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CURRICULUM DEVELOPMENT IN MY COUNTRY: Understanding the role of the Curriculum Development Unit in Fiji

                     Author: Reema Alpana

Introduction

Thaman (2009) defines curriculum as a planned and organized learning experience, generally provided by schools. However, Maha (2009) stresses that the term curriculum is problematic to define due to the different perception educators have about curriculum and how they reflect it.

I personally feel that curriculum is similar to a blueprint of a building; it gives detailed description for the construction to be carried out at the different levels of the developmental process. It is basically designed to suit the needs of its context and purpose i.e. the place where it is being constructed and the purpose it will serve.  Likewise, curriculum developers design curriculum which is relevant to the student’s context as well as purpose i.e. what the subject aims to teach. Whereas, the construction at each level in the “blueprint theory” would represent the various level/form or grade being taught. Hence, it is definitive to state that having a suitably planned curriculum is a vital component of the learning-teaching process.

Thus, in this essay, I aim to identify the overall organization of the Curriculum Development Unit (CDU) in the Fiji Islands, its role, together with its recent and current curriculum development projects. Furthermore, I will highlight the problems and challenges faced by the CDU staff and finally provide a brief conclusion to sum up my findings about Fiji’s CDU.

The organization of the CDU

The CDU located at Waisomo House, Thurston Street, Suva. It is comprised of the Principal Education Officer (PEO) and the Primary Curriculum Officers (SEOs and EOS) for the different subject areas in Primary as well as Secondary teaching level except Technical Vocational Educational and Training subjects (Sigawale, 2013).

 

The Role of the CDU/ what the CDU does?

The CDU is a branch of the Curriculum Advisory Services (CAS), which is responsible for the facilitation and promotion of quality education and excellence in the teaching and learning of all the subjects offered at the primary and secondary school levels thus ensuring quality and relevant education for all the children in Fiji Islands. The CDU is the primary body responsible for the development and evaluation of the School Curricula from Early Childhood Education (ECE) to Form 7 level. It is also responsible for the mounting of the in-service courses for teachers, upgrading their skills on the curriculum content and teaching and learning methods (Sigawale, 2013).  In addition to this role, it also carries out school visits to provide professional advice and assistance to teachers as well as assist in the preparation of classroom and national assessment works, such as External Exams (Sigawale, 2013).

 

Recent and current curriculum development projects

According to Sigawale (2013) the recent and current curriculum development projects includes the following;

 

  • Citizenship Education Project
  • Family Life Education Project
  • National Curriculum Framework
  • New Assessment Framework
  • Financial Education
  • Literacy
  • Numeracy
  • Climate change

 

All the above projects are incorporated into the respective curriculum areas for both primary and secondary levels except the Family Life Education whereby there is an officer that is entirely responsible for the implementation of Family Life Education in the curriculum (Sigawale, 2013).

 

Major problems or challenges faced by the CDU staff

Planning and upgrading curriculum could become a hectic process at times; this is because it requires the curriculum to be inclusive of all recent issues and transformations in the society and the country at large i.e. it shall include issues, such as global climate change, information and communications technology (ICT), gender based equality and so forth.

Sigawale (2013) claims that while attempting to make curriculum fair for all i.e. regardless the culture, background and ethnicity the CDU is faced with numerous challenges. Some of the apparent challenges include;

  • High Staff Turn-over:  This is either due to officer retirement or they are offered better jobs offer from elsewhere, such as in other public or private sectors.
  • Lack of Training: May new staffs do not hold any prior knowledge or experience about Curriculum Development and it’s fundamentals as they join the unit straight from School. Thus, this slows down the operation of the unit since these new appointee learn on the job.
  • Multiple roles: Many CDU officers are faced with the challenge of playing multiple roles i.e. their job requires them to more than just upgrading the curriculum.

 

Conclusion

Based on the evidences provided herein, it is clear to me that the curriculum development and upgrading process is a key component of the school system. As discussed, it may turn out to be quiet challenging at times; nevertheless its enforcements are often reflected at community/society level i.e. it strongly contributes towards the shaping of individuals in terms of their values, belief, behaviour, discipline, understanding and knowledge.

Moreover, it is advisable to state that in order to avoid the challenges and problems faced by the CDU (as mentioned above); it should provide regular workshops (such as twice a month) for its staff on the curriculum development process as well as provide their staff with the opportunity to pursue further studies (such as overseas training) on curriculum related studies, attend seminars on current education related issues and ensure that their create more employment in the unit to avoid overloading their staff.

 

Bibliography

Maha, A. (2009). A reflection on the reform and implementation of the parimary curriculum in Papua New Guniea: In K.H Thaman & K. Saga (Eds.), Re-thinking Education Curricula in the Pacific: Challenges and Prospects. (pp.13-14).New Zealand: He Parekereke Institute for Research and Development in Maori and Pacific Education.

Sigawale, L. (2013). The Curriculum Development Unit: Handout given at one-one meeting, Suva, Fiji Islands.

Thaman, K.H. (2009). Introduction: the need to re-think Pacific curriculum. In K.H Thaman & K. Saga (Eds.), Re-thinking Education Curricula in the Pacific: Challenges and Prospects. (pp.13-14).New Zealand: He Parekereke Institute for Research and Development in Maori and Pacific Education.

 

March 31, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

IS LEARNING THROUGH MOODLE AT THE UNIVERSITY OF THE SOUTH PACIFIC CULTURALLY DEMOCRATIC? A students’ perspective

REVIEW OF LITERATURE

Introduction

Rapid globalization in technologically equipped education has helped tertiary institutes in reaching out to an extensive student population.  Hence, this evolution of the information age has created a paradigm shift in education initially known as distance education, and with technological advancement it has changed into online learning (Kashif, 2002).  Taking the University of the South Pacific’s (USP) online mode of studies into consideration, “…it uses a learning management system called Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment (MOODLE) to deliver its course content via the internet”, (USP, 2013).  This tool was designed by Mr. Martin Dougiamas and was aimed to support a social constructionist epistemology of teaching and learning (Dougiamas, 2006).

This educational tool is of great benefit to the USP, since it has enabled the institute to make learning a much needed mobile practice and convenient to a larger student population around its member countries.

