Oloketa Tingting Fo Apem Education Long Solomon Islands: Issues in Solomon Islands Education
Reviewed by Tafili Utumapu-McBride, Auckland University of Technology, published in the New Zealand Journal of Educational Studies Vol 46, Number 1, 2011.
This book is the result of a collaborative effort between the School of Education, Solomon Islands College of Higher Education (SICHE) and the Faculty of Education at the University of Waikato. In working together to establish a research culture in the School of Education, it was apparent that there was very little accessible research that related directly to education in the Solomon Islands, even though a number of Solomon Island researchers and leaders in education had undertaken research while studying for master’s and doctoral degrees at the University of Waikato. This book brings this work together.
The ten chapters have been arranged into three sections. The first part examines systemic issues, including teacher education. The first chapter by Derek Sikua, Permanent Secretary for Education, and co-authored by Noeline Alcorn, details the complex issues involved in the setting up and development of community high schools. The main emphasis in establishing these schools was to encourage and enable parents and community members to take part and access education. The next chapter by Rose Beuka and Jane Strachan discusses the hopes Solomon Islands parents have for their children’s education, highlighting their desire for schools to steer their children towards secure jobs that would support their families. In the third chapter, Patricia Rodie examines the views of new secondary teachers on their training and initiation. Despite enjoying their work, these teachers felt inundated by workload pressures and lack of resources.
The second part of this book focuses on aspects of school leadership that may be important in boosting educational benchmarks and bringing about change. Donald Malasa and Collin Ruqebatu both consider what dynamic leadership looks like and identify factors that might hinder its development. Malasa looks at how the lack of pre-principalship preparation impacts on school leadership, and Ruqebatu discusses the way cultural obligations may constrain leadership. Shalom Akao studied women’s leadership in education and why becoming a female leader in the Solomon Islands is so problematic. Her chapter serves to “give women a voice” and argues that until there is a workable gender equity policy, inequality will continue in employment and access to education and leadership positions for girls and women. All three authors identify the need for commitment to leadership training and professional development, the importance of ongoing social, cultural and political support, as well as the need to provide adequate resources for school leaders.
The third section centres on wider curriculum issues. Susanne Maezama’s thesis examines what “really useful knowledge” would look like in a Solomon Islands context. She uses Richard Johnson’s framework which highlights that certain knowledge is needed in particular settings, especially in relation to class differences. David Sade studies the effect of professional development on teachers to assist them to use the new technology curriculum, which relies on technological comprehension and engaged student learning through problem solving. Solomon Pita explores teachers’ ideas of information technology and how this can be incorporated into teaching practices. The final chapter by Janine Simi and Noeline Alcorn, is based on Simi’s research, which identified the limited understandings of the terms “special education”, and “inclusive education” held by lecturers and students in teacher education.
The importance of this book lies in the quality of research and scholarship that covers community education, leadership and curriculum development. I would recommend it as a comprehensive account of how Solomon Islands education has evolved and the challenges that its development has for its people. The quality and richness of the research findings make this a readable and valuable resource for all educators. The authors identify further areas that need to be addressed in their research and this opens up opportunities for others to work on those issues. All credit to the authors for collaborating and bringing together such a wealth of knowledge. Their work transports me back to my undergraduate days of being angry over issues to do with colonisation, culture and equality. As Susanne Maezama argues, “we must not lose sight of education for freedom and for practical living” (p.162).