they are not actively employed, our situation is different.”

Kakai emphasised that these concerns had been raised during consultations but were met with potential penalties under the Bill.

“In cases where Form 5 graduates are needed to teach in primary and secondary schools, they face hurdles in registration due to their recent completion of high school. We recognize the need for flexibility, especially in a developing country where teacher availability struggles to keep pace with a rapidly growing population.”

Kakai said teacher shortages are prevalent, with institutions like KGVI searching for math and physics teachers for up to two years.

“The registration process poses an additional challenge when hiring part-time educators, necessitating adherence to bureaucratic procedures,” he added.

Another teacher from St John Community High School highlighted the significant obstacles teachers encounter in the registration process, involving multiple administrative bodies and protracted waiting times.

She also underscored the unattractive nature of the teaching profession due to environmental challenges, including low morale and living arrangements that hinder educators’ effectiveness in the classroom.

The Education Bill 2023 aims to modernise and streamline the administration and regulation of Early Childhood, Primary, and Secondary education. It encompasses provisions for the registration of teachers, educational providers, schools, and Early Childhood Education (ECE) centres, effectively replacing the existing Education Act.

The new education framework prioritises principles such as access, equity, accountability, equality of opportunity, partnerships, quality, and relevance. The Bill grants increased autonomy to educational providers and ECE centres to enhance their management capabilities, while also improving teacher management through specific provisions for registration and oversight by the Teaching Services Commission.

This legislation promotes a province-by-province approach to education, fostering collaboration among educational providers within each province. It expands the registration scheme to cover Education Providers, schools, ECE centres, and teachers. Administrative Instructions will establish standards on various critical aspects, including child protection, gender equality, social inclusion, assessment, reporting, and other educational requirements.

The Bill introduces compulsory basic education and emphasizes transparency and accountability in government funding allocation to the education sector. The Education Bill 2023 represents a substantial overhaul of the education system in the Solomon Islands, aimed at aligning it with modern standards while upholding fairness, transparency, and educational quality.

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