 

However, in some contexts, whereby communication and culture are intertwined, learning in an invisible classroom could become challenging. Such scenario strongly applies in the South Pacific societies particularly the USP member countries where culture is regarded as their way of life and hence shapes their value system which is inclusive of their teaching, learning and dialogue style.  “Definitely, no education is culture free and no culture is free from its key values”, (Alpana, 2013).  Thus, it could be said that since the MOODLE platform was not designed in the South Pacific region, it would have been designed in relations to the culture and value system of its original context.

 

Many at a time, the values of students from different cultural background are contradictory and hence this ignites numerous learning discomforts.  For instance, in some cultures such as that of the Fijians, body gestures are constantly used while sharing dialogue, particularly with people of a different culture (Kedrayate, 2012). This is basically done to make the conversation more descriptive and objectified and hence make the flow of ideas less vague.  Thus, students with such cultural background are challenged when it comes to online communication.  Hence, such aspects tend to underline online learning as a culturally undemocratic practice.  Therefore, this research will attempt to get students’ views whether learning via Moodle at USP being culturally democratic or not?

 

Moreover, upon going through numerous relevant literature it was revealed that cultural biases are present in online learning and the common underpinnings of these cultural constraints are mainly, student’s  background and learning approach, gender, ethnicity, student’s language as well as culturally specific vocabulary. Hence, this review of literature will first of all identify some common benefits of the online teaching and learning approach before discussing these underpinnings in greater depth under the Cultural constraints in online the mode of study.  Later on,  underpinnings will be used as the foundation for the construction of a framework for this intended research.

 

 

 

2.2 Benefits of the Online Teaching and Learning Approach

 

D’NEtto and Hannon (2007) stated that educational institutions have now implemented online learning technologies as part of their growth strategy for the delivery of teaching and learning for domestic and overseas students. Thus, this is beneficial to both parties since it makes learning more accessible to its learners and educators, as well as increases the number of students enrolled in such courses, which means more capital for the institute.

Similarly, there are several other advantages to online learning, such as flexibility in the scheduling of classes and class-related activities by instructors and students, absence of space constraints, and access to education by certain groups.  For example, homemakers, shift workers, travelers, and prisoners etc.  “An online learning environment can also facilitate learner-centered and learning-centered approaches, because students may assume more responsibility for their learning”, (Keegan, 2000; Humphreys & Konomos, 2010).

 

Moreover, e-learning at the University of the South Pacific has helped our Pacific Island students to step out of their culture of silence.  Thus, this has helped the instructors by enabling them to shape their students into more communicative individuals. In addition to this, student are able to share ideas, and expand their peer network throughout the university’s twelve regional member countries, namely;  Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Samoa.

 

 

 

 

2.3 Cultural constraints in online the mode of study

 

i.            Student’s Cultural Background, Language and Learning Approach

In a research carried out by D’NEtto and Hannon (2007) it was revealed that cultural differences affects the student’s participation rate in online learning. This has been supported by other similar research which discovered that “…a collectivist approach to learning was demonstrated by the students from Eastern culture while individualism attributes were shown by students from the Western cultures”, (Liu. X, Liu. S, Lee & Magjuk, 2010). Hence, taking the USP’s students into consideration, MOODLE tends to enforce a more individualized learning approach, since it focuses more on student-centered learning which is contradictory to their communal way of learning. Thus this is a clear demonstration of western attributes being imposed.

 

Moreover, their study also revealed that for different cultures, the instruction styles are quite different.  That is, the instructions were less structured and more inductive in the United States (U.S) while highly structured and more deductive in the Eastern education structure. Taking the Oceania students into consideration, it is questionable whether the structure of MOODLE supports their needs and instruction style?  And because some of the westernized aspects of teaching and learning are still evident in the school curriculum (Primary and Secondary levels), is it uncertain whether these students’ learning and instruction style is inclined to their informal/cultural aspects or upgraded to that of the western approach?

In addition to this,Liu, Liu, Lee, & Magjuka’s (2010) research has a close link with the focuses of my study as it also investigates the cultural difference and related issues in online learning. However, in this case, the Western Culture acts as the host culture. That is, English is the first language at the University being studied, however this research will attempt to identify the culture based biases and discontinuity in online learning-teaching process whereby the host’s first language is not English.

Similarly, Lanham & Wanlei (2003) pointed out that the designers of online mode of study need to ensure that students from the different cultural backgrounds are not faced with any cultural biases. They claimed that,

“…the simple transfer of text-based information into online courses is not the answer; the materials need to adapt to fit the online environment,” (Lanham & Wanlei (2003).

Hence, it has to be acknowledged that different cultures respond to the online environment with varying degree of acceptance.  Therefore, we need to create a blend between the traditional teaching methods and the newest technologies.   Most of all dissolving cultural boundaries in online learning will only occur if we first know what those boundaries are.

 

      ii.            Gender and Ethnicity

Furthermore, other possible contributors to the cultural discontinuities in online learning could be gender and ethnicity.  On the contrary, Boyette (2008) strongly disapproves gender and ethnicity to be of any influence to the online mode of study.  Taking the USP member countries into consideration, it can be contradicted that gender plays a major role in their societies.  However, with gender merges numerous roles, responsibilities and taboos (Taufeu‘ulungaki, 2009).  Hence, it can be assumed that these taboos may be a drawback for some web based learners.

 

Conversely, more research is needed to be done in this aspect to provide strong evidence if gender would be of any influence to the online mode of study at USP.  Likewise, culture is a subset of ethnicity and if culture has an influential role in computer mediated studies then indeed ethnicity will have some contribution in this.  Thus, this intended research will attempt to design a questionnaire which is inclusive of gender and ethnicity related issues in order to scoop the best response and comments from its participants and targeted population.

Untitled

 

 

 

 

 

 

Description: The figure above shows the possible factors which could contribute towards cultural biases of online mode of study together with its possible limitation


 

According to (Wilson, 2010), the cultural discontinuities can be divided into various themes which include; worldview, culturally specific vocabulary and concepts, linguistic characteristics of the learner, learner motivation and cognitive patterns, including readinbehaviorur. However, his framework fails to acknowledge the possible limitations such as students’ experiences with technology (computer), their knowledge about other cultures and most importantly their attitude towards their studies particularly the course enrolled in together with their efficacy in managing their time properly while studying independently online.

Thus, It is believed that the modified framework provided above would yield better and more reliable results and indeed help in identifying whether using  MOODLE as an online learning tool at the USP is a culturally undemocratic practice or not?

 

 

SUMMARY

The introduction of a technologically equipped learning method (e-learning) has aroused numerous questions in regards to its competence.  To no surprise, cultural constraints in such a mode of study are one of them.  Upon critically analyzing a few related literatures, it was seen that the majority of the research findings has revealed online mode of study as a culturally undemocratic practice.

 

Hence, some crosscutting themes identified by the researchers which is understood  to have a major contribution towards online learning being culturally bias include; worldview, culturally specific vocabulary and concepts, linguistic characteristics of the learner, learner motivation and cognitive patterns, including reading behaviour etc. Thus, many researcher feel that despite their attempts in getting in-depth knowledge about culturally discontinuity in online modes of study, numerous loopholes still remain and hence, more research needs to be carried out in order to assist curriculum/course designers and administrators in designing a fair course for “all” student.

Therefore, it can be said that a survey method with the modified research framework as well as a much detailed questionnaire might be able to contribute towards boosting the reliability of the date obtained from intended research and most of all yield much valid result.

 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

Alpana, R. (2013, April 9). Curriculum Mapping ; A critical analysis of the Fifth form Biology content in relation to the Pacific Knowledge and Value System. ED455 Assignment Two . Suva: USP.

Boyette, M. A. (2008). An Investigation of the Online Learning Environment in Higher Education through the Observations and Perceptions of Students of Color. Florida: The University of South Florida.

Darling, S. (2009). Help Guide. Retrieved April 18, 2012, from http://www.helpguide.org/mental/drug_substance_addiction_signs_effects_treatment.htm

Dougiamas, M. (2006). Martin Dougiamas. Retrieved from http://moodle.udec.ntu-kpi.kiev.ua/martin_dougiamas.html

Giddings, L. S., & Grant, B. M. (2006). Mixed methods research for the novoice researcher. Contemporary Nurse , 4-6.

Humphreys, A. H., & Konomos, P. (2010, August). Student Perspectives on Campus-based Versus Online Courses. Retrieved from International Journal of Intstructional Technology and Distant Education: http://www.itdl.org/Journal/Aug_10/article03.htm

Kashif, S. (2002). A comparison of online learning: Perceptions of Indian and American graduate students. Udini, Educational Journal .

Kedrayate, D. A. (2012). Non-Formal Education: Is It Relevant or Obsolete? International Journal of Business, Humanities and Technology , 1.

Leedy, P. D., & Ormord, J. E. (2010). Practical Research; Planning and Design. Pearson Eudcational International.

Liu, X., Liu, S., Lee, S.-h., & Magjuka, R. J. (2010). Cultural Differences in Online Learning: International Student Perceptions. Educational Technology & Society , 13 (3), 177–188.

Rowlings, J. (2004). Peer Education and its Importance. New York: Suny Press.

Taufeu‘ulungaki, A. (2009). Vernacular Lanigages and classroom interaction in the Pacific. In K. Thaman, Educational Ideas From Ocenia; Selected readings. Second Edition (pp. 17-18). Suva: Institue of Education, University of the South Pacific.

Thaman, K. (2013). Re-thinking the Pacific School Curriculum.

USP. (2013, January 29). Course Design and Development. Retrieved from The University of the South Pacific: http://www.usp.ac.fj/index.php?id=7729

Wilson, M. S. (2010). Cultural consideration in online instruction and learning. Distance Education , 52.

 

 

March 31, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Professor Thaman’s Work on; “Disintegration of Traditional Knowledge in a Western Curriculum” By: Reema Alpana

Abstract: This paper will discuss Professor Thaman’s research on the issue of Language, Culture and Learning, and would briefly discuss her views on having a culturally undemocratic classroom. Furthermore, it would also outline the link between such issues in the Fijian education system and community as a whole.

 


Introduction

Learning which once happened to be an act of acquiring worthwhile knowledge, that could be utilised in attaining survival, stability and cultural continuity in a society, is now no less comparable to the mass production of goods in factories. The introduction of formal education has modified this traditional approach of learning as such that it has become a key manufacture of educated individuals, who are then utilized in the economy to participate in the income generation process of this monetary ruled world. Westerners may have thought to have brought religion, civilization and education to the people of the Oceania Pacific. It happens to be surprising and rather disappointing to know that in actual fact these indigenous people had their own indigenous education system, spiritual beliefs and understanding, which guided and protected their families and clan, but modern Education, had turned a blind eye to such zealous knowledge of the Pacific people. Due to their ignorance; many aspects of this knowledge had been lost. However, recently, many concerns have been shown and issues being raised with regards to the disintegration of Pacific language, culture, and being taught in a Eurocentric curriculum. With reference to the work of Professor Thaman, this research will build up a strong discussion on these educational issues, and would furthermore attempt to co-relate them with the educational context of Fiji.

The views of Education from a Tongan Heart

Tongan language is a branch of the Polynesian language, which is spoken by the people of the Kingdom of Tonga. According to the South Pacific Phrase book, “there are approximately 100, 000 people living in Tonga, of which about 98% are the ethnic Tongans while the rest are the minorities (The South Pacific Phrase Book, 2008). To have educational theorist such as Professor Thaman, and most importantly if they are of a Pacific origin, is no less then a blessing to the Pacific people. There was a desperate need for researchers and educators to address the issue of cultural eradication and isolation, as well as design ways to promote cultural continuity through the formal education system. Professor Konai Helu Thaman, who is currently a Professor at the University of the South Pacific (USP), holds a UNESCO chair in Teacher Education and Culture at this institute (Germany, 2009). She was born and bread in Tonga and completed her Bachelors of Arts from  the University of Auckland, then received her Master of Arts in International Education from the University of California at Santa Barbara after which she completed her doctoral in Education from USP (Germany, 2009).

Her PhD  thesis, entitled ‘Ako and Faiako, Cultural Values, Educational Ideas and Teachers’ Role Perceptions in Tonga’, was based on studies of the relationships between cultural values and educational ideas and how these were reflected in teachers’ professional role (Germany, 2009). She is also well known among many academic institutes in the Pacific and is famous for her research work on culture, language and education as well as her wonderful poetries, which she uses as messengers to convey her messages to youths about their culture and cultural identities. These Pacific oriented poems have been used in many schools around the Pacific. Professor Thaman also actively engages in various committee and groups such as the International Network and many more (Germany, 2009).

Like any other Pacific Island nation, Tonga’s thinking is also right-brain dominated. This means that they live a creative, holistic and spatial lifestyle and are divergent instead of logical. In their culture, inter-dependence and communal life style is most suited and their skills, knowledge, as well as ideas are expressed vocally rather that in written (Taufe’ulungaki, 2009). A common example is that, youths do not have the freedom of expression and are expected to abide by the ground rules laid by their elders.

Moreover, according to Professor Thaman, Tongans make a clear distinction between knowledge (‘ilo) which is acquired through learning (ako) and wisdom (poto), which is the “beneficial use of ‘ilo of knowledge” (Thaman, 1988). Having their own cultural organisation of knowledge and education means that these people also had their own cultural ways of determining role and behaviour expectations. The blending of western culture brought up numerous role conflicts in the Tongan societies and people were force to transform their lifestyle in a Eurocentric one.

A clear demonstration of a shift in cultural role in Tongan Education system is shown in Professor Thamans’ “Kakala Philosophy of Education”. It shows that in a Tongan community, knowledge is a divine power and it grows upon sharing, but it has its specific means which has to be followed in order to pass in to the future generations (Thaman, 2009). She claims that, specific “kakala” is made for specific people and in specific ways designed by its relevant specialist and the distribution of knowledge follows a similar path (Thaman, 2009). This shows how precious knowledge was for the community.

 But in the Eurocentric curriculum, despite the fact that similar mechanism is used to deliver knowledge, the safeguarding of knowledge has been deracinated. Nowadays, knowledge is not only transferred from specialists to the novices but individualistic learning now a common practice. Using books and internets source as a medium of information and communication has now transform the traditional superiority of knowledge sharing/distribution into today’s ordinary practice.

Professor Thamans’ Work in expressing the importance of Language and Culture in Learning.

 

Culture and language play a crucial role in learning. Usually, mixing of multiple cultures give rise to numerous confusions and conflict. According to Professor Thaman, culture is a way of life of people which includes their language, accumulated knowledge and understanding, values and belief (Thaman, 2009). In any Pacific society, culture shapes people’s beliefs, roles, and role expectations, and empowers their way of interpretation of their own and other people’s behaviour (Thaman, 2009). For example, in the Strategic Seminar Report of Tongan education system, it was pointed out that, the use of English as the medium of instruction was questioned, given that the main problem encountered by students in progressing to Form 6 was their lack of competence in the English language. Thus, it was suggested that vernacular language for instructions up to form 6 level should implemented to achieve the Ministry’s vision. (Bloomfield, 1997) Hence, this showed that even the students from higher forms faced difficulty in learning in a foreign tongue (Bloomfield, 1997).

Teaching and learning in a foreign tongue might be the strongest indicator of a culturally undemocratic learning environment, in the Pacific Islands it is the rule rather than expectation (Thaman, 2009).  Indeed, learning in a foreign tongue becomes difficult for indigenous people since it requires them to have the ability to translate the content into the own mother tongue in order to understand what is being asked or told. The disappointing thing here is that, these indigenous people are not being given the chance to promote and preserve their traditional way of life.

The introduction of formal education system brought independence and freedom of speech and expression which turns out to be opposing the indigenous cultural expectations. In many Pacific schools, the barrier of cultural silence still remains. Due to such cultural blunder, there happens to a lot of misunderstanding among the students and teachers. This silence which intends to be a sign of respect tends out to be assumed as a silence of disrespect or ignorance. For example; if a teacher asks a student to come up with an opposing idea as to what the teacher has brought up in class, if it’s a Pacific student, s/he would be silent. This is because they are culturally bounded by the barrier of silence which is constructed to show respect to the elders.

Another area of concern here is that, being fostered in a westernised school; many students tend to lose interest in their own cultures. Most surprisingly, many communities such as those of Rotumans for instance, encourage their children to become fully absorbed with the westernized lifestyle (Furivai, 2009). Thus, such negative enforcement from the families and communities strongly promote the disintegration of indigenous knowledge.

Moreover, it has been seen that formal education has changed the traditional definition of knowledge. As in many clans in the Pacific, the categorization of knowledge into an open and close system was designed to preserve and protect their ancestral wisdom as well as the identity of their clan. Modern education has uprooted this categorization. Knowledge and skills are no longer context based as it was in the past. Thus, indigenous knowledge has been overshadowed by the modern introduced knowledge. For example, traditional ways for predicting weather pattern or understanding climate instability is not practically used or acknowledge by the modern education when it attempts to educated the indigenous community about climate change. Using chemical, biological and geological aspects does not give such significant understanding as it would do if traditional aspects were used to demonstrate and accumulate understanding on it.

Indigenous Culture and Language in Fiji’s Education System

As Professor Thaman has portrayed in her numerous researches that modern/western knowledge dominates over traditional/indigenous knowledge, this is also evident in the Fijian societies. Like the Tongan societies, it also has its own tradition, cultural values and most importantly, its own indigenous language. These elements act as the key ingredient in identifying a native Fijian. Thus, their language and culture gives them their true identity. However, during the colonial period, the enforcement of a structured learning system or what is called “schools” brought numerous deformities in the traditional knowledge system. Fijians were being taught in languages that were foreign to them.

However, the life of a native Fijian can be interpreted in a number of ways. Performing of social obligations with in the mataqali (clan), or yavusa (the village as a whole) is some of the obligations the members of the Fijian society (Nabobo, 2009). Additionally, these groups are run by the elders of the clan who happen to be given distinct roles in the community according to their acquired statues. Thus, the Fijian way of life happens to be complex and its complexity can only be understood if one understands their tradition and culture. Understanding the Fijian culture would enable one to understand their behaviour as well, since in the Pacific societies it is the culture which shapes people behaviour. (Williams, 2000) The exposure to foreigners had disturbed the Fijian communal lifestyle as well as brought new rules regulations and laws into practice.

As mentioned earlier, the blending of several different cultures ignite numerous confusions and conflicts especially when it comes to role expectations. For example, modern education strongly changed the role of women in the Fijian society. Women who were once expected to serve within the boundaries of their household and play the role of a mother or wife are now becoming educated and getting white collar as well as trade jobs. Thus, to the older generation of the community, this becomes a disheartening sight as they clearly see that their culture is slowly melting away. However, unlike Tonga, Fiji happens to have a multicultural country. Thus, this means that it compromises of multiple languages as well. Being inhabited with Indo-Fijians, Rotumans, Banabans, and many more Pacific islanders, Fiji is famous for its multiracial composition.

Surprisingly, despite its multilingualism, more emphasis is laid on western language i.e. English. This has also become a medium of instruction in Fiji as in Tonga and many other Pacific Island nations. For example, according to Esther Williams, “many primary schools is Fiji also feel that teaching in English is sometimes difficult and they frequently recite to Fijian, and due to this they strongly suggest to use Fijian as a medium of instruction in their schools” (Williams, 2000).

As William further elaborates in her report, that “there is a need to make Fijian language compulsory in schools from class one till form four, this will enable student to develop understanding of their own languages while trying to blend in to the western curriculum” (Williams, 2000). Being well versed with your own identity will prevent the indigenous students from being forced to adapt to the western language. In many secondary schools in Fiji, it has been seen that using vernacular as a medium of communication is restricted. These students are forced to adapt to English for their academic and social dialogue. Having such rules and regulation are mostly misinterpreted my students, and many tend to reject their vernacular as they feel it is inferior to the universal language.

Nevertheless, to construct a culturally democratic curriculum, the Ministry of Education needs to plan a curriculum that ensures that the Fijian perspective and indigenous knowledge reflects in it. Indigenous knowledge and language needs to given more emphasis, and student should be able to culturally reflect what they have learnt in schools with that of their community. However, western knowledge gives students exposure to the modernized and technologically equipped world. Teachers and students should not fully dissolve in this western lifestyle, but instead absorb all ideologies to upgrade their knowledge and apply it in their communities. Through this, knowledge and ideas will grow and cultural aspect will also be preserved.

Conclusion

Having a culturally undemocratic curriculum is not just the concern of Tonga, but is also a concern for Fiji as well as many other Pacific Island nations. As expressed by Professor Thaman, language and cultural is an important element in the life of Pacific island national as it depicts their true identities. Due to having a Eurocentric curriculum, this identity is being eclipsed. It is believed that the curriculum needs to be reconstructed and modifies in the favour of indigenous knowledge to prevent the eradication of the Pacific’s uniqueness. Moreover, using vernacular as a medium of instruction should be implemented in school as it is believed that students tend to understand better in their mother tongue. Finally, western knowledge should be used as a guide rather then a rule or regulation.

References

Bloomfield, M. S. (1997). Strategic Planning Seminar Report, Tongan Education for the 21st Century. Nuku’alofa, Tonga: The University of the South Pacific.

Furivai, P. (2009). Rotuman Educational Ideas. In K. H. Thaman, Educational Ideas From Ocenia (p. 99). Suva, Fiji Islands: The University of The South Pacific.

Germany, B. (2009, March 31st). United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Orgnisation. Retrieved October 1st, 2011, from UNESCO World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development: http://www.esd-world-conference-2009.org/en/international-advisory-group/members.html

Nabobo, U. (2009). Indeginious Fijian Educational Ideas. In P. K. Thamna, Educational Ideas Form Ocenia (p. 81). Suva, Fiji Islands: University of The South Pacific.

Taufe’ulungaki, A. M. (2009). Vernacular Language & Classroom Interaction in the Pacific. In P. K. Thaman, Educational Ideas From Ocenia (p. 15). Suva, Fiji Islands: The University of The South Pacific.

Thaman, K. H. (1988). Ako and Faiako. In K. H. Thaman, Cultural values, educational ideas and teachers role preceptions in Tonga, PhD Thesis. Suva, Fiji: University of the South Pacific.

Thaman, K. H. (2009). Educational Ideas from Ocenia. Suva, Fiji: Institute of Education, University of the South Pacific.

The South Pacific Phrase Book. (2008). Victoria, Australia: Lonely Planet Publishers.

Williams, E. (2000). Facing Challenges in Fijian Education: Planning For The Future. In G. O. Fiji, Learning Together: Direction for Education in the Fiji Islands (p. 203). Suva, Fiji: Pio B. Tikoisuva.

 

October 10, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Why I Love “Me”

You  are always with me,

You have been there from my 1st breath,

From my 1st smile,

From my 1st cry ,

From every big to small moments of my life.

You were there even when i was alone,

Even when i was all torn,

Even when there was no one for me,

You were always there standing beside me.

You never lied,

You cried when i cried,

You  gave me advice.

At times we would talk all night.

You would take me places though the soil under my feet did not move.

You gave me hope you  showed me dreams,

My “guardian angel” thats what you’ve always been.

A  shadow of lights you”ll always be till my last breath and even down 6 feet.

By: Reema Alpana

September 3, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Freedom to Love

The caving for free air kills me,

Blood ties keep pressing me pressing me down,

Gasping with all my strenght,

I spread my wings up and wide,

Like an eagle  i wish to fly.

The kinship love hold me back.

 

A daughter i am,

A wife i wish to be.

The drizzling night make me wounder,

Who’s the prince that’s gonna take me away.

 

I feel my dreams are locked in a chess,

Drown have had been the keys that withheld my strenght.

 

Dazzling mist wet the sheet,

As hope and longing fool my eye.

 

Lying in the box urge to die

Wash away are the hope and faith i had.

Achs my heart in the pain of trying,

The escape seems a dream to attain the sun.

 

How do i make them understand ,

Free air is where my life stands.

 

 

By: Reema Alpana

 

September 3, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Hindu Philosophy of Education By: Reema Alpana

INTRODUCTION

“Hinduism stands like a huge banian tree spreading its far reaching branches over hundreds of sects, creed and denomination and covering with innumerable leaves, all forms of worship, the dualistic, the qualified non-dualistic and monistic worship of the one Supreme God, the worship, of the Incarnation of God and also hero worship, saint worship, ancestor worship and the worship of the departed spirit. It is based on the grand idea of universal receptivity. It receives everything” (By Swami Tattwananda). Hinduism is believed to be one of the oldest religions in the world. During to Indenture Labourer System, Indian residents were forced as well as lured to come and serve the missionaries and traders and work on the cane fields in Fiji. Despite the fact that theses Indian labourers were oceans away form “home” they managed to retain most of what was their “true cultural identity”.  Fiji-Indian or most commonly known as “Indo-Fijians”, have preserved many aspect of the Hindu culture they had brought with them centuries ago. This essay will elaborate on some of the principals under which the Hindu culture is guided and operates as well as share the Hindu views and Philosophy of Shiksha (Education). Furthermore, upon identifying the main educational ideas of Hinduism, it will then scale out the significance of these ideas and concepts in the current educational context.

THE PRINCIPLES OF HINDUISUM

Hindu culture is scriptures under its strict principles call the Vedic Dharma. This strictly guided principles help structure the Hindu society and acts as its backbone. It is every Hindus’ role to attain the four main aims of life which includes; moksha (libration), karma (pleasure), artha (wealth) and dharama (virtue). It is a strong belief that these aims of life can only be obtained through education since vidya (knowledge) is the only means by which an individual is able to control his/her samajh (understanding) and make decisions that help the society run smoothly. Moreover, the Hindu culture believes that human life runs in four stages called “ashrams”.

The first ashram is the Brahmacharya (student stage). This starts from womb till the age of 25 years. The second stage which is called the Grihastha (household age) is when an individuals settles in life and has a family of their own. While the third stage is the Vanaprastha (hermit stage) where by an individual duty as a household comes to an end and the final stage is the Sannyasa (wandering ascetics) where the individual devotes himself to god. These ashrams were specifically designed for males but females did have a role in each of these stages. Thus, in ancient Hindu culture women did not play a vital role in Education. Nari (woman) had to perform the roles of a daughter, a wife and a mother. The immigration from India to Fiji had brought numerous changes to these traditional rules and regulations. The blending of the numerous Indian castes as well as the exposure to different races (westerners and the natives of Fiji), the Hindu Vedic dharma underwent numerous modifications. The blend of the various cultures arose the right for education for women as well many uncountable changes that helps the Indo-Fijian community settle in its new “home”.

HINDU PHYLOSOPHY OF SHIKSHA (education) & VIDYA (knowledge)

Hindus focus on shiksha (education) as value based worthwhile learning (Chinta Mani Yogi). They believe that through education, one can attain the skills essential for living/survival but vidya is attained for life. Through shiksha, one can become successful but having vidya, is having the ability to attain wisdom. Thus not all educated individuals are necessarily budhiman (wise).

Current usage of the term vidya includes the following;

  1. To attain knowledge, as in vidya prapt karna (to learn about something in as specific field/area).
  2. To provide knowledge, as in vidya pradaan karna (to teach).
  3. To concentrate in studies, as in vidya par dhiyaan diya karo (be devoted towards studies).
  4. The formal Education system, as in vidya pradaan karna bahoot zaruri hai (it is very important to attain knowledge).

The person who provides vidya or gyaan to the novices or buddhihin is normally referred to as “acharye” which means a knowledgeable person. An archarye is a person who can be a teacher, a village elder, a guide or an instructor. This term is normally referred to people who are gyaani in a particular field. For Example, a person specialised in mathematics will be called Bhaskaracharya meaning mathematician. Derived from the term acharye is guru (teacher/educator).

PRASHIKSH (training)

The ability to master skills and carry them out practically is referred to as prashiksha. Like that of the Pacific Island cultures, Hinduism also depends on the informal ways of teaching to pass on skills and knowledge from generations to generations. Here the guru’s or elders of the community train the youth in skills such as crafting, farming, cooking etc. The shikshaks (students) learn through dekhana aur jananna (watch and learn).

Some common usage of the tearm prashiksha is as follows;

  1. To be a trainee, as in chiskta mai prashiksu (a trainee in medicine).
  2. To learn through copying, as in nakal ke madhyam se prashiksha karna.
  3. To need for training, as in adesa mem nipuna banne ke lie prasikshana avasyaka hai (training is important in order to become skilful).

Prashikshak are parichayed (exposed/introduced) to the skills which the community feels is essential for their everyday living.

PARIKSHA (assessment)

Normally in every formal education system, assessment is carried out in order to evaluate students’ performance. In the traditional context the form of assessment was not through examination but more practical based. Pariksha was carried out by enabling the shikshaks to perform the tasks themselves while the guru would monitor them. If an individual fails to perform the task taught to them, he would be grouped with the women, children and aged members of the community. Thus, pariksha was the not only used in evaluating but aslo ranking shikshaks’ performance.

Some common forms of pariksha are as follows;

  1. To assess skills, as in kaushal ki pariksha.
  2. To rank shikshaks performance, as in Nirdharita pariksha (test for braveness).
  3. Preparation for pariksha, as in muliyakan ke liye achi tharah se tyari karna bahoot zarurri hai (it is essential to be well prepared for assessment)

BHUDHIMANTA (wisdom)

The ability to analyse situations in the minimum possible time as well as the ability to understand and rationalise things are some of the ideal qualities of a bhudhiman (wise) person. As Christianity claims that a wise man is one who sees things from Gods point of view, similarly Hinduism has the same perception. A wise man is one who follow gods path. Some qualities of a bhudhiman person are as such;

  1. Has understanding and knowledge and uses them to analyse situations
  2. Good listener and observant
  3. Hardworking
  4. Obedient
  5. Humble
  6. Controls lips
  7. Has religious views and understanding
  8. Guided by the Vedic principles especially karma

A common belief of Hinduism is that “every action has an equal and opposite reaction”, i.e. one has to pay according to his/her deeds (karma). (Chinta Mani Yogi) Moreover, it is also a belief that normally children tend to pay for their parents wrong doings. Thus, bhudhiman people utilize their knowledge and understanding as such that they tend to avoid such problems.

THE RELEVANCE OF THE HINDU EDUCATIONAL TERMONOLIEGES IN WORTHWHILE LEARNING

In the formal education system, teaching and learning takes place under a set curriculum and the educators are qualified specialists of their fields. In comparison, the traditional teaching methods involved teaching and learning in an informal context. Here, the need for being a shikshak was only emphasised for the males of the community and females rights to education was out of the question.

Moreover, prashikshana (training) was only conducted for skills and vidya that played a vital role in shaping the communal and tribal life as well as those that were necessary for survival. Unlike the modern education system, it was context specific. However, the need for assessment has been seen as a common practice in both the modern and traditional educational context. Parisksha (assessment) was carried out to evaluate students’ performance as well as rank them. Unlike the current educational system, pariksha was skill centred i.e. practical based. Moreover, it has been an Indian belief that wisdom arises when being closely connected with god. Likewise modern education also teachers that wisdom does not arise by having education but having the right conscience to perfectly fit in the society which is the key to attain wisdom.

However, the modern education system had brought numerous changes in the teaching and learning style of the Indo-Fijian community. Highlighting the urgency of women’s rights to education had enabled Indo-Fijian women to achieve what had never been possible in the traditional context. Additionally, despite the blending of numerous cultures together and modifying of the teaching techniques, the educational terminologies tend to express similar interest no matter which language it has been expressed in. This is a clear indication that education (worthwhile learning) had been an imperative element in shaping communities and societies and still serves the same purpose.

CONCLUSION

The importance of education has been seen in all cultures through out the Pacific and world but the cause of this to appear veiled is simply because of issues such as communication gap as well as de-contextualization of culture in schools. The inhibition of intercultural information exchange in schools makes teaching and learning difficult for our Pacific students who are being taught in a foreign language (English). I believe that if our curriculums are modified in a more culturally democratic way, multicultural island nations such as Fiji will benefit a lot. As educators, it is our responsibility to understand our students’ cultural background and design our lessons as such that it benefits as suits one and all.

REFRENCES

By Swami Tattwananda. Ancient Indian Culture At A Glance .

Chinta Mani Yogi. Hinduism and Education. Presentation for a two workshop on Hinduism and Buddhism organized by DoFE at CDoE, Kendriya Campus Kritipur TU, (p. 23).

Google Translator. (n.d.). Retrieved August 23rd, 2011, from http://translate.google.com/translate_t?js=n&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&layout=2&eotf=1&sl=en&tl=hi&text=knowledge#en|hi|Trainging%0A

August 27, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

CFDL Connecting Pacific Cultures Under One Roof

My Culture and that of yours,

Several others over blue-green atolls.

My Culture and that of yours

Faa Samoa,

Vaka Viti,

Faka Tonga,

You have it all.

Oceania dreams to convene the west,

Under one roof we 12 stand.

The ocean holds us apart,

You break the boundaries weaving the “web”.

We are young and tender with the foreign tongue,

We fall,

We crawl,

We weep and try.

With your guardian angels mystery comes to an end.

My Culture and that of yours,

Several others over blue-green atolls.

You design ways to make us learn

The heart of USP is where you stand.

You transform pacific culture into pacific art.

When you and we are hand-in-hand,

Indeed Oceania will craft learning into a “pathway to success”.

By:  Ms.Reema Alpana.

July 27, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Micro teaching Reflection By: Reema Alpana

My micro-teaching day was getting nearer and nearer and the hours for preparation seemed as if they were sailing in rocket ships. I felt encircled by panic, tension and stress. I had been thinking of ways to come up with a lesson which was stimulating enough to gain everyone’s curiosity and interest. I then realized how much planning and brain storming is required before a lesson is presented. On the other hand, making a lesson perfect enough to stimulate every student’s understanding is another challenge. My micro-teaching partner and I then came up with the idea of putting up a lesson on “Basic Introduction to Chemistry”. Here, we had planned to discuss Elements, Compounds and Mixtures as well as methods involved in separating them. Burning the midnight oil, I managed to complete our lesson plan. Moreover, it has been seen that 21st century teaching is slowly evolving and it now promotes student–centred learning. It is believed that the level of understanding is greater if students are allowed to reason things out and teachers play the role of a facilitator not commentator. Taking these principal ideas in mind, we had designed a perfect student oriented lesson.

Additionally, I personally believe that confidence is one of the key elements required in a teacher as this will help him/her in developing good classroom management skills as well as display an exemplar attitude. We needed to mould ourselves in all ways possible in order to display this confident attitude. Being well versed with our lesson content was one of the areas that helped us build confidence in our teaching. The lesson stared of well. Like any good lesson, I had also come up with an opening story. This was basically designed to arouse curiosity and interest as well as a slight touch on the students’ prior knowledge on “separating mixtures”. Furthermore, the lesson content was well structured and linked. It involved numerous group activities and transforming theses group activities into a competition help arouse more interest and student involvement. This played a major role in carrying out our lesson evaluation. The awarding of certificates to the winning groups provoked competition as well as excitement into the students.

The level of student participation was a clear indication of a successful lesson. The lesson objectives were all met as students were able to identify Elements, Compounds and Mixtures as well as design methods to separate them. These ideas were enforced into the students via an indirect approach where we enabled students to brainstorm, recall and practice team work to generate understanding of the concepts being taught. Upon completion of the lesson, we were complimented for our tremendous performance and enthusiasm. However, the only drawback was that despite the fact that it was already mentioned in the lesson plan, we failed to highlight the ground rules before proceeding with the lesson. Thus, this was our only weak point. Spending few more hours in the rehearsal would have help us avoid such a slip-up. Finally, I feel relieved that my micro-teaching was a success and I know understand how much dedication and planning is required in order to come up with a perfect lesson.

June 2, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Evaluation of Youtube

Technological evolution has brought numerous contributions in shaping this modern world. The resent advancements in technology has made it possible to share pictures and videos from all around the world. YouTube has been regarded as the largest worldwide video sharing community. It is a Web 2.0 tool which is absolutely free. YouTube was founded in February 2005, its essential feature is that it has billions of people who watch, discover and share originally created videos.

This tool becomes handy when its videos are used as teaching aids. As a student I find YouTube very much enriched with numerous Educational features. I believe that these features have helped me understand various mechanisms which would be difficult to pictures and follow in the bulky notes provide in text books.

Various scientific studies have proven that information which is provided in the form of animation (videos) tend to have a longer life in our memory system in comparison to the written text or verbal explanations. Thus, in order to understand a lesson content and remember it for a longer period, teachers must use visual aids uploaded in YouTube.

Some Educationally Equitable Features of YouTube Are;

1. Easy To Use

Any person can gain access to videos on YouTube regardless of having an account. Hence, this makes it very easy for the students to view videos. To upload or to comment on a particular video then only an account is required. To sing up for an account is very simple.  Creating a YouTube account can be done as follows.

2. Video Playback

Another feature that i find interesting is video playback. This feature not only helps the students but the teachers as well in the teaching and learning process. For example, if a student wants to re-look at a particular concept then he/she can always go back to see. To go back and see the concept does not require the user to reload the video again. For teacher purposes I think that teachers can show the video repeatedly to allow the students to grasp the concept taught in the video.

3. Sharing Videos

There are many social network on which YouTube videos can be shared. To upload the video on each of the social network individually can be time consuming. To share your video all at once auto share can be setup on your YouTube account, your uploads, favorites, and ratings will automatically post to your Facebook, Twitter, or Google Reader account. The screen shot below shows how to setup  a auto share button on YouTube.

4. Uploads By Phones And Computers

Videos can now be uploaded from iPhone. Videos can be uploaded directly from this device. This feature I feel is very helpful to teachers as they can update their work as soon as they have recorded it. The videos are also very easy to be uploaded from the computer. The video below shows how to upload a video from computer to you tube.

5. Skipping To Specific Time 

This features allows both the teachers and students to skip the parts of the video which they do not want to see. This feature also helps in saving time to do class work. The teachers can only show the relevant parts and the students can skip parts that they understand or for example, if the video is on the whole class experiment and the students want to see the results only they can skip part to do so.

6. Big Uploads

The students and teachers especially are at an advantage now since YouTube can cater for videos which are up to 2GB. This allows for high quality video uploads. That means that even your professionally produced video can still look good on the small screen.

Advantages and Disadvantages

An advantage that I have seen using YouTube is that it helps that students to learn better by enabling them to share their knowledge and look at visuals. The Web 2.0 tools helps the teachers a lot in their daily teaching. For example, an experiment was conducted in class and the students did not come to the expected results due to some experimental error. The teacher can link a video of the same experiment done by some other person who has successfully achieved the results. This will enhance students understanding of the concept better. A disadvantage can be students may try to abuse the site by uploading some inappropriate videos like racist videos, violent videos and other abusive videos. Some of them may make and upload videos that may sexually harass a student or teacher.

Conclusion

In conclusion it can be said that, YouTube has a lot of feature that makes it easy to use and as mentioned earlier these features include; easy to use website, video playback, sharing of videos on other social websites, ability to upload videos from mobile device, skip videos to specific time intervals and allowing large data files that improves the video quality. YouTube also has advantages and disadvantages and I believe if used educationally this is one of the best, easiest and the most effective Web tool to be used in the teaching and learning process.

May 22, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Evaluation of Skype


Skype is the worldwide tool used to provide services for many people through online communication, it allows users to speak, see one another and type chat messages using smileys. More than 30 million people use Skype. It is a peer-to-peer system and makes use of background processing on computers running Skype software. Skype is the most influential tool used in the education system and through this tool, students benefit a lot as they get to learn more things or concepts everyday. Skype is not only used for educational purpose but for other purpose as well like socializing with family and friends.

Features of  Skype

Skype has numerous features that make is it a popular communication web tool. In my experience with Skype, some of the features that contribute towards Skype being as essential Educational tool are;

1. Video calling

Skype provides free video calling which makes it easy for the students as well as the educators to be together, even when they’re not. Group video can also be done to make students work easier and faster. Through this teachers are able to carry out their lesson from anywhere in the world via Skype.

2. Cell phones and mobile

This enables the educators to call students  on their phones at the best rates from 1.9c/min or even cheaper with a subscription whenever they are facing any difficulties in their studies. Skype covers the worldwide telecommunication network thus it is easier to call with anywhere with your Skype account.

Skype calls are free from Skype to Skype, cheaper than buying a telephone (saves phone bills) which is a great help for students using Skype to get the concepts of their studies they don’t understand from their friends or other people. Skype is also downloadable and has free software which can be useful in student’s education, getting them to learn more.

3. Instant messaging

Enables the students to type and chat whenever needed, quick question or a friendly catch up if students want to urgently ask any questions. In these chat messages, students are able to send links and thus are able to share their research work together with their different views and ideas. This tool also comes in handy while doing group assignments especially during school short breaks. This enables students to connect and interact despite being outside school.

4. Screen Sharing

At times expressing and describing your content in the tab tab accessed by you to a friend via chat can be difficult frustrating. Skype proves the best solution to such problems and this is termed as “screen sharing”. This basically enables users to allow their chat Buddie to view his/her screen. This with the help of voice conversation and cursor movement, it becomes easier to resolve or understand the matter or steps.

Conclusion

Skype is a very beneficial tool used especially in the education system for one to succeed in life. Even though, it is costly to some extent but its later beneficial to the students in doing their assignments and for further studies. This enables one to communicate to each other whenever need be, especially when the students are in doubt of something or for group discussion.

Some limitations of using Skype in the educational system are;

  • If the internet connection is weak then users are unable to carryout video calls. The voice maybe slightly jaggy or may have delays in transmission which the students find difficultly in communicating to each other and discussing their work.
  • Computer needs to be turned on and the software has to run, in order to enable you to receive your calls. Being offline prevents you from making and receiving calls. When you are called on Skype while being offline, the service does record messages unless you subscribe to the voice mail feature.Thus many at a times when students try to approach their teacher or colleagues, due to them being offline its becomes impossible to communicate.
  • Only the Skype-Skype calls are free. Thus it become costly to carryout discussions with students who do not have internet access and are contacted via Skype-mobile calls.
Moreover, it can be said that in the modern teaching and learning environment, Skype plays the role of an essential tool since it serves in numerous ways that can help make teaching and learning fun, exciting and less stressful.

May 22, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment